Nordic and iBASIS Partner on Global Connectivity for Cellular IoT Module

AS PUBLISHED BY NORDICSEMI.COM

Nordic partners with one of world’s largest international cellular data carriers, iBASIS, to offer ultra-easy global connectivity for its nRF9160 cellular IoT module 

Every Nordic Semiconductor nRF9160 Development Kit now ships with a globally-usable iBASIS eSIM to enable automatic and instant ‘out-of-the-box’ cellular LTE-M and NB-IoT connectivity and roaming in a long and growing list of countries with cellular IoT networks.

Nordic Semiconductor today announces that it has partnered with one of the world’s largest international cellular carriers in voice, data, and IoT services, iBASIS, to make global LTE-M and NB-IoT cellular IoT connectivity ultra-easy, automatic, and instant when using its nRF9160 System-in-Package (SiP) module. 

Nordic has achieved this by bundling a globally-usable iBASIS eSIM with 10 MB of free initial data into all its nRF9160 Development Kits. All a Nordic nRF9160 cellular IoT customer has to do is register their eSIM on Nordic’s nRF Connect for Cloud website to seamlessly connect to the iBASIS ‘Global Access for Things’ network and gain access to an entire range of configurations, monitoring, and connectivity services. 

Although it’s not common knowledge outside of the cellular communications industry, global smartphone connectivity and roaming services are actually provided by only a few international carriers that partner with local national carriers to enable connectivity and roaming for voice, data, and IoT services worldwide. iBASIS is one of the world’s largest international carriers or ‘IP Exchange providers’ and used by over 700 local carriers in over 190 countries. 

As a result, Nordic’s nRF9160 cellular IoT customers get instant high-quality global connectivity without having to go through the ordeal of negotiating and managing multiple relationships with individual local cellular carriers around the world.

Using eSIM technology, they simply leverage iBASIS as a single global connectivity supplier, with a single contract, a single ‘operations’ on-line dashboard, and a single monthly bill that breaks down all global services used. An eSIM is a remotely, over-the-air ‘provisionable’ (programmable) SIM that can hold multiple sets of local network operator credentials in contrast to a traditional SIM card that can only hold one set of operator credentials. The iBASIS eSIM meets all relevant GSM Association (GSMA) standards. 

We are reducing complexity, making it easy to support Nordic’s customers’ global deployment, using a single eSIM, for a remotely programmable on demand service. 

Ajay Joseph, CTO of iBASIS

The nRF9160 SiP – which is available from major global electronics distributors such as Digi-Key Electronics, Mouser Electronics, and Premier Farnell (amongst others) – is significantly smaller, lower power, and has more security features than any other cellular IoT module launched to date for LTE-M and NB-IoT applications. It is also certified for global operation, has a host of unique IoT-targeted features, and is dramatically easier to design-in (see ‘More about nRF9160 SiP’ below).

“iBASIS believes that for IoT to succeed, connecting things should be easy,” says Ajay Joseph, CTO of iBASIS. “We feel IoT connectivity should be turnkey, seamless, and secure. We’re delighted to partner with Nordic Semiconductor to provide an eSIM for Nordic’s nRF91 Series cellular IoT modules. We are reducing complexity, making it easy to support Nordic’s customers’ global deployment, using a single eSIM, for a remotely programmable on demand service. Nordic customers can focus on their core competencies knowing that their cellular IoT connectivity, coverage, speed, latency, and security are all being expertly managed by one of the world’s leading international cellular data carriers.”

“We designed the nRF91 Series from the outset to make cellular IoT easy and applicable to any application that would benefit from a cellular connection,” comments Geir Langeland, Nordic Semiconductor’s Director of Sales & Marketing. “For us, this extends to every aspect of the module’s operation and customer experience and that includes making international connectivity and roaming automatic and instant. In fact, I think for any IoT application to succeed its wireless IoT connectivity must be that simple. With the iBASIS eSIM, we believe Nordic Semiconductor has delivered this to its customers. It’s also why we believe cellular wireless technology is an ideal technology for building the Internet of Things.”

More about the nRF9160 SiP

At just 10 x 16 x 1mm in size, the nRF9160 SiP is suitable for even compact wearable consumer and medical devices yet is a complete solution that integrates everything a cellular connection and IoT application may need beyond requiring just an external battery, SIM, and antenna. 

To achieve this ultra-high integration Nordic partnered with Qorvo to make a System-in-Package that more closely resembles an integrated chip than a module. The nRF9160 SiP leverages Qorvo’s state-of-the-art, proven RF front-end, advanced packaging, and MicroShield™ technology to deliver a unique, ultra-compact solution that combines high performance with low power consumption. The nRF9160 SiP supports global operation with a single SiP variant thanks to the combination of Nordic’s multimode LTE-M / NB-IoT modem, SAW-less transceiver, and a custom RF front-end solution from Qorvo.

