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Vodafone strikes NB-IoT roaming deal with AT&T, opens US IoT lab

Vodafone Business and AT&T have 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.

The two carriers had previously put together a roaming arrangement for their LTE-M networks in the U.S. and the Netherlands. They said in a joint release that both operators are “committed to expanding their NB-IoT and LTE-M roaming footprints globally to put LPWA on a similar global footprint to 4G” and noted that the two IoT standards are expected to be included in 3GPP’s standards for massive IoT in 5G.

“For the IoT to live up to its promise, it must be global,” said Chris Penrose, senior VP of advanced mobility and enterprise solutions at AT&T, in a statement. “More and more of our enterprise customers are launching IoT applications across multiple countries. Working with Vodafone we can offer our customers simplified deployments to help scale their IoT plans across the U.S. and Europe.”

The new NB-IoT  agreement allows roaming across multiple networks with a single SIM card.

In an interview at Mobile World Congress Los Angeles, Phil Skipper, head of IoT business development for  at Vodafone Business, noted that Vodafone has 18 NB-IoT markets and that it increasingly sees a desire for companies to take the NB-IoT use cases which have worked well in a single country — say, water or electricity meters — and see them in multiple countries. In order to support that, he said, “The next stage of these networks is, they have to start to become interoperable.”

The roaming agreement with AT&T will help to enable that, Skipper added. It “really is a signal to the market that if you want to do NB-IoT, this interoperability is now coming. You’ve got access to AT&T in the U.S., they’ve got access to five of or NB-IoT markets in Europe. That’s a pretty strong signal about how NB-IoT is now moving to the next level,” he said.

But Vodafone’s IoT news this week didn’t only consider the needs of large, multi-national corporations. Starting in November, its customers in the U.S. will be able to access its Invent platform for IoT development, and the carrier is also opening a new IoT testing and development lab in Redwood City, California. Between the Invent platform, which Skipper said “enables mid-sized companies to digitalize around IoT very simply” and the Redwood City IoT Open Lab, Vodafone Business can expand the base of companies which can take advantage of IoT.

“Customers who have never done IoT can co-create with us,” he said of the lab.

Vodafone also selected Irish IoT antenna company Taoglas’ edge hardware and firmware connectivity solution for its new Invent application development platform.

ABOUT AUTHOR

Kelly Hill
Kelly Hill
Kelly reports on network test and measurement, as well as the use of big data and analytics. She first covered the wireless industry for RCR Wireless News in 2005, focusing on carriers and mobile virtual network operators, then took a few years’ hiatus and returned to RCR Wireless News to write about heterogeneous networks and network infrastructure. Kelly is an Ohio native with a masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, where she focused on science writing and multimedia. She has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, The Oregonian and The Canton Repository. Follow her on Twitter: @khillrcr

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