Germany’s BNetzA Creates Framework to Help Deliver IoT around the Globe

We’re moving into a world where billions of devices will be interconnected to networks throughout the globe. The Internet of Things (IoT) is enabling not only the connections between devices and machines, it’s delivering information that people and businesses can use to make tangible changes.

In Germany, the government is working with private industry and other stakeholders to promote the deployment of IoT products and services to “secure [Germany’s] technological leadership role and establish itself as an [IoT] lead market and provider.” Recently, the German regulator, Bundesnetzagentur (BNetzA), completed an almost 2-year proceeding on numbering requirements for IoT.

To give you some background, the new business models supporting IoT connectivity differ from those used for mobile phones and tablets. Connecting a few hundred thousand refrigerated shipping containers or millions of vehicles around the globe requires flexible solutions for multi-national businesses in contrast with the more rigid traditional handset business models. For example, traditional handset business models would require:

  • Having a country-specific IoT device in each country, requiring businesses to establish unique platforms with dozens or even hundreds of carriers;
  • Managing the customer logistics chain on a per-country basis (i.e., forecast demand, distribution, activation, support, repair), reducing overall efficiency; and
  • Having the capability to interface with and navigate a unique platform for each mobile network operator with which it contracts in every country.

IoT providers are successfully adapting to this technological and business model evolution through the global use of numbering resources and mutually beneficial commercial roaming arrangements. That’s why it’s important for governments to adopt supportive policies to enable the effective global deployment of innovative IoT solutions.

BNetzA reviewed rules relating to IMSIs or international mobile subscriber identities. IMSIs are unique identification numbers that allow for device recognition and network routing. BNetzA’s new IMSI rules implement two significant policy changes:

  1. Enables the use of non-German IMSIs in Germany and use of German IMSIs outside of Germany – either permanently installed or used through IoT roaming – to provide connectivity. Also, Germany will not impose onerous notification requirements for foreign IMSIs used with IoT. “Our new rules our intended to provide a stimulus for growth,” says Jochen Homann, President of BNetzA. Additionally, BNetzA says the new rules mean less administrative work and lower production costs for the industry.
  2. MVNOs can now apply for German IMSIs. MNVO – or mobile virtual network operator – is a wireless service provider that does not own the wireless network over which it provides services. Previously, only mobile network operators were entitled to obtain German IMSIs directly from BNetzA. The new rules could directly promote competition in the German mobile market and encourage more product offerings.

We applaud Germany for its foresight and decisive action to support the global development of the IoT.

Germany recognizes that many IoT applications will operate in a global market. BNetzA has tailored its new IMSI rules for that reality. These forward-thinking policies set a powerful precedent – not only for Europe – but for the entire international community. BNetzA’s decisions will help drive the deployment of IoT services in Germany from national and international providers while allowing Germany to maintain regulatory oversight of those services. Regional regulatory bodies and policy organizations also have taken an enlightened approach to issues presented by the IoT. Whether its flexible numbering recommendations from CEPT and BEREC in Europe or CITEL’s recommendations for the Americas, governments and industry stakeholders are working together to develop viable frameworks for driving value and growth in the IoT.

Connected devices help businesses make smarter decisions which helps drive economic growth. So it’s no surprise that many countries are looking to take the lead in this next industrial revolution building upon new technologies – sometimes called the 4th industrial revolution or Industry 4.0. Whatever the name, this new business model will help transform industries, including energy and utilities, transportation, logistics/supply chain, automotive, healthcare, construction, retail, usage-based insurance and more.

And the transformation is underway. AT&T has nearly 28 million connected devices on our network including +8 million Connected Cars, +1.9 million fleet vehicles and +270,000 refrigerated shipping containers. We signed 335 new IoT business agreements last year.

We applaud Germany for its foresight and decisive action to support the global development of the IoT. We look forward to continuing to work with policymakers and industry leaders to deliver a world with an estimated 50 billion “things” connected to the internet—valued in the trillions of dollars.