Navigating Permanent Roaming for IoT: Challenges and Solutions

  • The growing IoT ecosystem has brought forth its own set of challenges. One such challenge is permanent roaming.
  • While many countries allow permanent roaming without significant constraints, some big countries have implemented limitations on this practice.
  • There are multiple ways to circumvent the problem of permanent roaming. These include eSIM, Multi-IMSI, aggregator platforms, and dynamic network selection algorithms.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has revolutionized the way we interact with the world around us. From smart homes to industrial automation, IoT devices are playing a pivotal role in enhancing efficiency and convenience. However, the growing IoT ecosystem has brought forth its own set of challenges. One such challenge is permanent roaming, a phenomenon that has gained significance due to the global nature of IoT deployments. In this blog, we will delve into the concept of permanent roaming for IoT, discuss the challenges it poses, and explore potential solutions.

Understanding permanent roaming for IoT

Permanent roaming in the context of IoT refers to the practice of utilizing cellular connectivity across different geographical locations on a consistent basis. Unlike traditional mobile phones, which might roam temporarily when users travel, IoT devices often need to maintain connectivity across various regions for extended periods. This is a fundamental requirement for IoT devices used in logistics, remote monitoring, agriculture and other activities.

While many countries allow permanent roaming without significant constraints, some big countries have implemented limitations on this practice. The map below shows countries where permanent roaming is banned and those where local carriers have imposed restrictions.Major countries where permanent roaming is restricted

Countries that prohibit permanent roaming include India, China, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Nigeria, Turkiye (formerly Turkey), UAE and Singapore. Besides, mobile operators in the US, Canada and Australia have imposed restrictions on permanent roaming within their networks, effectively imposing a ban on this practice in these countries. Remarkably, these 12 countries collectively cover more than 50% of the world’s population and account for well over three-quarters of the IoT market.

Challenges posed by restrictions on permanent roaming

IoT devices are typically deployed on a global scale, leading to a complex scenario where these devices are connected to multiple mobile network operators (MNOs) across different countries. Imagine an electric car company that markets its vehicles across various regions. In countries where permanent roaming is not allowed, the company must procure local connectivity. This situation presents a host of challenges that ripple through the operational landscape:

  • Complex network management: Handling connections to multiple networks becomes really complex. Each network might have different prices, coverage areas and technical needs. The process of harmonizing such distinct facets is likely to be intricate and time-consuming.
  • Dealing with many partners: The company needs to work with different network partners. This means making deals, managing money and ensuring good service quality across networks. Besides, multiple networks means multiple bills and contracts. All of these tasks together can become very complicated and hard to manage as this activity is not core to the business.
  • Higher costs: Because of the rules against permanent roaming, the company has to pay more money to set up connections in each country. This extra cost can make things difficult and might affect how much the company can grow.
  • Less flexibility: Without the ability to use permanent roaming, the devices might not work as well when they move between countries. This can be a problem for customers who expect a consistent experience.
  • More planning needed: Since the company can’t rely on the same connection everywhere, it needs to plan ahead. This can slow things down and make expansion harder. There could be issues related to data sovereignty and compliance that may require additional planning.

Solutions for permanent roaming

There are multiple ways to circumvent the problems associated with permanent roaming. However, it is critical to select a managed service provider that has tie-ups with local MNOs/MVNOs. Alternatively, direct MNO relationships can be managed using aggregator connectivity management platforms.

eSIM (embedded SIM): eSIM technology is a game changer in the IoT landscape. It enables devices to have programmable SIM cards that can be remotely provisioned over the air. With eSIM, IoT devices can switch between different MNOs without requiring a physical SIM card replacement, thus simplifying the management of connectivity. Using eSIM, it is possible to switch between a local profile and multiple roaming profiles every 90 days to avoid permanent roaming. Many managed service providers have this workaround to avoid permanent roaming. The new IoT eSIM specifications will further simplify the provisioning and orchestration of connectivity.

Multi-IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity): Multi-IMSI solutions allow a single physical SIM card to have multiple IMSIs from different MNOs. This enables the device to seamlessly switch between networks while maintaining a single SIM card. By intelligently selecting the optimal IMSI based on factors like network quality and cost, Multi-IMSI solutions optimize connectivity and reduce operational complexities. However, the managed service provider needs to have a local presence or tie-ups.

