Markets include the U.S, France, and Finland for NB-IoT, the U.S, Canada, France, Australia, Japan, South Korea and more than 18 further additional countries for LTE-M, using the Nordic nRF9160 multi-mode NB-IoT/LTE-M SiP, Nordic Thingy:91 rapid prototyping platform, and iBASIS’ single eSIM.Continue reading
Internet of Things providers who offer a ‘thing’ and a paired thing service 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 whose 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 and high cost.
With the next generation SIM capability, the credentials of a mobile network operator in the country or region can be dynamically downloaded to the smart device allowing for data access in the local area providing for a lower latency and therefore improved user experience.
This iBASIS whitepaper on this topic will look at the characteristics of the Traditional, Standard SIM and of the Next Generation SIM and explain how they are different and the resulting benefits of the next generation of SIM technology.
Bilateral versus Unilateral Roaming Relationships
Traditionally roaming is commercially settled based on bilateral roaming relationships between mobile network operators with the basic goal to enable the clients of one network Operator to use the services of another Operator according to the standards set out by the GSM Association. There’s a pre-commercial phase where an agreement is closed, the networks are typically connected using specialized IPX carriers, IT elements are implemented and tested, and when all is successfully completed, the commercial roaming can start.
While in most cases, roaming involves bi-lateral two-way roaming, in some cases, unilateral or one way roaming takes place either for technical or commercial reasons, think of MVNO’s. This approach and solution has made sense for a long time. With the rollout of hundreds of relationships gradually over time, retail roaming generated solid revenues and final net-cost was controllable given the relative balance between inbound (visitors in your network) and outbound traffic (your customers using others), with limited volumes globally.
Changing Environment for Roaming
This relative balance and status quo is rapidly changing, influenced by regulation and technological developments. This is not new. Twenty years ago, international voice was liberalized and stimulated by new (VoIP) technology and alternative routing options, and traffic exploded. The global wholesale market for voice changed from a bilateral market to a customer-driven trading market with competitive rates, high volumes and a diversity of suppliers offering different quality and choices to terminate voice calls globally.
Today, stimulated by Roam Like Home (RLH) regulation and unlimited data offers, the data explosion from smartphones is moving across borders and the rapid development in IoT will only push this trend upwards. The question is, which technology is going to support the competitiveness that is needed to further develop the (roaming) market in supporting the much more unbalanced international volumes from a myriad of IoT solutions in verticals such as Automotive, Wearables, Secure Access, Drones and other areas where data usage requires local access, globally.
It is expected that bilateral roaming will be there for some time to come. Rates for regional roaming will be heavily negotiated as volumes continue to grow significantly on either side, but how about the 80% of other destinations globally? One would question if the bilateral model is capable of keeping more than 600 bilateral roaming arrangements around the world competitive.
Consequences and Opportunities for IoT
For the IoT and travel markets we see special SIM cards with multiple operator identities available. These multi IMSI solutions can hold multiple identities which means it can combine several regional operators footprint to create a global coverage. However, one would question if this is sufficient and flexible enough. It may not be clear where a device is shipped, if it will end up in a country like Brazil where permanent roaming is not allowed. You might get lucky with a local profile on your special IoT multi IMSI SIM card, but it is not future proof, since these solutions only cover a few regions globally.
This is where a many things come together. Having local and regional relationships with mobile networks combined with the technical capabilities of a programmable eSIM solution are opening up the opportunity to use a local profile wherever a device is located. Once a device with an eSIM is detected in a particular area, a local profile can be added remotely and the eSIM can operate as a normal local or regional SIM card. By using the eUICC standard of the GSMA and by working with trusted partners for platform and IPX connectivity, maximum security can be guaranteed.
When looking at solutions for IoT using a roaming SIM, it is extremely relevant to know what kind of SIM is being used and whether the available technology is future proof to add the local profile that your business requires to stay competitive or to comply to local regulation.
