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Roaming Agreement Brings Global NB-IoT Functionality to Tags and Sensors

AT&T and Vodafone have entered into an arrangement by which a SIM card used with a consumer product, meter or label could be used to transmit data via low-power wide-area networks, whether in the United States or in parts of Europe.
By Claire Swedberg
Nov 15, 2019

Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) technology is becoming more global, with a roaming agreement between AT&T and Vodafone Business. The two international carrier companies have entered into an NB-IoT arrangement that would enable businesses, such as those that develop NB-IoT devices, to access their respective NB-IoT networks for connectivity on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

That means an NB-IoT subscriber identity module (SIM) card could be attached to a product, asset or container in the United States or in parts of Europe, and the data could be transmitted via a low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) where that product was sold or purchased, all managed on a customer's common software platform. Thus far, the roaming agreement has included AT&T's U.S. network, as well as Vodafone's networks in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Vodafone's Phil Skipper
Companies are accessing Vodafone's NB-IoT network for a variety of use cases, such as smart meter management, parking lot visibility and returnable asset tracking in the logistics industries. Some other common deployments of NB-IoT technology involve agricultural sensors, smoke detectors and asset tracking. One example is a parking space management system from Vodafone, which has been deployed by Portugal's Municipality of Cascais.

NB-IoT is a low-power use for cellular transmission for which small packets of data are all that are required. This 3GPP standards-based wireless communication protocol is distinct from LTE-M, and its data transmission capacity is approximately 32 kilobits per second. To date, approximately 89 commercial NB-IoT networks have been deployed throughout 52 markets.

Until now, says Phil Skipper, Vodafone's head of business development, "You've got multiple markets in Europe [and] you've got a very, very large market in the U.S., but they could not interoperate." The trans-Atlantic agreement means that NB-IoT products can be designed to operate worldwide, using connectivity through AT&T's network in North America and Vodafone's network in Europe.

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