Global IoT has never been easier – or harder. As we enter the 5G era, navigating all of the connectivity types designed to make life simple is becoming more complex. At the same time, the regulatory and competitive landscapes are becoming less predictable.
In our recent white paper: The Future of Global IoT Connectivity, Transforma Insights identified eight trends that anyone planning to connect products or devices globally needs to be aware of. Below is a summary of these trends. You can download the full white paper here.
Fragmentation in network technologies
Today there is an array of different IoT connectivity types, with new ones entering the market while old ones are being phased out. For example, 2G and 3G have already been switched off across many countries in Asia/Pacific, with North America and Europe soon to follow. At the same time, there is variation in how networks have been deployed in different markets. 4G, and even more so 5G, have been focused mainly on population centers. This means that many IoT devices currently still rely on 2G and 3G. The result is a patchwork of connectivity types that needs to be managed.
New LPWA network technolgies
LTE-M and NB-IoT have been developed specifically for IoT and deliver battery and cost advantages over their 2G and 3G predecessors. In the context of global products, LTE-M is generally favored as it supports device mobility, whereas NB-IoT is better suited to static devices and single country deployments. The upgrade of LTE networks to support these technologies on a global scale is still a work in progress, with wide variation in how specific features such as battery life optimization are supported. Roaming is also a work in progress, and it will take some time to establish the agreements to enable global product roaming.
Mobile private networks (MPN)
The arrival of 5G has stimulated increased interest in private network deployments using either dedicated infrastructure or a ‘slice’ of an operator network. Today, they are most frequently used in factories and freight terminals for industrial applications. MPNs provide an additional set of capabilities, but also add a further layer of complexity between device and network.
Prohibition on permanent roaming
Regulators in several countries – for example Australia, Brazil, China, India and Turkey – have introduced rules that prohibit devices managed by overseas operators from permanently roaming in their countries. There are also commercial equivalents, particularly in the US and Canada, where the operators themselves prohibit permanent roaming on their networks. Ensuring compliance has become a critical aspect for multicounty IoT deployments. Read Transforma Insights’ article on why permanent roaming is still a headache.
To solve the problem of permanent roaming, the mobile industry developed the eUICC (Embedded Universal Integrated Circuit Card). This is a chip which performs the same function as the swappable SIM cards used in mobile phones but is embedded in the device. Its SIM profile and connectivity settings can also be changed over-the-air (OTA). This enables seamless interoperability between operators and for devices to be remotely localized to networks around the world without the need for manual re-configuration. Read more in Why eUICC matters for global IoT connectivity.
There are increasing compliance requirements relating to data, where it is sent, and how it is used. The most prominent is the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) but it is far from the only territory with such rules. This often requires a new architecture for supporting IoT, for example, with local instances of IoT platforms to prevent data being inappropriately managed in foreign countries.
The cloud and the 'hyperscalers'
The shift to the cloud has been the defining IT feature the last decade, driven most notably by the so-called ‘hyperscalers’: AWS, Google and Microsoft. As more and more IoT applications are hosted using these players, it has become critical to ensure seamless delivery of IoT data to the cloud.
Mobile Edge Computing (MEC)
As a counterpoint to the above, the last couple of years have also seen a shift to the ‘edge’. For time-critical IoT use cases – such as autonomous vehicles and augmented reality – the devices need to be located close to the application rather than in the cloud so they can respond fast enough to work properly. Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) enables some or all processing to be done close to the device which increases responsiveness.
Want to learn more? Read more about Telia Global IoT Connectivity or download the white paper:
Download the white paper