In parallel, the nRF9160 SiP is the first cellular IoT module to incorporate Arm’s latest Arm Cortex M-33 CPU core. This is supported by 1MB of Flash and 256kB of RAM on-board memory. The nRF9160 SiP is also the first module to incorporate Arm’s state-of-the-art Arm TrustZone and Arm CryptoCell security for Internet-level encryption and application protection. Both these technologies are designed for highly energy-efficient embedded IoT products that require the highest levels of performance in processing, power consumption, and security. 

The nRF9160 SiP has 1MB of Flash plus 256 kB of RAM on-board memory with a broad range peripheral set, analog and digital interfaces, 32 GPIOs, a stand-alone modem with full LTE capability, plus a multiband RF front-end.  

Another unique feature of the nRF9160 SiP in the cellular IoT module market is integrated GPS support to allow a combination of GPS and cellular data to be used for more accurate positioning than either technology is capable of when used in isolation. Learn more.

How the world’s largest Bluetooth chip supplier came to be in cellular IoT

Nordic Semiconductor is best known for its leadership (both commercial and technological) in the global Bluetooth® chip market. The wide availability of the nRF9160 SiP module marks Nordic’s official – but brand new – entrance into the low power, cellular IoT wireless technology market.

Cellular is a notoriously complex wireless technology that only a handful of engineering teams worldwide truly have the expertise and experience to design at the architectural level. Nordic Semiconductor’s team all originated from outside the company when Nordic hired some of the smartest cellular R&D engineers in the world from a bout of rationalization layoffs in Finland between 2011 and 2014 from companies such as Nokia, Microsoft, Broadcom, and ST-Ericsson.

This means Nordic’s heritage in cellular wireless technology is on-par with any other company in the world: most of Nordic’s cellular IoT design team have been working in cellular design for most of their careers. And most importantly of all, all technical support for the nRF9160 SiP module will come from engineers who designed the product from the ground up.

The Next Generation SIM and How It Works

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.

Download the whitepaper here!

Explosive IoT Growth – is it Hype or Reality?

Over the last decade we have heard numerous reports of future explosive growth of Internet of things devices but there has been small and fragmented adoption at home or business.  Is this just being over hyped?  Let’s discuss if we are truly in a hype bubble or will IoT deliver real growth and revenue for mobile operators.

The Ericsson Mobility report states that in 2017 there are already 7.7 billion IoT devices in total but only 700,000 of them are connected to cellular networks.  These non-cellular IoT devices are locally connected using technologies like Ethernet, RFID, Bluetooth, Zig Bee or Wi-Fi.    So there has been explosive growth overall in IoT but mobile operators have not benefited from this growth.

Ericsson estimates that only 10% of the devices connected to mobile networks are IoT devices and the rest of the Mobile phones, Tablets and laptops.   So the first wave of IoT growth has mostly bypassed mobile operators but don’t go ignoring the second and more important wave of IoT growth.

NB-IoT and LTE-M technology to the rescue

2G, 3G and 4G technology was not well suited for IoT applications.   There was some usage but not the explosive growth that mobile operators required to bolster top line revenue and increase bottom line profitability.   Most chipsets for cellular communication were designed for higher bandwidth, burst of continuous usage and voice communications.  Most IoT applications target by cellular technology require lower bandwidth, infrequent usage and very long battery life (10 years).

The industry saw this and came up with LTE-M and NB-IoT technology for these important use cases.  LTE-M and NB-IoT provide low bandwidth with very long battery life that can be designed of up to 10 year of usage running off a battery.   LTE-M and NB-IoT first was specified in 3GPP release 13 in late 2015 and networks supporting these technologies are just becoming available.

GSMA tracks deployments and commercial launches of networks supporting LTE-M and NB-IoT devices.  In just a couple of years over 60 operators have launched commercial operations in support of this important IoT technology.

So what is the answer hype or reality?

The ultimate answer is yes it’s both hype and reality.   IoT use cases, deployments and devices will explode in the coming year.   Ericsson estimates that there will be 3.5 billion IoT devices attached to cellular networks by 2023.  Compound annual growth will be 30% for IoT devices.   The percentage IoT devices on cellular networks will be slightly more than 30% of the overall devices connected.   Operator will need this to stabilize revenues and increase profitability

What should I do now?

Get ready,  new customers, new use cases and new devices are going to place new and important connectivity, mobility, roaming and security requirements on mobile operators.

