Tech Tips #1: What is steering of roaming?
4 April 2023

Tech Tips #1: What is steering of roaming?

4 April 2023

Often, mobile service providers have multiple roaming partners in different countries. Steering is simply the process of ensuring that a roaming subscriber can be directed to a preferred network. This has advantages – and disadvantages – but is a common practice.

The mechanics of how this work don’t really matter – the GSMA has clear guidance on the procedures that should be followed – what does matter is what this can mean for devices and business users. That’s because, ultimately, steering can impact the performance received when moving from one country to another.

Why does the industry steer?

Steering is simply a process that pushes connectivity to a roaming network with which the parent operator has a preferential relationship. So, if a mobile operator also has other affiliate or partner network operators (sometimes enabled through roaming alliances) in different countries, then it will seek to ensure that customers stay on its network when they travel. If you are a subscriber to such an operator in France, and it has affiliate operators (or branded relationships) in Spain, Senegal or Egypt, you’ll probably connect to it when, for example, you travel to one of these countries.

Can this cause problems?

That’s fine if there is coverage available in the places you visit, and the savings can sometimes be passed onto the customer – but not all networks are equal. It could be that a different network in the visited country or region to which you have travelled can offer better service – but you (or your devices) may be stuck with the preferred network to which you are steered. This can cause problems for both personal mobile access, as well as for device access, particularly if devices are deployed in more remote locations.

So, steering – while beneficial in many ways – can also lead to unforeseen problems and may limit the connectivity options available. Many users won’t notice – but what if the steering pushes the user to a network that doesn’t have the same quality and coverage as others in a given country, or if the steering is not suitable for the business use case? In this case, the steering decision is made purely on the basis of branding and maintaining contact with the parent operator. And, the result may be that your devices suffer from periodic service issues, or even lose coverage.

What’s the alternative?

Steering provides many benefits and helps lower overall roaming costs – when done right. What users really need is to be steered to the best network in any deployment region for their particular use case, whether for personal mobile connectivity, or for a fleet of IoT devices.

This requires relationships to be maintained with multiple operators in each country, so that the widest set of choices can be enabled. So, if there are four operators in a country, your global connectivity provider should allow you to connect to the best network available – as well as to allow alternative connections to be found, depending on the locations and activity required.

Why is our offer different?

Telecom26’s subscribers have access to multiple operators’ roaming agreements on a single SIM/eSIM. This means that customers can benefit from the multiple affiliate or alliance agreements in each country.  By default, steering is applied to allow connectivity to the best value networks available in any given country. This allows Telecom26 to provide both quality and low cost for our customers.

However, we can also provide custom steering services to meet specific requirements by selecting both the partner IMSI profile and networks. That means you can meet requirements such as obtaining legacy 2G coverage in a specific region, all the way through to prioritising 5G connectivity for data-intensive users.

This means that you can connect to the networks that best match your needs, even in more remote locations, where other mobile operators may just leave you stranded on default networks offered by their preferred roaming partners.

You automatically benefit from our core steering service, but custom options can be discussed with your account manager. It means that you can be sure that you get the best coverage and pricing for your use case, not those of the operators - whether for personal and business communications or for IoT connectivity. With dynamic control options, the services you obtain will be fully optimised for your needs – price, quality and coverage.

We use GSMA-approved techniques for managing steering, so you can be sure our services are delivered in full alignment with best practices. If you want to understand how our steering services can help you, then get in touch!

Ready to talk?

We are here to help!
Let us know how we can help your project.