Global Roaming

Global Roaming with GPS Devices

Tracking assets internationally? Here’s everything you need to know about roaming on Cellular, Sigfox, and LoRaWAN® networks with our devices.

Can Digital Matter Devices Roam?

Yes! All of our devices support roaming with the correct SIM and device configurations.

Roaming on 4G Devices

Does it roam? – Yes, but with limitations.

Our 4G device range supports either LTE-M or NB-IoT connectivity, but not both concurrently – Learn more about LTE-M vs NB-IoT here. Due to the infancy of these networks, global coverage varies.

Our experience with both LTE-M and NB-IoT has shown LTE-M to be more mature and better supported. Roaming on LTE-M is possible, however we have not yet seen successful roaming across NB-IoT networks.

Check Global Coverage

Before roaming on a 4G device, first, check Mobile IoT network coverage in the countries your asset is traveling through. If the country does not have LTE-M or NB-IoT coverage, the device will not connect.

As of January 2019, there are 127 Commercial IoT Networks around the world. Since 2018 deployments of 4G networks have doubled – but it’s not enough to enable seamless worldwide connectivity yet.

Check your Mobile IoT Network Coverage here.

Sims And Roaming Agreement Limitations

International roaming on LTE-M is possible when using the correct APN settings and a roaming SIM such as Emnify, Soracom IoT Sim, and more.

View list of SIM Providers – 4G LTE-M / NB-IoT + Roaming

Slowly but surely, international roaming agreements between networks are being established, and more roaming SIMs continue to hit the market.

In 2019, Vodafone and AT&T, for example, agreed on a roaming relationship that they say “creates the largest narrowband IoT footprint in the world for global devices, allowing devices to roam between AT&T’s nationwide NB-IoT footprint in the U.S. and Vodafone’s networks in Germany, Spain, the U.K., Italy, and the Netherlands.”

Once more commercial roaming agreements are in place, 4G roaming options will mature. In the next few years, we expect to see both LTE-M and NB-IoT networks mature with commercial roaming agreements and overlapping deployments, with network operators launching both LTE-M and NB-IoT in their regions.

In the meantime, we are currently exploring 4G LTE-M modems with 2G fallback to provide affordable and near-global tracking coverage.

Roaming on 2G/3G Devices

Does it roam? – Yes!

Unlike 4G networks, 2G and 3G networks are well established, and roaming is readily available with the correct SIM and device configurations.

Our 3G devices use a Telit modem, which switches back to 2G if 3G coverage is unavailable, making them a fantastic option for staying connected in multiple countries. 2G/3G roaming SIM providers are also readily available and well tested.

Unfortunately, 2G/3G devices do not perform as well as our 4G device range, and network operators globally are starting to sunset existing 3G networks. Again, be sure to check the network coverage in the countries your asset is traveling through prior to deployment.

Roaming on Sigfox and LoRaWAN®

Does it roam? – Yes, but only on the same frequencies.

Roaming On Sigfox

Because of global regulations, Sigfox currently uses 6 different radio configurations. Each radio zone differs based on three parameters: frequency range, maximum radiated power, and radio front end specificities.

A Sigfox device will transmit properly only in the RC zone it is currently set up for.

Sigfox Regions

Our Sigfox devices are available for RCZ1 (Europe and the Middle East), RCZ2 (North America and Brazil), and RCZ4 (Australia, New Zealand, South America, Hong Kong, South East Asia).

Roaming is dependent on the Sigfox region – if you have an RCZ4 device, it should connect in all countries operating on the 920MHz band without issue. It will not, however, connect to RCZ1 regions. Most countries per region are geographically close to each other, so roaming is possible.

Sigfox Regions

Sigfox Monarch

Monarch is a unique feature of the Sigfox network, providing IoT devices with the ability to roam across frequencies. When moving between countries with different radio regulations, tracking devices with Monarch Modules chose the appropriate radio configuration.

Sigfox gateways in air and shipping ports broadcast a specific Monarch beacon signal – which the device can detect and adjust its radio configuration to the right region – as the beacon is used to locate the device.

Our current Sigfox devices already have GPS on board for location – so the importance of this interesting technology is lessened in the case of a product like the Oyster Sigfox.

We are exploring Monarch capabilities, but do not currently have devices in development.

One drawback to designing a device that can operate across a range of radio frequencies is that the device becomes less power efficient.

Roaming on LoRaWAN®

We manufacture 2 versions of our LoRaWAN® products, one for frequencies around 868Mhz, and one to suit those around 915MHz. Similar to Sigfox, roaming on LoRaWAN® is dependent on the frequencies used in specific regions.

LoRaWAN® Regions

868MHz LoRaWAN® regions:

  • Europe – EU868
  • India – IN865
  • Russia – RU864

915MHz LoRaWAN® regions:

  • US, Canada, South America – US915
  • Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, ANZ – AS923
  • Australia – AU915

Limitations With Roaming On LoRaWAN® And Sigfox

A key limitation to the performance of devices that move between countries over Sigfox and LoRaWAN® is the lack of uplink acknowledgment.

Devices send messages on a ‘best effort’ basis – there is limited capability to communicate back to the device to allow the server to say that messages have been successfully received. This means that when the device is out of coverage (while traveling between countries for example) all messages during this time will be lost.

A cellular device will also experience delays in communication when out of coverage. But the key difference is that once it enters coverage, the entire history of messages will be uploaded to the server, as messages are stored until the device receives an acknowledgment that the messages were received.

So, in general, Sigfox and LoRaWAN® are not ideal candidates for roaming.

Iridium Satellite

Does it roam? – Yes, but it’s expensive and often impractical.

The Iridium Satellite Constellation is a system of 66 satellites used for voice and data communications. The constellation covers the entire earth, so voice and data can be transmitted from anywhere worldwide.

Iridium devices are capable of lone or remote worker tracking, tracking of vehicles in out of coverage areas, and enables duress or rollover alerts in these locations, but devices and airtime are very expensive.

Our G120 is a hybrid 4G LTE-M / NB-IoT wired GPS tracking device that is installed into vehicles. When the G120 is within coverage, it uses the cellular modem. When the device can no longer join the cellular network, it switches to the Iridium Network.

The use of concurrent GPS/GNSS, Cellular, and Iridium ensures assets are tracked anywhere in the world, even when the asset roams in and out of GPS coverage. Iridium, however, is not usually a viable option for roaming across countries, as devices require hard-wiring to an asset for power – and typically assets that move between countries don’t have a power source available.

Conclusion: Does it Roam?

All of our devices support roaming with the correct SIM and device configurations. But before roaming on Cellular, Sigfox, or LoRaWAN®, be sure to check coverage maps in each region your asset is traveling and ensure you have the correct SIM and data plan to accommodate.

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