IoT has been recognised as a technology that holds the potential to super boost business and enrich almost every aspect of our lives. Weekly, we are witnessing incredible life-changing IoT innovations across telehealth, smart cities, EV charging and environment, the connected supply chain, intelligent manufacturing and more. The sky is the limit when it comes to IoT-enabled enhancements and COVID-19 only served to cement IoT’s place in the new normal.
However, despite the considerable innovation and enormous explosion in IoT technologies, devices and services, global cellular IoT connections today, at 1.7 billion, vastly falls short of the projected potential in the early years of the industry.
With creativity and innovation in abundance, we can only look to the ongoing MNO connectivity restrictions around ‘permanent roaming’ as the limiting factor that is impeding progress and preventing the industry from flourishing.
Quite simply, without guaranteed in-country connectivity, IoT business cases become untenable, and projects cannot scale. There is an unacceptable level of uncertainty and risk around initial and lifetime device connectivity that many fledgling IoT businesses are not equipped to weather.
When an IoT device is connected to a network outside its home country for more than 90 days, it is deemed by MNOs to be ‘permanently roaming’ and more often than not this will lead to disconnection from the network. For global enterprise IoT deployments this has considerable implications.
Firstly, permanent roaming is becoming the status quo given that commercial models for inbound roaming are not as attractive for the mobile network operators (MNOs). But 80% of roaming agreements between operators do not support both PSM (Power Saving Mode) and eDRX[DL1] , (and Extended Discontinuous Reception), both of which are essential for battery life management in IoT devices connecting locally to a network.
Secondly, ‘roaming data’ must be backhauled and these data routing architectures cause network capacity, latency, and performance issues, which is unacceptable for most IoT applications and inevitably leads to poor application performance.
Further, commercial disputes between MNOs over roaming agreements, which often occur at short notice, can result in the termination of connectivity agreements between the parties and therefore loss of connectivity for enterprise IoT devices.
Finally, countries such as Australia, the United States, China, Canada, India, Turkey, and Singapore have introduced restrictions and, in some cases, outright bans on permanent roaming, meaning any IoT deployments at scale will be affected.
This backdrop of stifling limitations on the IoT market is limiting progress and threatening its very future. Therefore, what potential alternatives are available to help global IoT business circumnavigate these restrictions?
Achieving true global IoT deployment through an intelligent eSIM and network localisation
Next generation, intelligent eSIM and network localisation solutions (which utilise localisation agreements and network interconnects with regional operators) permit an opportunity for global IoT deployments to sidestep the aforementioned roaming restrictions and to achieve seamless global connectivity without compromise.
The vision for eSIM allows the user to use any operator’s credentials in order to access their data services. This flexible over-the-air solution enables SIM localisation and a greater choice of roaming partners. Projects can thus be launched using a plug-and-play approach where the SIM card is concerned. With eSIM localisation, permanent roaming challenges are eliminated and application performance improved.
Further, the business case for MNOs is compelling, with localised eSIM connections generating up to five times more revenue per device for the regional MNO operators. This not only supports IoT business but holds considerable benefit for global MNOs also. It’s a win-win situation.
Where eSIM solutions rely on a single global SIM and bootstrap option and are unable to offer the long-term flexibility to deliver high levels of global connectivity at all times; new technology platforms such as multi-IMSI eSIM are enablingadvanced eUICC profile management that is completely agnostic and can store up to 10 bootstrap profiles at any time.
The eUICC standard significantly improves device uptime and service quality whilst maintaining fall back connectivity. And these profiles can be easily uploaded over-the-air, enabling seamless switching between MNOs to deliver optimum connection levels for global IoT deployments.
This is enabling more comprehensive, reliable connectivity for the global IoT ecosystem, across a greater number of territories, than any other provider can deliver, as well as eliminating the cost and risk of devices being disconnected.
With all of this said, the present eSIM ecosystem limits customer choice due to a cumbersome implementation to switch between operators and thus far, this has led to low usage of eSIM, despite its promise.
The future growth of the IoT market now lies in guaranteeing global connectivity for commercial IoT devices without compromise and regardless of where they are deployed. And this is especially the case for crucial applications in telehealth or telecare, where personal health depends on sustained and reliable connectivity.
Uncertainty about both initial and lifetime device connectivity is a huge concern for businesses rolling out large-scale IoT projects. Global rollouts are not cheap, and the level of investment needed is harder to justify in commercial terms when the connectivity environment is not assured.
This situation will continue to stifle the enormous potential of IoT unless an alternative, such as advanced intelligent eSIMs supported by a network localisation capability, is adopted. It is now for IoT vendors and the global MNO community to come together to simplify the IoT ecosystems and enable the vast promise of IoT to achieve its potential.