There is also a major opportunity for roaming departments to support eSIM as traffic from IoT is incremental to their traditional bilateral roaming. The bulk of their roaming traffic is regional so besides monetizing on their own competitive regional footprint, a rationalization can take place for other areas where maintaining bilateral relationships is not sustainable long term. This is what happened in the voice market and eSIM technology enables roaming data to optimize in a similar way. It can open up the roaming market to a large community of IoT Solution Providers (IoTSP’s) supporting verticals with a need for global IoT coverage at local conditions.
The GSMA Association and the eSIM
The GSM Association is a trade body that represents the interests of mobile network operators worldwide. Approximately 800 mobile operators are full GSMA members and a further 300 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem are associate members. Starting 2014, GSMA had begun to work on an ecosystem related to embedded SIM (eSIM), or eUICC, to address mobile networks and market needs for connecting non-consumer, also referred to as M2M, devices to mobile networks for all sort of B2B applications, such as meter reading, connected cars, intelligent remote controlling, among others.
The Remote SIM Provisioning Initiative
It first came up with the Remote SIM Provisioning initiative and formed several working groups. The working groups focused on standardizing a suite of specifications to ensure the whole ecosystem, including eSIM vendors, device manufactures, mobile operators, and other related service providers, follow the same standards and unified framework for all related processes. This has helped the mobile industry to address more than 10 billion devices connecting to mobile networks by 2020, as predicted. By February 2016, the complete version of specifications were released. Since December 2015, it also has begun to work on similar specifications targeting consumer devices.
The Three Major Working Groups
There are three major working groups working the specifications. One group is called the RSP Task Force (RSPTF), consisting of major mobile operators and works on specifications served as requirements for both M2M and consumer devices. The RSPTF group has more than twenty major mobile operators actively contributing to the requirements. The specifications produced from RSPTF are SGP.01 and SGP.21.
Another group, called the RSP Technical (RSPTEC), is working on implementation specification based on the requirement specifications from RSPTF. RSPTEC is composed of eSIM vendors, OEMs, and all related service providers. iBasis is an active member of this group.
Finally, the third main group, called “RSP Certification and Compliance” (RSPCERT), is working on Security Accreditation Scheme, Test, and Profile Protection specifications.
For those of interested in the detail of all the specifications, the full array of documents can be found on the GSMA Public Website.
Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) are the owners of a key asset required to connect wide area high bandwidth Internet of Things (IoT) devices – the Mobile Network. In these still early days of the Internet of Things, many MNOs are developing their business plans on how to address the IoT opportunity, while others have been working on their plans and services for more than seven years. For all, the Internet of Things represents an opportunity and a challenge.
MNOs have the opportunity to bring new revenue generating devices to their networks in multiple ways. Some have matured to the point of offering full IoT solutions such as vehicle solutions, asset management, and smarter cites, among others. Others have taken a different approach and offer web based ordering of IoT SIMs to allow developers and manufacturers to purchase mobile data access for their “things”. Still others will work with systems integrators and innovative access partners to bring IoT devices to their network. Regardless of the approach, if the Fourth Industrial Revolution has anything to say about it, one would expect all MNOs will have IoT devices on their network before long – at least the ones they know about!
Today, MNOs face many challenges both in allowing IoT devices of their roaming partners to roam on their network and in offering their own IoT services. To be sure, when MNOs allow IoT devices on their networks, they prefer to allow them on their own terms. Currently, this is not the case, and many MNOs have IoT devices roaming on their networks they don’t even know about.
Challenges with IoT Roaming Devices
Roaming agreements between mobile operators are negotiated based on the device profile for a consumer mobile handset. Since the device profile for an IoT device is very different, with most devices using very little data, the MNO is not sufficiently compensated for the device roaming on their network. To make matters worse, the device is usually a “globally deployed” device from an IoT manufacturer in a different region or country and the device is actually a “permanently roaming” device.
To solve this problem, MNOs would like to have partners that could at least identify the IMSI ranges of IoT devices entering their network and have agreements in place to be properly compensated for the network usage (e.g. when it is not in the form of data). As the next generation SIM technology, the embedded SIM (eSIM) or eUICC, gains wider use, MNOs could work with innovative access partners to easily identify IoT devices on their network and have the correct agreements in place to be compensated for them. With such a solution, MNOs will have better control over IoT devices entering their networks and prevent those devices from permanently roaming.
