eUICC and Multi-IMSI: Global Roaming Solutions for IoT Deployments
By Adi Shelach
September 7, 2022
By Adi Shelach
September 7, 2022
More Internet of Things (IoT) devices are coming online every year — growing from an estimated 13 billion in 2020 to 24 billion by 2025, according to GSMA Intelligence. An increasing percentage of IoT projects require connectivity. Sixty-four percent require national coverage, and 34% need international coverage for global roaming.
Connecting devices for global coverage can be challenging, hard to manage and can increase overall costs. Roaming SIMs — particularly those that take advantage of new technologies like multi-IMSI and eUICC — can help overcome the complex challenges of global IoT deployments.
Global roaming allows consumer or IoT devices to connect to local networks beyond a mobile network operator’s (MNO’s) “home” geography. It requires a contractual and technical setup between MNOs in different territories. This setup enables seamless cellular communications to customers in multiple coverage areas.
While global roaming for consumer devices has existed for a while, the needs of roaming IoT devices are different and may present additional challenges. Depending on the use case, even a momentary drop in coverage could have a significant business impact. The challenges in achieving global IoT coverage include:
Adapting global roaming services for IoT means considering the differences in business models between consumer and IoT devices. For travelers carrying mobile devices, there’s a short value chain with usage-based costs for a short time. These are simple use cases driven by a single vertical, usually yielding high average revenue per user (ARPU).
With IoT connectivity, it’s a different story. The connectivity is for long-lasting machines with a longer value chain. IoT connectivity has diverse use cases driven by multiple verticals — in many cases, those with low ARPU. As a result, MNOs are considering ways to compensate for the low roaming ARPU by increasing usage-based costs or introducing access-based charges. This trend is causing price instability. IoT service providers need to develop viable and flexible solutions to provide good global coverage and stable costs for many years.
Due to the pandemic, there has been increased digital tool use. The year 2020 became a turning point for IoT connectivity. Roaming revenues from consumer devices dropped with the decrease in international travel.
This changed the MNOs perspective on IoT. They began to focus more on IoT network technologies and develop new billing formats to support the IoT business models for better monetization.
In many world regions, roaming restrictions or permanent roaming restrictions still pose challenges to IoT device deployments. These restrictions prevent the permanent presence of an IoT SIM in a vital market or limit the time a SIM can roam on the network. They might be the results of local regulations or commercial decisions by the MNOs. These restrictions are present in several key markets, including:
Among other things, roaming restrictions are a tool to increase ARPU. As MNOs are trying to monetize IoT, more roaming restrictions can be expected, which could add further complications.
Cellular LPWA networks support IoT device needs, particularly those deployed in remote areas and running on battery power. LTE-M and NB-IoT are cellular LPWA technologies. The main advantages of these are low-power modes, which are ideal for battery-power operation, a requirement for an array of IoT device applications (e.g., water and gas meters, wearable trackers, etc.).
LTE-M is better for services relying on devices with high mobility requirements, while NB-IoT is more for stationary indoor applications. The top use cases for planned IoT deployments are similar between the two technologies and include:
There are currently 108 NB-IoT networks and 56 LTE-M networks worldwide. However, rolling out roaming agreements to support these two technologies has been challenging, especially with NB-IoT.
From the MNO’s perspective, LTE-M provides higher ARPU and diverse functions as part of the existing LTE network. NB-IoT is more complicated. While it can support millions of devices on a single cell tower, it presents challenges that affect the return on investment and costs. As a result, it may be seen as a local service, and coverage and roaming agreements are still limited. We estimate that less than half of NB-IoT networks worldwide are ready for NB-IoT roaming.
Several challenges persist for IoT developers looking to deploy their licensed cellular LPWA devices worldwide:
Telit Cinterion has connected over 200 million devices from 7,000 customers worldwide. We deliver connectivity and management capabilities with our comprehensive portfolio of IoT modules, connectivity services and platforms. Whether you want to displace SIM cards in your current IoT offers or forge your path into the future with NExTPlus eSIM technology, we are here to help.
IoT connectivity providers are meeting the challenges of global roaming with a few different solutions, including eUICC and multi-IMSI:
IMSI stands for International Mobile Subscriber Identity, a unique number identifying a mobile subscriber. In roaming scenarios, the home network is also identified by the IMSI. In practice, a multi-IMSI SIM carries multiple MNO identities and can use the roaming agreements of each identity. It can also be made to switch to a different MNO.
This functionality enables the connectivity provider to offer its service based on the MNO with the most suitable coverage, network technology and cost according to a specific use case. The multi-IMSI SIM’s flexibility allows connectivity providers to support the long-term deployment of diverse use cases in an ever-changing landscape.
Multi-IMSI service is typically available only through IoT mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs). It provides a more advanced and comprehensive solution for IoT deployments. Choosing an MVNO can usually yield better service at lower costs and better support for mission-critical services.
The standard that serves as a framework for profile switching is the embedded Universal Integrated Circuit Card (eUICC). It specifies how a single SIM can hold multiple profiles and swap them over the air (OTA) securely.
In most cases, the eUICC SIM will include a local profile (also known as a native profile) that can support deployment in a permanent roaming restriction market. This solution is usually known as localization. Another SIM profile can be a multi-IMSI profile.
eUICC and multi-IMSI can work together to provide an even more comprehensive solution to global roaming challenges. From a functional perspective, this creates one SIM with true global coverage — a feat that’s not possible with any other solution.
Using eUICC may carry premium costs due to the technology’s advanced capabilities and sophisticated connection management and security infrastructures. However, eUICC allows devices to bypass roaming restrictions, or support local network technology if it’s not available through roaming agreements.
Many verticals and use cases will benefit from the combined eUICC and multi-IMSI solution. IoT devices, such as health monitors and POS terminals, are often on the move and must stay connected to fulfill their mission-critical goals.
The ideal IoT connectivity provider should be prepared for the challenges of large-scale IoT deployments with global coverage that supports both eUICC and multi-IMSI. NExT™, a mobile core network providing coverage for over 200 countries with multi-IMSI capabilities, is ready to meet those challenges.
NExTPlus™ provides a future-proof global connectivity eUICC platform. NExTPlus enables secure, remote switching between global roaming and local profiles. You only need one SIM for your deployment’s complete life cycle, which means no costly on-site SIM swapping.
Speak with our IoT connectivity experts to discover flexible, future-proof connectivity for your IoT deployment.