Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone trial NB-IoT international roaming

Using global SIMs across networks in Austria and Spain, Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone have combined to test narrowband Internet of Things international roaming technology.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor on

Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone Group have announced the completion of international roaming trials of narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) technology across Europe.

The trials made use of low-power wide-area (LPWA) networks, which the GSMA said would "ensure seamless coverage and service continuity for millions of connections", such as in logistics tracking across the continent.

Using Deutsche Telekom global SIMs on the Vodafone Spain network and Vodafone global SIMs on the T-Mobile Austria network, the telcos tested commercial NB-IoT modules and features such as Power Saving Mode (PSM) and Long Periodic Tracking Area Update (TAU).

"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," head of IoT for Deutsche Telekom -- which has also been working on deploying a 5G network with Ericsson -- Ingo Hofacker said.

"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 the GSMA, its Mobile IoT Initiative has led to 51 licensed commercial mobile LPWA networks being launched by 20 mobile carriers globally, with 36 open IoT labs also allowing for carriers, device vendors, and application developers to create and test IoT products and solutions.

The GSMA is predicting 3.1 billion cellular IoT connections including 1.8 billion licensed LPWA connections, such as NB-IoT and LTE-M, by 2025.

"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," GSMA CTO Alex Sinclair said.

"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."

Vodafone has been focused on NB-IoT globally, launching an NB-IoT research and development (R&D) open lab two years ago with Chinese technology giant Huawei in Newbury, UK, to work on technology and applications.

Following the launch of its NB-IoT network across six cities in Spain in January last year, Vodafone deployed NB-IoT networks in Australia, New Zealand, and Germany during 2017.

Last month, Vodafone Enterprise head of IoT APAC Justin Nelson described how the carrier's NB-IoT solutions have helped recover 966 stolen vehicles using tracking and sensing technology, as well as helped improve the mental health of chronically ill children in the Netherlands.

In Australia, Vodafone's NB-IoT network is also being used to transform traditional beer kegs into "smart kegs".

"We're developing a platform that makes sure that beer kegs never go missing, and they don't get lost, damaged, and stolen, and also that the beer they serve on tap ... is fresh, just as the brewer had intended it to be," Binary Beer CEO Michael Burton said last month.

"So to do that, we've developed these IoT sensors that attach to the beer kegs ... that can send data in real time back to the brewer."

In choosing to go with Vodafone's NB-IoT network for the platform, Burton explained that Binary Beer had launched at a time when LoRaWAN towers were being built; however, he said these were being rolled out "very slowly", with the company also concerned about needing coverage across the entire nation.

"The trouble was we wanted to go to market now ... even with some of the commercial providers that are out there as well, our issue is that these kegs can be just about anywhere, and we need to be able to track them no matter where they go," he explained.

"So the only way we could go to market quickly is to depend on the existing network of coverage that the kegs can talk to, and that means something like Vodafone's NB-IoT network."

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