DT and Voda run first NB-IoT roaming tests, as licensed LPWA networks hit 51
European operators Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone have completed the first international roaming trial in Europe using narrowband ‘internet-of-things’ (NB-IoT) technology, according to the GSMA. The trade body said 29 mobile operators have launched 51 commercial licensed low-power wide-area (LPWA) networks, running either of the carrier-backed NB-IoT or LTE-M standards.
The trial used Deutsche Telekom SIM cards on Vodafone’s network in Spain, and Vodafone SIMs on T-Mobile’s network in Austria, plugged into commercial NB-IoT modules in both cases.
“Only licensed, managed mobile services can provide the secure low power connection that can meet future demand,” said Alex Sinclair, chief technology officer at the trade group. “The market has matured considerably in a very short time and we anticipate this will be the year mobile IoT scales.”
The test cases, developed by Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone, have included key power saving features such as Power Saving Mode (PSM), Long Periodic Tracking Area Update (TAU) and various throughput and round-trip-time measurements.
Roaming is essential for cross-border IoT services, notably in supply chain, logistics and transportation at large, which may involve containers crossing numerous international borders on a single trip. It is also critical for the makers of low-power wide-area (LPWA) devices, manufacturing in one country and deploying in another, and seeking to take advantage of economies of scale on a global basis.
In a parallel announcement, LPWA rival Sigfox confirmed a deal with mapping company HERE to create a global internet-of-things (IoT) location service for the supply chain and logistics industry. The deal will see Sigfox’s low-power wide-area (LPWA) network and geolocation engine supplemented Wi-Fi hotspot coverage from HERE.
The lack of roaming has so far hindered the wider deployment of LPWA networks, including NB-IoT and unlicensed equivalents like LoRaWAN. European LoRaWAN roaming will be completed by year-end, the LoRa Alliance said in February after operators Orange and KPN, in France and the Netherlands, completed the first field tests of roaming between national LoRaWAN networks.
The LoRA Alliance said at the time there had been more than 100 per cent growth in the number of public LoRaWAN networks in the past 12 months, from 31 live networks to 67.
Sinclair added: “The success of these trials is an important milestone in the development of a sustainable roaming environment for mobile IoT networks, showcasing their capabilities as well as ensuring consistent service across geographical boundaries.
Ingo Hofacker, in charge of Deutsche Telekom’s group IoT business, said: “[Our] first commercial offers are available on a national basis already, but now, operators need to satisfy customer demand for international coverage and service continuity as well.”
Stefano Gastaut, director of IoT at Vodafone, commented: “This development shows the successful evolution of the technology and I am confident that it will lead to a raft of new applications for NB-IoT, such as the cold chain monitoring of goods across borders.”
Vodafone first activated NB-IoT in Germany also, in the city of Düsseldorf at the end of last year; the first in a 13-city rollout in the country.
The GSMA is running 36 open IoT labs to enable network operators, module vendors and application providers to develop LPWA devices and applications for a wide variety of verticals. It reckons there will be 3.1 billion cellular IoT connections by 2025 there, including 1.8 billion licensed LPWA connections.