At the recent MEF Connects 2019 event in London, Matt Hatton, former CEO of Machina Research and ex Gartner analyst explored the issues around IoT roaming with a panel of experts comprising Luc Vidal-Madjar of BICS, Ben Bannister of Tata Communications and Graham Hart-Ives of JT Global. MEF Advisor Andrew Parkin-White shares his key takeaways from the session.
The panel began by exploring use cases that require global mobile IoT connectivity. Luc Vidal-Madjar of BICS identified that enterprises, such as automotive organisations or fork-lift truck manufacturers, find it difficult to establish individual roaming agreements with mobile network operators (MNOs) and need a solution that covers their required country footprint. BICS’s customers look for simplicity where international connectivity is required.
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Tata focuses on the key segments of transportation, automotive and aviation. In automotive, for example, vehicles move around the world and need a low-cost way of connecting in the local market.
JT’s approach is to focus on what problems a customer is trying to solve and see the key requirements as cost effective and reliable connectivity as the value of the devices can be low and customers want to place it in the field and assimilate the data that is generated and the intrinsic importance of it.
With a growing demand for global IoT connectivity, the supply side of the market will continue to evolve its offerings with new technical and commercial offerings. IoT roaming is attractive and will continue to entice new forms of competition looking to capitalise on a growing market.“
So how are suppliers meeting customer needs for global connectivity? The panel first drew the distinction between national and international roaming. National roaming can serve part of a global customers’ needs but many require continuous international connectivity at low cost. At present, international MNOs can offer IoT connectivity across their footprint of markets.
Some have established alliances with other international MNOs. This situation does not necessarily meet the needs of customers who require truly global and consistent connectivity and has created an opportunity for the global MVNO. They are free to sign IoT roaming agreements with multiple operators in many countries and offer services that MNOs may struggle to achieve and can offer cost advantages to customers through the aggregation of these agreements across networks. Customers are not tied to the roaming strategy of an international MNO.
The panel subsequently turned its attention to commercial and technical solutions for avoiding roaming and the panel debated which of these may prove a threat to MVNO roaming solutions, such as the UICC and multi-IMSI solutions.
Graham sees a significant opportunity for UICC as it provides a GSMA-approved local roaming solution. It opens up the market for large data opportunities which roaming does not necessarily meet. He sees this as complimentary to other roaming approaches. Ben considers that these alternative solutions should be driven by the needs of the customer.
If much of the device traffic is in one country with some in another then a multi-IMSI solution is a viable proposition. Equally, if IoT data traffic is fragmented across multiple geographies, a traditional MVNO roaming solution is best suited.
Responding to a question raised on how roam like home in Europe will affect IoT data, Luc supports the regulation as it has brought costs down for customers and does not represent a threat to business. Graham states that this was initially perceived as a threat with a fall in roaming rates but, in Europe, the business is able to compete. He continues that roam like home is more geared towards the consumer market with larger volumes of data.
IoT roaming devices typically generate 50-100MB of data per month and are not largely impacted by the regulation once line rentals are taken into account. Ben concurs that the initiative has not had much impact in the IoT space as much of the business is outside Europe.
Other markets have tried similar initiatives such as the UAE and Australia and New Zealand with very mixed results but these approaches have tended not to have a negative effect on core IoT roaming revenues.
With a growing demand for global IoT connectivity, the supply side of the market will continue to evolve its offerings with new technical and commercial offerings. IoT roaming is attractive and will continue to entice new forms of competition looking to capitalise on a growing market.
MEF Connects 2019 brought together members from MEF’s different working groups to exchange updates and explore key trends across the mobile ecosystem, including digital identity and personal data, Mobile IoT and payments, blockchain use-cases & industry trends and innovation pitches.
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