Unlocking Success: Direct, Sponsored and Roaming Hubs Demystified

In the dynamic realm of mobile communication, making strategic decisions regarding roaming can greatly impact the success of mobile operators and M2M (Machine to Machine) / IoT (Internet of Things) companies.

Understanding the differences between Direct Roaming, Sponsored Roaming, and Roaming Hubs is crucial. At Comfone, we offer a mix of these services, tailored to meet the unique needs of mobile operators and M2M/IoT players.

But what options are available, and which is the right fit for an operator?

In this blog, we will share the differences between the options, and give some insights into how to choose the ultimate solution for you.

Direct Roaming: The Traditional Way for Mobile Operators

Direct Roaming is the classic approach.

It’s all about agreements directly between mobile operators. This gives them full control over roaming services.

However, it can be quite complex. Making and keeping up with lots of agreements can take up a lot of time and resources. For each roaming partner, they need to negotiate the roaming agreement, exchange SIM cards, perform all necessary testing (IREG and TADIG), coordinate a Discount Agreement, coordinate each service launch date and respective Commercial Launch Letter (CLL), exchange network configuration and billing documents, coordinate any needed troubleshooting and, the most challenging part, constantly chase roaming partners for feedback, alongside fighting for them to give you priority on their never-ending roaming services pipeline.

Sounds complex, right? And let’s not forget that the amount of effort to handle a very small operator and a major operator is quite similar.

Establishing a roaming footprint can take several years to achieve. This can be particularly challenging for new entrants without an existing roaming coverage, urgently requiring a competitive presence.

And let’s be real, most of the new players don’t have the leverage nor are very attractive to established mobile networks that need to spend lots of time and resources to establish the connection without a clear business case.

How will operators prioritise this in their rollout pipeline? How can you ensure that your roaming business is top priority?

Sponsored Roaming: A Gateway for Quick Growth

For new mobile operators, MVNOs, and especially for M2M/IoT companies that have limited experience and knowledge of roaming, Sponsored Roaming offers a way to quickly build a roaming footprint.

In this model, a main mobile operator (the sponsor) grants access to its network coverage, allowing new players to get instant worldwide (or near-global) coverage.

However, success hinges on identifying the right sponsor operator(s) and having faith and trust in their service. It does necessitate relinquishing a degree of control over the roaming business, becoming heavily reliant on a third party. Besides, there is no possibility to establish inbound roaming (in case the new player supports it), resulting in the loss of crucial inbound roaming revenues.

Which holds greater significance: attaining immediate coverage or surrendering control of the roaming business and relying entirely on a third party? That’s a tough one…

The Power of Roaming Hubs: A Win-Win Solution

Airport flight information

Enter Roaming Hubs – a game changer for both mobile operators and M2M/IoT companies.

These hubs act like a central platform that facilitates interconnections between different operators. they seamlessly combine the strengths of Direct and Sponsored Roaming, streamlining operations for all parties involved. All the tasks associated with establishing a direct roaming connection are expertly managed by the Roaming Hub, affording your teams more time to focus on mission-critical activities.

What would you do if you had an extra day during the week?

How Roaming Hubs Benefit Both Mobile Operators and M2M/IoT Players

  • Expanding reach – Roaming Hubs combine the best of Direct and Sponsored Roaming. This helps mobile operators reach global coverage more efficiently and supports M2M/IoT companies with stepping into new markets. It is no longer necessary to decide on whether to sacrifice control over speed. With a Roaming Hub it is possible to quickly launch new operators and services while keeping full control, using the own IMSI, selecting the roaming partners and negotiating the preferred rates. All of this with a very reduced workload.


  • Working smarter, not harder – Centralisation means less hassle with agreements, settlements, and paperwork. And how difficult it can be to reach out to mobile operators worldwide! Operators can focus on giving great service and focus on their businesses instead of getting caught up in details. Roaming made easy.


  • Top-notch service quality – Roaming Hubs offer tools to keep service quality high. This means problems get fixed quickly, and everyone gets a great experience.


  • Staying secure and ready for the future – Roaming Hubs use strong security measures to keep networks safe. They are also built to quickly grow with new technologies, so everyone stays ahead of the game.

Is the Roaming Hub the Ultimate Solution?

In reality, there is not a one-size-fits-all answer.

Each player in this space required a tailored solution that aligns with their specific needs and requirements. What often proves most effective, is a combination of these methods.

While Roaming Hubs provide extensive coverage, they may not encompass every operator worldwide. Therefore, establishing direct agreements remains essential.

Sponsored Roaming can serve as a rapid solution for achieving global coverage, especially in the initial stages. As operations evolve, operators have the flexibility to shift connections from Sponsored Roaming to Roaming Hub or Direct arrangements, getting back the control of their roaming business.

Ultimately, there’s no definitive right or wrong approach. It is about finding the strategy that best suits each player’s unique situation.

Comfone Hubbing Services: Tailored Solutions for all

At Comfone, we know that mobile operators and M2M/IoT companies have different requirements. That’s why we offer a range of services precisely designed to align with each operator’s unique needs. Our custom solutions make it easy to succeed in the roaming industry.

Whether you opt for our Key2roam Hub (the world’s largest Roaming Hub), our Direct Roaming with Roaming Relations Management (RRM) service, or our Sponsored Roaming service integrated with multiple hosts in our Key2roam Platform, we have a solution that perfectly fits your objectives. With years of expertise, we are well-positioned to guide you in managing your roaming business and implementing a successful short and long-term strategy.

In a fast-changing global market, choosing the right roaming strategy is key.

Join us at Comfone, where we bring together creativity and reliability, opening a world of opportunities for your telecoms business.

Reach out today and start your journey towards roaming success!

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About the author

Pedro Sebastião

Director Hubbing Services

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