IoT roaming occurs when a connected device or sensor connects to a network other than its home network, either temporarily or permanently, in cases of permanent roaming.
Roaming IoT devices are capable of connectivity to a variety of different radio technologies, including cellular networks like 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G, LPWA networks such as NB-IoT and LTE-M, RFID and Wi-Fi 6.
With this as a baseline, Juniper Research forecasts that data generated by roaming IoT connections will increase from 86 petabytes in 2022 to 1,100 petabytes by 2027. This is enough data to stream 165 million hours of 4K video from platforms such as Netflix.
Driving this 1,140% growth is the termination of 3G networks necessitating the adoption of low-power cellular networks.
The research found that 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 through low-power, high-penetration coverage.
Roaming IoT connections use wireless services outside of their registered operator’s network; accessing connectivity from other cellular providers.
IoT roaming growth opportunities
The report found that roaming IoT connections from the US will generate 277 petabytes of data by 2027 and will account for 26% of the global total. With AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon terminating 3G networks during 2022, Juniper Research anticipated that roaming IoT connections will be redistributed to low-power wide-area 4G or 5G networks depending on the use case.
Research author Scarlett Woodford remarked that US operators must adopt the Billing & Charging Evolution protocol to accurately identify IoT traffic based on network technologies.
“Failure to do so will risk revenue leakage if lucrative 5G roaming IoT traffic is misidentified as lower-value connectivity.”Scarlett Woodford
Barriers to high-value IoT roaming
Juniper Research estimates that only 2% of total IoT roaming connections will rely on 5G networks by 2027. It attributes this low usage to the low-power consumption and infrequent data transmission exhibited by most devices.
It 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.