Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom take NB-IoT roaming for a test run

Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom test NB-IoT roaming across borders. (Pixabay)

Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone took Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) on a test run during an international roaming trial in Europe.

The trial marked the first time that mobile operators had used licensed NB-IoT for cross-border IoT services. Using Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) networks, the trial was conducted with global SIMs from Deutsche Telekom on Vodafone Spain’s network and global Vodafone SIMs on T-Mobile Austria’s network and commercial NB-IoT modules.

“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,” said Alex Sinclair, chief technology officer, GSMA, in a prepared statement. “The market has matured considerably in a very short time and we anticipate that this will be the year that mobile IoT scales. Undoubtedly this is because only licensed, managed mobile services can provide the secure low power connection that can meet future demand.”

With the GSMA's LWPA standards, the cellular industry has a technology in place that counters IoT-based deployments of Bluetooth and Sigfox. The roaming trials by Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone also served as a template for other mobile carriers deploying licensed NB-IoT applications and services such as logistics tracking.

Related: Verizon commits to nationwide NB-IoT network buildout in 2018—FierceWireless

Offering NB-IoT roaming services will also enable cold chain monitoring for goods that travel across borders. Roaming capabilities are important for manufacturers that plan on deploying LPWA devices on a global basis and for vendors achieving economies of scale across smart devices.

Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone came up with their own test cases for the trial, which included power-saving features such as power saving mode (PSM), long periodic tracking area update (TAU) and various throughput and round-trip-time measurements.

“Deutsche Telekom has successfully introduced and developed NB-IoT networks across most of its European footprint and we are very pleased to see the ecosystem rapidly expanding,” said Ingo Hofacker, the head of Deutsche Telekom Group's IoT business, in the press release.  “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.”

According to GSMA Intelligence forecasts, there will be 3.1 billion cellular IoT connections, including 1.8 billion licensed LPWA connections, by 2025.

The GSMA’s mobile IoT Initiative has helped standardize licensed LPWA technologies, including NB-IoT and LTE-M in 3GPP. To date, 29 mobile operators have launched 51 commercial mobile IoT networks around the world, according to the GSMA.