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IoT roaming market is poised for historic growth

IoT roaming market

IoT roaming market potential will drive historic levels of growth in next five years as global connections rise more than a thousand-fold.

IoT roaming and volume of data generated by connections is forecast to increase from 86 petabytes in 2022 to 1,100 petabytes by 2027, a growth of 1,140 per cent, according to a new study by Juniper Research.

The report showed that growth will be chiefly driven by the shutdown of 3G networks and the increasing adoption of low-power cellular networks. Low-power wide-area networks provide a low-cost alternative to established operator-led cellular networks, such as 4G and 5G; driving the growth of IoT roaming connections.

The IoT roaming report found that IoT roaming connections from the U.S. will generate 277 petabytes of data by 2027, accounting for 26 per cent of the global total. With AT&T, T-Mobile US and Verizon terminating 3G networks during 2022, the report anticipates that roaming IoT connections will be redistributed to low-power wide-area 4G or 5G networks depending on the use case.

“U.S. operators must adopt the billing and charging evolution protocol to accurately identify IoT traffic based on network technologies. Failure to do so will risk revenue leakage, if lucrative 5G IoT roaming traffic is misidentified as lower-value connectivity,” said research author Scarlett Woodford.

IoT roaming connections

The research also noted that only 2 per cent of total IoT roaming connections will rely on 5G networks by 2027, due to the low-power consumption and infrequent data transmission exhibited by the majority of devices. Juniper Research also found that only use cases dependent on low-latency and high-speed data downloads, such as autonomous vehicles and connected factories, will justify enterprise investment in 5G connectivity.

The global number of cellular IoT subscribers increased by 22 per cent during 2021 to reach 2.1 billion, according to a recent report from European IoT market research firm Berg Insight.

Berg Insight noted that the major regional markets China, Western Europe and North America grew similarly during the year as the world recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic. By 2026, Berg Insight estimates that there will be 4.3 billion IoT devices connected to cellular networks around the world.

The IoT roaming report also showed that the top ten mobile operators reported a combined active base of 1.8 billion cellular IoT connections at the end of 2021, accounting for 86 per cent of total connections. China Mobile is the world’s largest provider of cellular IoT connectivity services with an estimated 801 million cellular IoT connections. China Unicom and China Telecom ranked second and third with 300 million and 297 million connections respectively, according to the research firm.

Vodafone ranked first among the Western operators and fourth overall with 142 million connections, followed by AT&T with 95 million in fifth place. Deutsche Telekom and Verizon had in the range of 45–55 million cellular IoT connections each, when counting T-Mobile US’ customers as part of DT’s IoT subscriber base. Telefónica, KDDI and Orange were the last players in the top ten with about 31 million, 23 million and 20 million connections respectively.

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