IoT to account for over a quarter of 5G roaming connections

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The Internet of Things will account for more than a quarter of 5G roaming connections in the next few years, new research shows, which could be good news for operators.

The number of 5G IoT roaming connections will reach 142 million by 2027, up from just 15 million this year, Juniper Research predicts. IoT will account for 27% of all 5G roaming connections by that same date, four years hence, the analyst firm notes.

The growth over the forecast period will be driven by increasing deployments of 5G standalone networks, it claims. As customers get used to the full 5G experience standalone networks will facilitate – higher speeds, lower latency, private networks, advanced services and so forth – so demand for 5G standalone-specific roaming agreements will grow. Essentially, customers will increasingly want the same experience they have at home while they are roaming.

While that’s probably more of an enterprise services and consumer issue, there will be a knock-on effect in IoT too, particularly with enterprise and private networks. Faster speeds and lower latencies are good news for 5G IoT roaming and help to improve the value proposition of the roaming model, Juniper Research points out. And when using enterprise private networks operators will be able to monetise traffic based on quality of service, it says, giving mission-critical services like healthcare, augmented reality and autonomous driving as examples.

To temper expectations a little, Juniper Research reminds us that “the use of 5G for IoT is not an absolute necessity,” and notes that the migration of IoT devices to 5G networks will be gradual. The majority of connected sensors and devices will stay on LTE-M and NB-IoT networks, it says, “with the transition to 5G NSA networks being necessary to fulfil specific use cases.” As such, the ability to support blended traffic between LTE and 5G networks will be vital in the current mixed roaming environment that includes both standalone and non-standalone networks.

On a regional level, the analyst firm identifies Western Europe as a key market for IoT roaming on 5G.

Indeed, although the region accounts for only 5% of the global population, it will house 21% of 5G IoT roaming connections by 2027. Efforts made by Western European operators to launch 5G standalone networks will be key to incentivising IoT users to implement roaming business models, according to Juniper.

As an aside, around 35 operators worldwide have launched 5G SA, out of around 240 to have brought commercial 5G services to market, according to the latest edition of Ericsson’s Mobility Report, published last month. Just days later Vodafone became the latest operator in Western Europe to bring 5G SA to market, announcing the launch of its so-called 5G Ultra services in parts of the UK. And further afield, Nokia this week demonstrated what it claims is Qatar’s first data call in 5G SA with Ooredoo, talking up the potential of new revenue streams for the telco through partnerships with enterprises and developers on new use cases.

“To further capitalise on the growth of 5G IoT roaming in West Europe, operators must form roaming agreements that leverage standalone 5G networks to improve network performance for roaming connections, and provide the same level of service when roaming as they do on home networks,” said Juniper analyst Elisha Sudlow-Poole.

That sounds like good advice for telcos all over the world, not just in Western Europe.


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