The Internet of Things (IoT) represents a technological and business revolution. We are still in the early adoption and adaptation stages of this revolution while standards and methodologies continue to evolve. Only a small percentage of Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and even fewer businesses have achieved the progress and successes planned in this new business revolution.
Many strides in technology, including the specialization and reduction in size and cost of wireless and sensor technologies, have allowed manufacturers to make ordinary “things” smart connected devices. The promise of the Internet of Things is also to provide companies the opportunity to undergo a digital transformation from equipment/device manufacturers to service providers (IoT SPs) – providing a thing + a thing service.
As we have discussed in a recent post, one of the strides in technology is the reduction in size and standardization of the mobile subscriber identity module (SIM) – to the embedded SIM or eSIM. Just this week we have seen the launch of the Apple Watch Series 3 with embedded programmable SIM technology allowing for fully untethered operation following earlier mobile connected and untethered watch models from Samsung and LG.
For smart connected devices that require connectivity in global locations, the eSIM solves many challenges for IoT Service Providers:
• The logistics behind shipping, testing and activating millions of SIMs around the world requires significant orchestration and resources. With standard SIM technology, an IoTSP needs to order and stock SIMs from multiple MNO partners around the globe. When shipping their connected devices to customers, the IoTSP must be cognizant of the delivery destination and insert into the device the correct SIM card for the desired regional mobile operator. With eSIM technology, the SIM is a single programmable SIM that can be incorporated as an integrated circuit chip on a device circuit board or can be a commercial pluggable (e.g. 3FF or 4FF) or ruggedized (e.g. MFF1 or MFF2). With the eSIM, the IoTSP can insert the same eSIM card in every device delivered and program the card, or embedded chip in the device, to the correct regional mobile operator when the device is turned on in the delivered country.
• Negotiating with mobile operators across the world for IoT rates and coverage is typically not a core competence of IoT Service Providers. IoTSPs would rather be creating new, innovative, smart, connected “things” than allocating resources to become experts on the mobile connectivity market. In order to cover the globe, IoTSPs must become knowledgeable about the mobile network operator ecosystem and choose the right partners with the right technology and the right roaming agreements for their smart connected device service… Whew! This is difficult enough for companies that are in the mobile business. There has to be a better way for IoTSPs to navigate this landscape.
• IoTSPs must select and negotiate among the mobile data plans offered by the MNO when MNO agreements are made. Unless the MNO offers flexible plans and their OSS/BSS systems can support those, IoTSPs may end up paying many times the data used for big buckets of data use vs. actual use. IoTSPs are most often nimble, innovative companies that would like to see the same flexibility their MNO partner.
• With standard SIMs having a single set of mobile operator credentials, IoTSPs do not have the ability to choose which MNO is used even if there are multiple MNO’s providing coverage in the area. There are providers that offer fixed multi-IMSI technology that can help alleviate this problem, however, the industry standard programmable eSIM technology provides the most flexibility, interoperability, and future proofing in this area. With an eSIM solution and a suitable number of MNO partners, an IoTSP can define selection criteria to select, download, and enable the best operator credentials that meet the smart device’s needs for data rate, quality, and coverage among other parameters.
• IoTSPs will often deploy their globally delivered or traveling smart devices with a standard or “roaming-only” global SIM capability. With a roaming-only global SIM, data must originate and terminate from the network of the “home” mobile network operator. This is the mobile network operator who’s network credentials are currently being used to connect to the foreign mobile network. As a result, data that is generated by a connected device can be routed across very long distances before it is consumed for use. This can result in poor user experience. With the next generation eSIM capability, the credentials of a mobile network operator, in the country or region, can be dynamically downloaded and enabled on the smart device, allowing for data access in the local area, providing a lower latency and therefore improved user experience.
Next week we’ll discuss these challenges from the point of view of the MNOs. Stay tuned!