Chose global roaming partner that can provide value added services to help accelerate your IoT journey.  As new IoT technologies get introduced, not all use cases and business cases will make sense initially. Mobile network operators need a partner who can provide testing, consulting, knowledge, layer security and hosted value added services that helps provide the operator more business clarity.

IBasis is viewed at global trusted partner to help provide global reach, assurance and monetization of key mobile services.  IBasis stands ready to provide expertise, advice and testing to accelerate deployments of new IoT technologies and explore possible new business models.  IBasis brings collaboration by partnership, adaptability and excellence.

Contact us for discussing further how we can help to solve issues in global IoT deployment through our test environment.

 

 

Are you interested in Expanding your Low Power IoT Innovation Globally?

NB-IoT and LTE-M are the two major Low Power IoT technologies expected to dominate the immense growing IoT domain. Both technologies are 3GPP standardized and is now getting significant traction from the largest entities within the IoT ecosystem.

 

 

 

NB-IoT:  

NB-Iot offers a deep indoor penetration, low cost devices and low power operations for long battery life.

LTE-M

LTE-M uses LTE networks utilizing the national and international coverage that is already available.

When looking to choose between LTE-M and NB-IoT one needs to think about the following characteristic of the two technologies:

LTE-M
NB-IoT
IP based communication Message Based communication
Higher speed (384Kbps to 1 Mbps) Low speed – less than 250 KBps
Supports mobility and VoLTE Does not support mobility and VoLTE
4 times better indoor penetration than LTE 7 times better indoor penetration than LTE

 

Regardless of which Low Power IoT technology you choose, iBasis is here to support you and to help you to expand your IoT innovation globally. Get in touch with us to learn more about how iBasis can assist you with you.

 

 

Enterprise Mobility: A New Age is Coming – Part I

Enterprise Mobility Today

Is texting via SMS becoming a thing of the past?

It seems that calling with our phones or messaging using SMS/MMS on our smartphones is becoming more and more of a rarity. Probably because in today’s world, we have access to a number of alternative mobile devices and applications that allow us to communicate with colleagues, family, and friends. These include devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops/2-In-1s and applications like WhatsApp, Viber, iMessage, or Jabber.

In order to use many of these devices and applications, staying connected is critical. At home or at work, WiFi is usually how we stay connected, while we rely on cellular connectivity whenever we travel outside these locations. However, in recent years, mobile WiFi (MiFi) dongles and stand-alone multi-device connectivity MiFi Hotspots have become available for connecting laptops, tablets and other devices to the mobile data network. We’ve also seen a rise in advances such as MiFi Hotspots built right into the latest 4G smartphones, laptops with SIM slots built in, and 4G enabled tablets.

Shifts to new Devices

Not surprisingly, with these advances, more and more “connected” devices are beginning to hit the market. These devices are making use of newly offered embedded cellular modules and embedded SIM (eSIM) technology to offer advanced mobile connectivity features while using less real estate on the device. As a result, we are seeing an increase in not just smartphones and tablets, but also in connected wearables hitting the market. Even more important is the fact that with eSIM technology, these wearables can access mobile data directly without having to be tethered to your smartphone!
According to P&S Market Research, the smartwatch market is expected to reach $43.8 billion by 2023, with the standalone (untethered) category projected to experience the highest growth during the forecast period. Smartwatches like the Samsung Gear S2, Huawei Watch 2 and the Apple Watch Series 3 are among the new connected smartwatches on the market that utilize eSIM technology for 4G/3G mobile data connectivity.
Similarly, some of the latest 2-In-1s, like the ASUS Transformer Mini T102HA and the Microsoft Surface Pro 2-in-1 with LTE Advanced, provide “anywhere” connectivity by including 4G/3G access with eSIM technology built-in. According to Microsoft, the Surface Pro 2-in-1 delivers 4G LTE connectivity around the world with support of 20 LTE bands.

Other shifts toward new devices include more niche wearable technology like smart glasses. Although they remain tethered for safety reasons, smart glasses like the Vuzix Blade and Intel Vaunt are seeing greater and greater use in the Enterprise environment in Augmented Reality (AR) applications.

Shifts to new Technologies

In addition to new devices, new technologies are emerging to enhance the usability of these devices. Going back to AR devices, one important example of shifts in technology is the gesture-based AR controls by companies like ManoMotion, Crunchfish and uSens. “We firmly believe that virtual reality and AR is the next form of the computer, the next generation of smart devices,” Dr. Yue Fei, the co-founder and chief technology officer of Bay Area human-computer interaction specialist uSens, told Digital Trends.

