If I had to choose three reasons why the adoption of the IoT it´s delayed several years, one of the three would include would be the mistake in their strategy, faith, IoT employee sales skills and poor investment in key industries by Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) in this business.
When I wrote more than 5 years ago my post “How to select your M2M/IoT Service Provider” I referenced several annual reports from analysts like Gartner and vendors like Ericsson or Cisco. All of them presented very optimistic predictions that unfortunately have not been fulfilled.
During this time Mobile Network Operators have adapted to the market crude reality of the market with sometimes erratic strategies. Despite this fact has not discouraged new entrants that have energized a market with again high growth expectations. Today Tier 1 and Tier 2 Mobile Network Operators are competing with many IoT Connectivity providers in all industries and use cases. The good news for these new entrants is that the MNOs have not known captivate their customers.
What do I think the MNOS are thinking now?
1- The Technological Battle of LPWAN networks
I do not want to open in this article a debate on which LPWAN connectivity technology (5G, NB-IoT, LTE-M, LoRA, Sigfox, ….) is the best. Each of these technologies will likely play an important role in the IoT space depending on the use case, so understanding the features and differences of each is critical.
You must not forget other IoT connectivity technologies (Satellite, Mesh networks, WiFi, Zigbee,..). I have always championed the idea of multiple IoT network coexistence in which objects will connect to provide an IoT service or be part of an aggregated IoT service. And those services can be provided by both licensed and unlicensed cellular networks. Let's assume that we will not have a single protocol that regulates all of them in a long time. We are also not going to ask manufacturers of objects to incorporate the different connectivity possibilities in their designs for obvious reasons of cost and battery life. What would be very valuable is that all IoT devices could add a unique identifier that allow will be part of a SuperIoTNet that works like the current internet. But now is future fiction.
2- The Connectivity Services Offering
Ideally we should try to find in our IoT Connectivity Service Provider offering something like Telefonica, an end-to-end complete commercial IoT connectivity offer that allow design and build a tailored secure IoT solution. But this in not gold all that glitters. We must evaluate the ability of these IoT Connectivity Service Providers to make easy the adoption of IoT in Small and Medium Business (SMBs) with pre-integrated industry solutions based on a rich ecosystem.
Customers wants to receive specialised advice to solve any IoT need at a one-stop-shop, including full stack technology solutions from hardware selection to middleware, application development and SaaS operations. Not many IoT Connectivity Providers have the internal resources to provide these services, in that cases customers should involve either or a partner or better an independent consultant as myself.
For some customers an offering like “IoT connectivity as a Service” provided by Arkessa can be an advantage, for others “The 1NCE IoT Flat Rate”, an all-inclusive connectivity package that comprises all elements and features that IoT customer need while having their assets connected is more important. For experienced M2M customers, the portfolio Kore Wireless and industry specialization is attractive. Eseye for instances solve your IoT challenges from device to AWS cloud. In Europe SMBs must consider in the short list Wireless Logic with 4 million devices connected to its platforms globally. Special mention to module companies like Sierra Wireless that offers a Connectivity and Device Management service that connects to 600+ partner networks around the globe with multiple redundant routes in every country to eliminate local coverage gaps or Telit which Connectivity Service allow companies Monitor, Manage & Monetize their assets.
I am expecting the unlimited opportunities with the Internet of Things after the announcement a few days ago by DT Deutsche Telekom to spin out IoT unit and launch a global open ‘hub.’ More info about new DT IoT offering here: “From vertical to horizontal and back to vertical: our way to the new horizon”
Sorry, I can not extend this paragraph with more companies, but in the picture there are many other companies with attractive services that must be considered for your unique Business case.
3- eSIM: Threat or Opportunity
The SIM card has also been evolving since its creation in 1991. From the size of a credit card it went to mini-SIM or the classic SIM that began to reduce in size, first to microSIM and then to nanoSIM and finally the embedded SIM (also called eSIM or eUICC or MMF2 UICC).
Presented in the preludes of the Mobile World Congress 2016, the eSIM is still a SIM but it will be embedded in the devices, without the possibility of withdrawing it. eSIM is a global specification by the GSMA which enables remote SIM provisioning of any mobile device. The eSIM is designed to remotely manage multiple mobile network operator subscriptions and be compliant with GSMA's Remote SIM Provisioning specifications. Install one eSIM during manufacturing and change the carrier on the fly.
To date, 200 mobile carriers in more than 80 countries offer eSIM consumer services. The embedded UICC is expected to reach over 200 million shipments in 2019 (source: Eurosmart, November 2019).
GSMA promises not to rig the eSIM standard in favour of its members.
eSIM now allows consumers to store multiple operator profiles on a device simultaneously, and switch between them remotely, though only one can be used at a time. The specification now extends to a wider range of devices. Manufacturers and operators can now enable consumers to select the operator of their choice and then securely download that operator’s SIM application to any device.
At first glance, building or supporting a global eSIM solution presents a major challenge (integration with other service providers and guarantee customer experience is expensive) and not appear to benefit Communication Service Providers. Looks like stupid to invest in a solution that make easier for customers to leave them. That´s why they have not done much to extend its use.
Why is good for IoT?. UICC and eSIM technology gives enterprises control of IoT connectivity, simplifies international deployments of IoT devices and the transition to mobility services. Large scale international deployments are possible using a single factory installed SIM. The user subscription can be updated when the device is in the field.
ARM white paper introduces 7 top Innovative eSIM use cases: Automotive, Shipping and Logistics, Object tracking and site monitoring, Smart Energy, Wearables, Agriculture, Home Security.
Cisco Blog: “Manufacture there, connect anywhere: Cisco eSIM Flex enables global connectivity for enterprises and service providers”
ARM: 7 Top eSIM use cases
Choosing IoT Connectivity Service Providers
Choosing the right IoT Connectivity Service provider is not as easy as many can think. You can make a preselection using the lasts Gartner Magic Quadrant, also explore the local cellular Operators that have deployed a NB-IoT or LTE-M network and finally analyze other operators that maybe you never heard about them as I did.
The selection of the right IoT Connectivity Service Provider is a strategic decision for any Digital Transformation initiative, especially in enterprises adopting new resilient business models and optimizations of business processes. Some criteria you must consider selecting your IoT CSP are:
- Your internal capabilities
- The offering: IoT Connectivity Services / IoT Managed Connectivity Services / IoT Connectivity Security Service / eSim Services
- The cost of the IoT Connectivity Services and the flexibility of the tariffs
- The type of IoT networks they have deployed and the coverage
- The alliances with other IoT Connectivity Service Providers for global deployments
- The types of M2M/IoT certified devices / modules and their applicability to your use cases.
- The experience and references in your industry and vertical solution
- The capabilities of their IoT Connectivity and Device Management Platforms
- Open APIS for Integration with your Enterprise Systems
- BSS/OSS systems and their applicability to your use
- New business models eg IOTConnectivity as a Service
- Levels of Support
- Ecosystem of partners
It is not worth spending one minute more crying for the reasons that MNOs were unable to energize the IoT market earlier. We are where we are and the future is still bright, for those who really know how to see it.
The selection of the right IoT Connectivity Service Provider for your enterprise is a strategic decision. When my clients ask which is the best IoT Connectivity Service Provider? my first advice is: ". Let's define together your digital strategy, prioritize key uses cases, analyze new business model and your internal capabilities first and then work on the IoT Connectivity technology needed , which connectivity services comply with your requirements and finally build a detailed business case that justify the value of your investment".
There is no best IoT connectivity Technology. It all depends on the use cases and the business model.