Aggregator platforms: Aggregator connectivity management platforms (CMPs) act as intermediaries between IoT device owners and various MNOs. These platforms offer a unified interface for managing connectivity, provisioning, billing, and reporting across multiple networks. By consolidating these tasks, aggregator platforms simplify the management of permanent roaming for IoT devices. A new set of aggregator CMPs like IOTM and ConnectedYou is targeting enterprises instead of carriers to solve the problem of managing multiple networks.

Some of the aggregator platforms offer Dynamic Network Selection Algorithms. Smart algorithms can be implemented in IoT devices to dynamically select the most suitable network based on parameters such as signal strength, latency and cost.


With the IoT landscape continuing to expand globally, the challenges associated with permanent roaming are becoming more pronounced. However, with the advent of innovative solutions such as eSIM, Multi-IMSI, aggregator platforms, and dynamic network selection algorithms, these challenges can be effectively mitigated. These solutions not only simplify the management of connectivity but also enhance cost-effectiveness and operational efficiency for IoT deployments. The key is to find the right managed services partner, which has a platform that enables easy management of connectivity.

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Saudi Arabia Smartphone Shipments Grow 26% YoY in Q1 2023, Buck Trend

  • The Saudi Arabia smartphone market was among the few to record YoY growth in Q1 2023.
  • Even as many economies struggled in 2022 amid macroeconomic and geopolitical pressures, Saudi Arabia was bolstered by its highest oil revenues in decades, all-time-low unemployment rates, all-time-high non-oil economic activity and strong private consumption.
  • Among OEMs, Samsung and Apple continued to take over half of the total smartphone shipments in Q1 2023, with Samsung taking the #1 spot.
  • We expect the Saudi Arabia smartphone market to continue its growth momentum in 2023, with annual shipments likely to grow in low single digits.

The Saudi Arabia smartphone market was among the few to record YoY growth in Q1 2023, with shipments growing 26% YoY largely due to strong macroeconomic fundamentals, accelerating digitalization, and growing device financing options. In QoQ terms, the shipments grew 17% as OEMs filled channels for the Easter and Ramadan sales season, towards the end of the quarter.

Growth drivers

As many global economies struggled in 2022 amid macroeconomic and geopolitical pressures, Saudi Arabia was among the few to buck the trend. Bolstered by its highest oil revenues in decades as global oil prices soared, Saudi Arabia was the fastest-growing economy in 2022, with all-time-low unemployment rates, all-time-high non-oil economic activity and strong private consumption. PoS (Point of Sale) transactions, e-commerce activity and digital payments have also been on the rise in Saudi Arabia, all pointing to growing digitalization and private consumption. Some of the market momentum at the end of 2022 was carried into Q1 2023, especially after the economic boost provided by the FIFA World Cup in Qatar and the year-end and holiday season of Q4 2022.

Saudi Arabia Smartphone Shipments & 5G Share

Saudi Arabia Smartphone Shipments and 5G Share – Q1 2021 to Q1 2023

While the feature phone to smartphone migration has slowed down in Saudi Arabia, a growing digital economy and an aspirational customer have become key growth drivers. Commercial and private 5G use is also increasing in the country, pushing 5G smartphone sales. 5G technologies are a key part of Saudi Arabia’s digitalization and growth push under the Vision 2030 plan. The country has partnered with major 5G infrastructure players like Huawei and Ericsson, and 5G networks are now available in most major cities, covering around 80% of the country’s population. Saudi Arabia has also been hailed as a 5G pioneer in the region in terms of coverage, speed and consistency. 5G smartphone share remained above half of total smartphone shipments for the second consecutive quarter in Q1 2023 and is likely to grow further in 2023.

Competitive landscape

Saudi Arabia smartphone shipments Q1 2023Saudi Arabia Smartphone Shipments by Top 5 OEMs for Q1 2021, Q1 2022, Q1 2023

Among OEMs, Samsung and Apple continued to take over half of the total smartphone shipments in Q1 2023, with Samsung taking the #1 spot. Xiaomi and Motorola were distant third, with HONOR rounding out the top five for Q1 2023.

Samsung grew YoY as its supply normalized in the region. The brand’s 5G models have been leading growth, especially the new affordable 5G M-series and A-series iterations. The Galaxy M53 was the best-selling Android device in the country in Q1. Samsung’s newest flagship Galaxy S23 series was shipped slightly earlier than the S22 series in 2022 to meet the pre-order demand triggered by aggressive marketing and promotions in the country, with most channels and offline stores participating.

