Press Release

5G roaming traffic soars on BICS’ network

by BICS | February 22, 2024

5G roaming traffic soars on BICS’ network
clock 2 mins read
·        156% spike in YoY 5G NSA roaming for consumer and IoT devices
·        277% rise YoY in IoT devices roaming on 5G, suggesting renewed momentum for IoT industry
·        37% rise in roaming traffic for consumer devices across all mobile technologies, indicating burgeoning tourism

New data from international communications enabler BICS, which carries half the world’s roaming traffic, reveals a 156 percent spike year-on-year in the number of non-standalone 5G roamers for consumer and IoT devices across its network. Roughly 176 million 5G roamers appeared in 2023, up from 68 million in 2022.

Across all mobile technologies analysed in 2023 (3G, 4G, 5G), the number of consumer devices roamers grew 37 percent from 608 million to 817 million YoY. This lines up with research from UN Tourism, which shows international tourism is on track to return to pre-pandemic levels in 2024.

Digging deeper into the split between consumer and IoT roamers on 5G connections reveals the number of consumer roamers rose by 155 percent. The sharp rise in 5G roamers tracks with recent industry findings from Kaleido Intelligence, which show soaring data roaming activity and momentum for 5G roaming services. Kaleido previously estimated non-standalone 5G roamers will exceed 100 million in 2024, and that overall consumer and IoT roaming data usage will rise by 36 percent to a total of 5,000 Petabytes.

“While 5G rollout has been on the slower side, the uptick we’re seeing on our networks show that non-standalone 5G is truly picking up in force and momentum now,” says Mikael Schachne CRO for Enterprise at BICS. “These numbers make sense given that 5G roaming is now available in over 60 countries worldwide, though it’s important to remember this is non-standalone traffic anchored to 4G technology. Unlocking the full potential of 5G will come from more investment in standalone 5G. While 5G SA is still in its early days, BICS has made significant contributions to its advancement – for example, through realising the world’s first intercontinental live 5G SA roaming connection, and more recently between Kuwait and Thailand.”

BICS’ data shows a much starker 277 percent rise in the number of IoT devices roaming on 5G connections. Even the variety of types of 5G devices is growing – up by 47 percent YoY in 2023 (note: a category of device denotes a type of device such as smartphones, tablets, smart watches) .

“Manufacturers have told us of the significant challenges they’ve had building 5G roaming-compatible IoT devices,” says Ann Heyse, Telco Solutions Manager at BICS. “It’s why most roaming devices seen on networks have historically been consumer phones. While IoT is still in its adolescence, the increase in machine roamers we see using a 5G connection is a really encouraging sign that the industry is at long last picking up the pace. We know from Kaleido’s own research that revenues for IoT roaming are on track to increase by 79% in 2024 versus levels pre-2019. A lot of this stems from the many great partnerships taking place between players big and small to help proliferate IoT devices for next-gen use cases.”

The IoT market continues to grow as organisations work together to remove complexities and barriers to implementation. In the last year, BICS itself has partnered with the likes of Microsoft and Telcofan to streamline roaming in and out of private networks and ensure consistent connectivity for travelling. More recently it partnered with AWS on a ‘cloud roaming’ service to optimise low-latency global connectivity for subscribers and next-gen use cases like IoT.