NarrowBand IoT and LTE Cat M1 are the hottest keywords when it comes to IoT connectivity in the last two years. More and more cellular module makers are offering them, clients hear about the benefits and want to deploy them, carriers themselves are heavily advertising them. After all, the GSMA has standardized and licensed them and 51 commercial Mobile IoT networks are already deployed. So, is it really time to say goodbye to 2G, 3G, and 4G modules and, instead, deploy devices with NB-IoT or LTE Cat M1?
Not so fast. While LTE Cat M1 and NB-IoT networks might be available in the countries that your clients are located, there is still a huge problem: there are no commercial roaming agreements or even protocols for arranging Narrowband-IoT and CAT-M1 technologies internationally. This means that if you wish to deploy your NB-IoT or LTE Cat M1 devices in multiple countries, you need to make contracts with local carriers, separate the devices during manufacturing, deal with many SIM management systems, receive many different invoices, and, in general, sit on top of a logistical nightmare. And still, due to lack of commercial agreements, you can’t operate fleet tracking and other devices that cross borders with Cat M1 and NB-IoT yet.
Is There a Light at the End of This Tunnel?
There is a small beam of light indeed. Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone completed the first successful NB-IoT Roaming trial this summer. This, of course, doesn’t mean that you can take your commercial NB-IoT enabled module with a Deutsche Telekom SIM card and deploy it in Spain using their Vodafone Narrowband network quite yet. Even if it did work, it wouldn’t justify dropping 2G, 3G, and 4G quite yet. After all, traditional 2G and 3G networks are supported everywhere, whereas NB-IoT & CAT-M1 are only supported in 51 countries at the moment, including, for instance, the UK, which actually has one NB-IoT testing lab, without true support for commercial use.
The market and hype seem to be ahead of the regulations on this one for sure. Unfortunately, the lack of proper framework and support affects many potential device makers that would like to move to this Low Power Wide Area future with their solutions.
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