Apple’s smartphone shipments nearly doubled YoY led by the popularity of its iPhone 14 series, especially the Pro versions, and as older models became affordable and available. Apple reached its highest-ever Q1 shipment share in Saudi Arabia in 2023. The brand has greatly benefitted from the rise of financing options, like the ‘Buy Now, Pay Later’ model, in Saudi Arabia, making its devices accessible to a greater demographic. Besides, a rising mean wage and stable exchange rates increased the average Saudi Arabian consumer’s purchasing power in 2022. iPhones took four of the top five spots in the bestseller list for Q1 2023, with the iPhone 14 Pro coming out on top.

While Xiaomi’s shipments grew YoY in Q1, it lost share marginally, as Motorola and HONOR gained share driven by new launches. Xiaomi has been able to maintain share largely due to its broad portfolio across price bands, innovative marketing strategies, and a strong presence across both offline and online channels.

Motorola has been gaining share, led by its offerings in the $150-$249 price band, particularly its G series, which accounted for nearly three-quarters of its total sales in Q1. Motorola has benefitted from improved product availability, especially for new launches, and strong brand pull, especially for middle-income customers looking for upgrades to their lower-segment devices.

HONOR was among the fastest-growing brands in Q1, with its shipments more than doubling YoY. HONOR’s growth is largely due to focused expansion efforts, aggressive launch campaigns and an attractive mid-tier to high-end portfolio. HONOR has also benefitted from utilizing Huawei’s earlier distribution and channel relationships. The HONOR 70 and the X series were the top volume drivers for the OEM in Saudi Arabia for Q1 2023.

Smartphone sales grew YoY across all price bands in Q1 2023 but declined QoQ largely due to seasonality. All price bands except the premium band (≥$600) lost share YoY as consumers moved up the price bands. But the premium band was the fastest-growing band in Q1, led by Apple and Samsung. Apple captured around 85% of the total premium smartphone sales in Q1. The mid-tier ($100-$249) remained the largest price band in Saudi Arabia, capturing nearly half of the total smartphone sales in Q1, with Samsung and Xiaomi taking the top spots in the price band. The lower (<$100) segment grew YoY but, like other non-premium segments, lost sales share during the same period, as customers continued to buy higher-ASP devices with improving affordability and rising aspirations.

Market outlook

We expect the ASP of smartphones sold in Saudi Arabia to continue to rise in 2023, as wage rates improve, financing options become more accessible, and customers move towards better devices. Currently, Apple and Samsung remain best equipped to capture more share of the aspirational Saudi Arabia smartphone market, but the quest for the #3 spot continues. While Xiaomi remains comfortably in the #3 spot, other Android OEMs have been mounting pressure with bolder promotions and marketing activities and aggressive launch strategies. Motorola, HONOR and Transsion Group brands Infinix and TECNO are likely candidates outside the top three to capture market growth.

Going forward, we expect the Saudi Arabia smartphone market to continue its growth momentum, with annual shipments likely to grow in low single digits in 2023. Increasing 5G use, ramping up of digitalization, greater access to financing options and growing aspirations of customers are expected to drive growth.


  1. ASP & Priceband Analysis done using Wholesale Prices
  2. Xiaomi includes Redmi, Pocophone, Black Shark

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Saudi Arabia Smartphone Sales Cross Pre-pandemic Levels

  • Saudi Arabia’s smartphone market grew 49% YoY in 2021, a 14% increase from the pre-pandemic 2019.
  • Samsung led the market despite losing share. Apple came in second.
  • Chinese OEMs’ share grew to 41% in 2021, capitalizing on Huawei’s exit.
  • 5G smartphone sales penetration in Saudi Arabia grew to 35% in 2021. One in every three 5G phones sold was an iPhone.

 New Delhi, Seoul, Hong Kong, Beijing, London, Buenos Aires, San Diego – March 31, 2022

Saudi Arabia’s annual smartphone sales grew 49% YoY in 2021 to cross the pre-pandemic level of 2019, according to Counterpoint Research’s Global Monthly Handset Sales Tracker. Post-COVID-19 recovery and pent-up demand were the key growth drivers. After a difficult 2020 that saw high COVID-19 rates and a struggling economy, the Saudi Arabia smartphone market benefitted from overall economic growth in 2021, which was driven by high oil exports, rising employment and falling inflation.