MNO Challenges in offering their own IoT Services
When offering or considering offering their own IoT services, MNOs have a different set of challenges:
• Providing proper coverage assurance
• Roaming bill shock when sending traffic to roaming partners
• Inability to guarantee connectivity and user experience of traffic from a partner network
• Competition for the same customer (the IoT Service Provider)
While some IoT devices only communicate sporadically (e.g. luggage tracker), others may send significant amounts of data frequently (e.g. video surveillance drone, connected car). When relying completely on roaming agreements for devices that leave an MNO’s network, it may be difficult to assure the necessary cost, coverage technology (3G or 4G) or application/user experience most suitable for a particular IoT device. Using eSIM and next generation network selection technology, a local network can be selected according to the cost, network coverage and quality required by a particular device – functionality that is not available in traditional steering of roaming solutions. Providing high quality mobile data access for their customers globally deployed or travelling “things”, will allow MNOs to compete for, and retain, IoT Service Provider customers.
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!
IoT, or Internet of Things, is the concept of connecting devices to the internet. This can take the shape of any device, such as watches, refrigerators, headphones, vehicles, and even tennis shoes. By nature, these connected devices generate data about user activities and events, thus allowing strategic data to be mined by IoT service providers (those creating the connected devices). In turn, this enables service providers to improve user experience and customer satisfaction. According to the June 2017 Ericsson Mobility Report¹, a good portion of the connectivity for these connected devices can be via wide-range radio or cellular.
Challenges related to world of IoT
For Mobile Network Operators (MNOS), or the networks providing internet connectivity for connected devices, IoT connectivity, either locally or via roaming, presents many challenges:
- 1. Providing coverage assurance: while some devices only communicate sporadically, others send data and can make calls constantly, making it difficult to anticipate, and therefore assure, necessary coverage
- 2. Competition for the same customer (the IoT Service Provider)
- 3. Roaming bill shock when sending traffic to roaming partners
- 4. Inability to guarantee connectivity and user experience of traffic from a partner network
For IoT Service Providers the challenges are around:
- 1. The logistics behind shipping, testing and activating millions of SIMs around the world
- 2. Negotiations with mobile operators across the world for IoT rates and coverage, which is typically not the core competence of IoT Service Providers
- 3. Paying many times for big buckets of data use vs. actual use
- 4. Ability to control which MNO the IoT Service Provider uses when given a choice of many MNO’s
- 5. 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
The embedded SIM (eSIM) stands to improve these scenarios and make the objective of more reliable connectivity a possibility. By allowing a single device to switch to multiple local SIM profiles, based on location of use, allows for the reduction in roaming costs.
What is an eSIM?
While historically connected devices have required either a wireless signal or a SIM card to stay connected, the development of the eSIM card has the potential to improve the capabilities of these connected devices. While a normal SIM is restricted to one network profile, thus complicating the ability of a device to stay connected once the user has moved from their home network, the eSIM allows for several network profiles. Any device using an eSIM card has the ability to switch as many domestic network profiles as possible, allowing the user to use a local signal with any of these embedded profiles. With multiple network profiles to choose from, roaming rates may no longer apply while traveling.
It also removes the necessity of switching out SIM cards within the device, as the eSIM essentially makes the switch for you. User experience and customer satisfaction is vastly improved via the direct processing of the data close to the user, therefore resulting in an overall user experience that is lower in roaming costs, greater in coverage, and improved in ease of use.
Next week, we’ll discuss how eSIM can actually solve the challenges we have mentioned above.
1 Heuveldop, Niklas. “Ericsson Mobility Report.” Edited by Patrik Cerwall, p. 16., www.ericsson.com/assets/local/mobility-report/documents/2017/ericsson-mobility-report-june-2017.pdf.
2 “Roaming IoT Platforms: An Evaluator’s Guide to Connecting Global IoT Devices.” p. 16., uros.com/research/roaming-iot-platforms-white-paper.html.