Foolproof IoT Networking

If roaming partners start increasing tariffs, it can quickly erode the profitability of customers in those markets.
support work applications alongside multiplayer games, streaming video, and other household applications. The dedicated connection also would eliminate security and privacy risks that come with using a home Wi-Fi network.

By using modules that support both 4G and 5G, the video collaboration provider can target companies that have some employees who live in places where only LTE is available. When 5G becomes widely available, the provider than can leverage URLLC to add enterprise-grade SLAs as a powerful new market differentiator.

Roaming is becoming a moving target

IoT is a major and continually growing source of revenue for mobile operators. But some IoT customers also increase an operator’s overhead costs. A prime example is when those devices are roaming on the operator’s network for an extended period — or even permanently. As a result, mobile operators are increasingly restricting their roaming agreements, increasing their roaming tariffs, or both.

IoT device vendors, IoT service providers and end users should keep this trend in mind when developing a future-proof strategy. It’s easy to assume that these changes will affect only mobile IoT applications, such as fleet telematics. But fixed IoT applications also can incur higher operating costs. For example, IoT solution providers often use a single SIM for devices sold into multiple countries. If roaming partners start increasing tariffs, it can quickly erode the profitability of customers in those markets. It also can undermine that solution’s competitiveness with products that aren’t roamers.

The regulatory environment is another factor to consider. Some countries, such as Brazil, don’t allow permanent roaming, so operators there must cut off service to those devices after a period of time.

IoT gets a new identity

SIMs are another key consideration when developing a future-proofing strategy. The main drawback of the traditional SIM card is that it’s tied to a specific operator. Switching an IoT device to another operator means trekking out to each device to pull the original SIM and insert a new one. This swap takes a lot of time — and money — when it’s a large-scale deployment, such as a thousand trucks or 100,000 utility meters.

The traditional SIM card also is vulnerable to fraud. The organization paying for IoT service must be able to track each SIM card to ensure that it wasn’t removed for use in another, unauthorized device. In both cases, these overhead costs eat into the savings and revenue that IoT enables.

A software-centric alternative is the eSIM, which uses the Universal Integrated Circuit Card (eUICC) standard so multiple operator profiles can be loaded onto a single physical card. eUICC also enables operators to upload their SIM profiles to eSIM devices in the field. This design means IoT devices can be quickly and inexpensively switched to the network offering the best performance, tariffs and more — all without a truck roll or end-user intervention.

eSIM also significantly reduces the cost and effort of expanding an IoT solution to additional markets, such as from a country to a region or to the world. For example, an IoT solution provider could use eSIM to develop a single-SKU product that can be provisioned to a specific operator in each market.

The next evolutionary step is the iSIM, which integrates the SIM functionality with the IoT module hardware. This design eliminates the physical card and its associated hardware, such as the SIM tray. This makes iSIM ideal for applications that require a low bill-of-materials (BOM) cost or an ultra-compact form factor.

eSIM and iSIM architectures provide flexibility and future-proofing that traditional SIM technology can’t match. By leveraging them and understanding how network technologies and operator business models are evolving, every member of the IoT ecosystem — from device vendors to service providers to end users — can avoid sleepless nights. Future-proofing also enables them to take advantage of changes, such as switching to an operator with better service or better tariffs, or to a new network technology that offers longer battery life, lower latency or higher speeds.

What’s next for IoT?

We have explored the uncertainties that come with new network technologies, changes in mobile operator business practices and more. There are several major options for future-proofing IoT devices and services so they can accommodate these kinds of changes. IoT service providers should consider partnering with an MVNE that has access to hundreds of 2G, 3G, 4G and 4G LPWA networks around the world, enabling fast rollout of IoT services in a country, region or worldwide. This service provides another key set of capabilities for future-proofing while enabling innovative new business models, revenue opportunities and savings.


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