The Actility Blog

A Revolution in Passive Roaming

Mobile World Congress Actility booth picture

At the Mobile World Congress a few months ago, Actility announced that it was offering LoRaWAN Network Operators a chance to test their passive roaming capabilities. Today, we are glad to offer this labs platform available before the LoRa Alliance standard specification release due this September.

While we are highly involved in this effort through the Alliance’s Technical Committee, we wanted to enable LoRaWAN Network Operators early availability for testing their passive roaming capabilities. Here are the five reasons why:

1. It’s a critical feature in many use cases

Since LoRaWAN is an open standard that benefits from a large ecosystem / 500+ companies in the LoRa Alliance, LoRaWAN networks do not form yet a universal coverage everywhere.

While roaming allows a rapid growth of the ecosystem and many local use cases, it is critical for devices in the following use cases:

  • International tracking: track shipments across borders not only in routing hubs but throughout their journey up to the last mile (now RFID) supply chain & logistics (track containers throughout their journey);
  • MNO network sharing through extensions or densification or National Solution Provider deployments with extension in multiple national networks;
  • Managed Customer Networks with fall-back on national networks outside of local facilities.

2. Standardization is work in progress

The LoRa Alliance targets to release official LoRaWAN Backend Interface (BEI) specification (v1.0) in September 2017. Standardization work is completed and in BoD approval.

For two years now, Actility has been heavily involved in that effort:

  • Actility is leading the Alliance Working Group on Roaming, and co-chairing the Technical Committe.
  • Actility has demonstrated Passive Roaming at MWC in February 2017.
  • Actility is starting interoperability tests with first vendors during summer, other vendors to follow.
  • End of May, Actility announced availability of the Passive Roaming feature on “Actility labs” testing platforms: our customers can test the service with their own gateways and devices.

3. Passive roaming is the killer feature for telcos

IoT standards like LTE-M and NB-IoT are maturing, and the roaming ability is a must-have for LoRaWAN to be competitive.

While both LoRaBEI 1.0 and LoRaWAN1.1 (new Mac layer) are expected to be finalized around September, industry expects new MAC layer LoRaWAN1.1 rollout to be much slower.

Because it involves updates on the device side, the adoption will only be done gradually for newer devices. 

However, by implementing LoRaBEI1.0, it is possible to deploy Passive Roaming for both LoRaWAN1.0 and LoRaWAN1.1 devices, without any change on device side

4. Actility Labs Platform is an innovation booster

Before ThingPark platform latest features are fully released commercially  this Lab offers operators early access and ability to test these features on live networks including with other Actility customers. The passive Roaming feature is delivered through accounts on two test operators powered by Actility Network Servers.

After interoperability tests have been completed, the platform may be extended with other vendors’ Network Servers. This should demonstrate in real life how provisioning Roaming Agreement between operator works.

Until the platform is launched, Actility will be constantly upgrading it with new features such as Handover Roaming on the same platform.

This Lab Platform maximizes Actility customers’ competitiveness by testing innovative roaming features ahead of the other, enabling them to communicate or demonstrate first.

5. Still some challenges to tackle

While setting up commercial Roaming agreements between operators will take time, there are other challenges to be considered for global roaming use cases.

Operators must agree on common channels in their channel plans so that devices can roam from one network to another. LoRaWAN regional parameters cover 9 ISM bands today, in accordance to local regulations. Mobile devices will need to discover in which region they are located and adapt accordingly, to avoid device emissions that violate local regulations.

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