Global IoT roaming data traffic to reach 650PB in 2026

A study from Kaleido Intelligence has forecast that more than 3,500PB (petabytes) of data roaming traffic will be generated by consumer mobile devices in 2026, with average annual growth of 30% in cellular internet of things (IoT) roaming traffic in the six years from 2020.

This rise is expected despite components being in short supply across a variety of segments due to ongoing production and supply chain issues.

The survey was based on the Roaming data hub – H2 2021 report, which compiled data from roaming suppliers, operator contributors and consumer insights gathered via a global survey conducted in the third quarter of 2021.

In all, the survey found that despite a decline in roaming data traffic in 2020 and 2021 compared with the pre-Covid level in 2019, cheaper roaming bundles, increasing data usage and the European Union’s (EU) “roam like at home” (RLAH) regulation being introduced to new travel zones will drive traffic to exceed pre-Covid levels as early as 2023, representing a 56% increase over 2019 levels.

The report noted that the leading connectivity management platform (CMP) providers all reported significant increases in connections under management over the past year, even as some automotive manufacturers scaled back vehicle production during 2021.

While it observed that cellular IoT module shipments saw a relatively tepid 2020, the report stressed that demand for modules has been strong this year, with several suppliers reporting demand in smart metering, industrial and healthcare applications.

Although Kaleido expected this growth to be constrained over the next three years due to the ongoing chip shortage, overall cellular IoT roaming connections are likely to reach over 850 million in 2025. This growth will exceed the overall cellular IoT market and result in IoT roaming traffic reaching nearly 650PB in 2026, up from 174PB in 2021.

Much of the overall growth in cellular IoT roaming will emerge from LPWAN connectivity, with NB-IoT having seen a significant boost in 2021 following positive announcements by Vodafone and BICS in the context of roaming footprints. By 2026, over 80% of the installed base of permanently roaming IoT connections are forecast to be accounted for by devices consuming less than 10MB per month, with low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) technologies such as NB-IoT and LTE-M providing critical support for these types of applications.

LPWAN networks offer low bit rates and low latency so devices can be easily installed across factory and supply chain floors to monitor equipment. These networks reduce some of the common complexities of IoT implementations, such as determining where edge computing and fog computing can be put to best use and how this data is ingested into the cloud.

“Even as demand for over-the-air programmable SIMs grows to support deployment flexibility, roaming remains a critical tool to support global IoT connectivity,” commented Steffen Sorrell, research lead at Kaleido Intelligence. “The major challenge for the industry moving ahead will be monetisation. Service providers must adapt to support non-traffic-based billing in a manner that proves a win-win for wholesale suppliers and retail customers.”