Why connectivity regulations are a hurdle for global IoT deployments

by Yoram Zerahia

Last year we published a blog post on how regulations may become a challenge for cross-border IoT deployments. Over the course of the year, more laws have been enforced, while recent reports show that it’s not a hypothetical problem, these regulations present a significant hurdle in the IoT market, since compliance with them may imply not only legal, but also certain technical difficulties.

According to IoT Analytics’ IoT Commercialization & Business Model Adoption Report 2024, in 2023, OEM time to market for connected products averaged 41 months, an 80% increase since 2020. One of the reasons for that was regulatory hurdles.

It is hardly surprising given the fact that 74% of all countries in the world have regulations on connectivity, data sovereignty, and data protection, while the rest have them drafted and likely to be enacted in the nearest future. These legislation acts directly impact IoT deployments, and depending on the use cases and the markets that certain devices are deployed to, there can be dozens of regulations to comply with.

Our experience also proves that this problem is relevant to almost any IoT usage scenario, and compliance with local regulation is critical for many use cases in various industries, be it TV broadcasting of the G20 Summit or mobile security trailers deployed at a construction site.



The Challenge of Permanent Roaming Restrictions

Roaming is widely used as the main way of connecting cellular-enabled IoT devices when deploying them globally. Juniper Research forecasts the number of roaming IoT connections to grow from 145 million in 2023 to over 600 million by 2028.

However, analysts’ estimate that over 75% of the IoT market is accounted for by the countries that either prohibit permanent roaming (China, India, and Turkey, to name a few) or have restrictions on it imposed by local mobile operators (USA, Canada and Australia).

Permanent roaming is critical for many IoT use cases and is prevalent in some verticals such as the automotive industry where it is used to provide telematic services. Restrictions on permanent roaming, whether by regulations or via local operators, are a major hurdle both for OEMs producing IoT devices and enterprises deploying them. In many cases, cellular-connected devices are produced, sold, and deployed in different countries, with connectivity typically embedded at the production stage. Later the device is distributed to global markets and is supposed to automatically connect to a local operator network, but if permanent roaming is not allowed it requires OEMs to have multiple SKUs for various markets or physically change SIMs in each country the devices are shipped to.

Roaming is the most effective way of providing connectivity for cellular-connected IoT devices deployed globally, and oftentimes it is the only way to ensure that connected devices work properly. For example, in the case of UK electric vehicles charging stations, the user can’t start the charging process if the mobile network signal is limited. Since the UK does not allow roaming between UK networks other than for emergency calls, the most common workaround is to find a global connectivity provider offering an IoT eSIM capable of roaming on UK networks and switching to another local operator’s profile in case the connection is lost.


eSIM Technology


Is eSIM Enough?

A game-changer in the IoT realm, eSIM is a SIM that can be remotely provisioned over-the-air, which makes it possible to upload carrier profiles and swap between them. The SGP.32 remote SIM provisioning specification published by the GSMA in 2023 streamlines profile uploading and swapping for IoT devices and can help to alleviate the problem with permanent roaming.

However, eSIM and the new specification alone may not be enough. Local regulations may require that not only local profile should be used but also all structures, systems, and storage units involved in the process of remote provisioning must be operated by a local operator, like in Turkey’s case.

These restrictions became a major challenge for enterprises shipping their connected IoT devices to Turkey, and some of them even had to shut down certain connected services. But about eight months ago, Webbing pioneered the solution for the permanent roaming problem in Turkey, working with a local partner that provided the necessary infrastructure for over-the-air provisioning of Webbing’s eSIMs. Our solution was the first to ensure seamless localization in Turkey for any IoT deployment, and later a few other operators followed suit, offering similar services.

It is important to note that the work on a regulation of permanent roaming is still underway, and the regulation landscape is constantly shifting.  While some countries choose to ban permanent roaming like Oman in 2023, BEREC (the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications) is working on a report on M2M and Permanent Roaming, aiming to look at how the market is evolving and at potential obstacles for mobile operators to negotiate permanent roaming agreements. The report is expected to be out in June 2024 and impact the review of the roaming regulation by the European Commission.

More Than Just Connectivity

In many cases, problems with compliance don’t end when devices are successfully connected. In addition to restrictions on permanent roaming there are data sovereignty, data privacy and other types of legislation that can affect IoT deployments. Depending on the country and the use case, it may require registering a domestic operating company, preventing any IoT data from leaving the country where it was generated  or registering with a local dispute resolution service. Analysts agree that in terms of compliance there is no “one-size-fits-all” recipe that would work for all IoT deployments. With use cases that vary so much and changing regulations in many countries it is crucial for enterprises deploying IoT devices globally to have flexibility and many localization options to choose from.


IoT Connectivity and Regulatory Compliance


IoT Connectivity and Regulatory Compliance with Webbing

Webbing offers solutions that ensure streamlined connectivity for IoT devices all over the world. A distributed core network with data centers on every continent and partner network of over 600 mobile network operators in more than 190 countries and regions allow us to guarantee continuous connectivity with low latency and global coverage.

Our solutions help to comply with all kinds of regulatory requirements, be it preventing traffic to leave the country borders, using local IMSI or full localization. Technology and infrastructure-wise, Webbing is capable of forming any architecture required by local legislation. Our eSIM solution allows for remote provisioning and a swap between profiles, easily turning it into any operator’s SIM.

Webbing also offers a portal to manage eSIMs throughout their lifecycle. It allows for defining business rules that govern the automatic profile swap process and provides visibility to profile usage and network events, making connectivity transparent.

Webbing’s solutions simplify IoT connectivity, allowing enterprises to leverage connected devices while maintaining full control of their connectivity deployments. It helps to overcome the connectivity restrictions challenge in a simple and seamless way, avoiding the hassle of contracting with local wireless carriers and reducing expenses, making IoT deployments fast, cost-effective and future-ready.

Reach out to [email protected] to learn more about Webbing solutions.