Commenting on the market dynamics, Senior Analyst Yang Wang said, “Saudi Arabia’s smartphone market benefitted from improving consumer demand due to a recovering economy and an increased pace of digitalization, partly induced by the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, the market has gradually adjusted to the statutory 15% VAT increase from June 2020, which had dampened sales in 2020. Huawei’s exit threatened to hit growth in 2021, but Chinese brands like vivo, Infinix and Xiaomi were not only quick to step up, they also grew to increase the share of Chinese brands to 41% in 2021, compared to 29% in 2020.”

Counterpoint Research Saudi Arabia Smartphone Market Share
Source: Counterpoint Research Handset Model Sales, Jan 2022
Note: Figures may not add up to 100% due to rounding

Samsung led the Saudi Arabia smartphone market in 2021 despite a decline in its share due to supply issues and increasing competition. Apple came in second, with vivo and Xiaomi following next. Xiaomi may have ended ahead of vivo if not for a weak Q4 due to supply woes.

Chinese OEMs like vivo and OPPO ramped up in 2021 and were able to capitalize on Huawei’s exit to grow their market share. Transsion group OEMs also saw modest success in a bid to expand their operations in the Middle East.

With its portfolio targeting the budget segment and new launches during the sales season, Infinix entered the top five rankings for the $200 and below price band in 2021.

Nokia took the fifth spot overall, clocking modest YoY growth after capitalizing on a revamped portfolio, consumer loyalty and improved availability during seasonal sales events.

5G smartphone sales also grew in 2021. Research Associate Ravyansh Yadav said, “While smartphone penetration continues to be a growth driver, 5G smartphone penetration took off in 2021, growing from 7% in 2020 to 35% in 2021. Apple, Samsung and vivo were the 5G smartphone market leaders. 5G penetration reached its highest level ever at 44% in Q4 2021 driven by the launch of the iPhone 13 series. In 2021, one in every three 5G phones sold in Saudi Arabia was an iPhone. With 5G coverage in the country having crossed 70% in 2021 and operators nearing the end of their respective 5G deployment roadmaps, upgradation to 5G smartphones will be an important growth driver for the Saudi smartphone market in 2022 as well.”

While the distribution across price bands remained largely the same as in 2020, sales growth was driven by the $300 and below and $600 and above price segments in 2021. Sales in the $300 and below band grew 55% YoY in 2021 driven by new launches from OEMs and consumer upgrades. Sales in the entry tier also grew driven by the continued transition of consumers to smartphones. Overall, Samsung held the top spot in the price segment.

As incomes rose and inflation stabilized at low levels, sales in the premium segment ($600 and above) grew 44% YoY, with Apple and Samsung grabbing more than 90% of the sales in the price band. Sales in this segment are, however, yet to cross the pre-pandemic level of 2019. With salaries expected to grow again in 2022, the premium segment in Saudi Arabia presents an opportunity for OEMs. Huawei’s exit has further opened an opportunity for the third spot in the premium segment, which other OEMs will battle to capture.

As incomes and employment continue to grow, digital initiatives and e-commerce activity ramp, and 5G connectivity improves, the Saudi Arabia smartphone market is set to record another year of double-digit growth, albeit much lower than in 2021. Market growth will be dependent on supply and economic strains arising from the global semiconductor shortages, an unforeseen COVID event and the currently unstable global political climate.

Notes: The analysis is based on wholesale ASPs; OPPO excludes OnePlus.

Please reach out to us at press(at) for press comments and enquiries.

For more insights on the Middle East and Africa smartphone market, please go through our MEA Smartphone Market Report, Q4 2021.

You can also visit our Data Section (updated quarterly) to view the smartphone market share for World, USAChina and India.


Counterpoint Technology Market Research is a global research firm specializing in products in the TMT (technology, media and telecom) industry. It services major technology and financial firms with a mix of monthly reports, customized projects and detailed analyses of the mobile and technology markets. Its key analysts are seasoned experts in the high-tech industry.

Analyst Contacts:

Varun Mishra


Tarun Pathak


  Yang Wang

Ravyansh Yadav

Counterpoint Research

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