Although voice assistants are not entirely new, assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are getting more and more skills and are being continuously improved with artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques.

Even the default technology for voice calling and messaging applications are getting a facelift on Android smartphones. Android and Samsung Messages are planned to be in wide use by the summer of 2019 and is based on a standards based open voice and messaging service developed specifically for the mobile device industry.

Enterprise Mobility vs. Consumer Mobility

So what does this mean for the enterprise versus consumer markets?

Mobility devices and functionality for the Enterprise and Consumer markets do overlap to some degree based on the size of the organization and the communication applications they use. For example, very small businesses can have much in common with the consumer market if they do not specifically seek out a specialized Enterprise Mobility Provider (ranging from AT&T to Wavelink). However for larger enterprises, there are some distinct differences: specific business applications, team collaboration applications and web conferencing applications. Larger enterprises often require higher performance devices which support global connectivity (e.g. tablets, 2-in-1s and smartphones) much more than your typical consumer. Because of this, newer, higher-priced technologies are often introduced to enterprises first, before making their way to the Consumer market. As new technologies emerge, we will therefore see more enterprise specific devices that accelerate business productivity and intelligence (e.g. enterprise specific wearables and AI functions). Of course, when it comes to the commercial side of things, enterprises obviously want a single contract, a single bill, pooled data across their devices and a single provider for their global mobile service needs, regardless of their size.

We at iBasis envision employees of the next generation enterprise will perform business tasks using these emerging devices and technologies. iBasis Global Access for Things is helping a number of companies enable the next generation of enterprise mobility with a single source for mobile data access, globally. Stay tuned for part II of this series to see how we envision this future. Come join us for the journey!

Our Top 4 Key Takeaways from the IoT Tech Expo

iBasis Key Takeaways from the IoT Tech Expo

Last week, the iBasis Global Access for Things team spent time in Silicon Valley gaining further insight about the future of connectivity at the IoT Tech Expo North America. The conference, which hosted over 9,000 attendees across 15 tracks of learning including blockchain and AI, and featured over 300 industry leading speakers, took a deep-dive into the future of IoT and the opportunities business leaders can expect in a global field.

 

IoT is Here to Stay (and Continues to Grow)

Even just a few short years ago, the term IoT may have caused confused looks during non-industry conversations. Today, the field has started to gain significant traction in the enterprise and consumer markets, and IoT is a household name.

And with over 9,000 people in attendance at the expo, that wasnt hard to believe.

IoT isnt just a buzzword, its profitable too. Gartner, Inc. forecasts that 8.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2017, up 31% from 2016, and will reach 20.4 billion by 2020. Total spending on endpoints and services will reach almost $2 trillion in 2017. As more companies began to invest in more interconnected devices – and device manufacturers continue to innovate their devices capabilities – the IoT market is going to continue booming.

 

Adoption and Investment

The expo hosted over 300 exhibitors in house showing their latest tech, ranging from personal consumer items to business-ready enterprise options. Even experts from NASA were on the scene, explaining how IoT technologies, while paired with AI, will help track natural disasters across the globe. Industry leaders like Oracle and IBM were paired next to niche boutique organizations, giving attendees the chance to get an organic feeling for the opportunities IoT presents – and they are extensive.

 

Its Creating Innovation

10 years ago, the idea of a smart home was science fiction – today its becoming a commonplace reality. These advances come from the hard work of smart leaders innovating in a new field. Creating products and software for an emerging focus isnt the easiest feat, and the expo even had an entire track dedicated for it called Developing for the IoT.

If theres one major takeaway to be had from the IoT Tech Expo, its that the face of technology – and of interconnect-ability – is going to continue to evolve thanks to the endless innovation from hundreds of companies across the globe. Its only a matter of time until sci-fi tech become household objects.

 

Our Own Leaders Are Leaders in the Field

IoT experts spoke on subjects ranging from Bluetooth to making IoT energy efficient – and everything in between. Attendees were able to glimpse into all facets of IoT research and development, and come away with a better understanding of how the market is shifting the face of modern technology.

iBasis’ very own CTO, Ajay Joseph, was one of the expert speakers at the event. Ajay shared his expertise on the pain points of IoT service providers in his session The Solution for Global Mobile Access for Things: A Dramatic Simplification in Global Logistics, which described how next generation mobile technology allows for simplified and future proof global connectivity of IoT devices.

To learn more about Ajay’s presentation, please feel free to reach out to the team. And to learn more about iBasis Global Access for Things offerings in the IoT market, please visit the website here.

eSIM Standardization Efforts

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.

Solving The IoT Challenges of Mobile Network Operators (MNOs)

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.

The Opportunity

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!

The Challenge

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.