February 27

Curtis Govan

Choosing Connectivity is Complex, but a Simplified Approach is Within Your Reach

floLive Velocity Webinar

Connectivity powers digital solutions, and the technologies supporting connectivity have become widespread and differentiated, whether networks or SIM cards. This can lead to what feels like connectivity chaos when, at the end of the day, you just want your devices to work. So what are the main considerations, and how do they impact what you’re trying to achieve? 

Standard Cellular Connectivity: 4G LTE or 5G

The evolution of cellular generations has led to the most current – 4G LTE and 5G, which both offer the benefits of speed, latency, throughput, and bandwidth to support complex use cases. Still, both have key differences in behavior and availability. 

4G LTE Stats

  • Throughput can reach up to 151 megabytes per second (Mbps)
  • 100 Mbps download speed
  • 50 Mbps upload speed
  • 200 millisecond latency

The introduction of 4G cellular networks brought significantly greater speed and bandwidth to digital applications. It helped support rich media, whether that was stationary or that could be accessed anywhere a 4G network was available – also known as mobile broadband. This is how the rise of video technologies – particularly in the automotive industry – has become more prolific. 

With 2G and 3G networks sunsetting, 4G LTE has become the predominant choice for cellular connectivity that supports high speed, low latency, and large bandwidth. However, a new choice is arising as 5G continues to develop.

5G Stats

  • Throughput can reach up to 1.6 gigabytes per second (Gbs)
  • 20 Gbs peak download speed
  • 10 Gbs peak upload speed
  • 1 millisecond latency

It’s well known at this point that 5G has incredible possibilities due to its high speed, low latency, and high throughput capabilities. Use cases have been promised as lightning-fast, highly intelligent, and autonomous. 

However, 5G is still in a rather lengthy process of materializing. The required spectrum for 5G needs to be supported by infrastructure and the spectrum freed by the sunsetting of 2G and 3G networks globally. The earliest releases of 5G have been Non-Standalone (NSA), which has leveraged the 4G LTE infrastructure.

The widespread rollout of 5G Standalone (SA) has been slow because it requires all new infrastructure build. Mobile Network Operators (MNO) must juggle the demand for 5G (still growing) against the (high) cost of building new infrastructure. 

The choice between the two networks can certainly be a challenge – especially when considering how to support emerging technologies such as edge computing, artificial intelligence, machine learning, network slicing, and mobile private networks. 

Low Power Wide Area Networks: LTE CAT-M1 vs NB-IoT

In the 5G era, when the new cellular generation was standardized, two other technologies were born – LTE CAT-M1 and NB-IoT. These almost act as replacements for 2G and 3G, as they are strong cellular contenders but do not drain the battery, pull large data packets, or require higher-complexity devices. 

LTE CAT-M1 and NB-IoT belong to the Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) network technology family and are designed to meet Massive IoT requirements. In Massive IoT, hundreds of thousands of devices are deployed to collect and transmit data, which is then turned into analytics for data-backed, informed decision-making. 

The Massive IoT Opportunity

The opportunities in Massive IoT include precision farming, smart cities, utilities – in some cases, telematics, and even healthcare. The characteristics these Massive IoT use cases share is that low-power devices remain mostly in sleep mode but wake to take a reading anywhere between a few times a day to just a few times a week. Once that data is transmitted, the device will go back into sleep mode – thus preserving the battery life. 

Because many applications do not require a constant feed of data, such as a sensor in a warehouse determining whether a box is on a shelf, it is useful that these devices have a long battery life. And because they are leveraged in large numbers, it is cost-effective and logistically desirable that the devices have long lifecycles. 

These devices can sometimes be supported through LPWA networks for up to 10 years. This does not hold true for more powerful cellular networks like 4G LTE or 5G. 

Additionally, these networks have wide reach that are also penetrable, such as reaching through a silo, underground, or across wide geographic expanses. 

The main difference between the two technologies is that NB-IoT is designed for no- or low-mobility devices, and LTE CAT-M1 supports mobility, as well as VoLTE for voice communications. 

Multi-Profile SIMs: Multi-IMSI vs eUICC

Global connectivity has been challenged significantly by the fragmented ecosystem of MNOs. Permanent roaming is an option, but it has never been a true solution to the issue, and problems regarding permanent roaming continue to mount. As device manufacturers only sometimes know where a device will eventually be deployed, a complicated multi-SKU SIM approach was born. The organization leveraging the devices would have to physically swap SIMs when changing to a new network. 

eUICC

Because of that friction and the increasing use of IoT, eUICC was created with Remote SIM Provisioning (RSP) functionality to allow network profiles on devices to be provisioned and managed over the air (OTA). 

eUICC means embedded Universal Integrated Circuit Card, which accommodates multiple SIM profiles. These profiles are the operator and subscriber cellular networks’ login data. Essentially, this takes multiple individual SIM cards – for example, Vodafone, EE, and O2 – and allows the user to consolidate all three operator profiles into a single SIM. 

Multi-IMSI

Another multi-profile approach is the Multi-IMSI SIM. A Multi-IMSI SIM is pre-loaded with several (between two and four) MNO profiles. These profiles can be uploaded via OTA, like eUICC, and can be switched remotely. This is an intelligent way to avoid carrier lock-in with a single provider while avoiding the costs and integration challenges with eSIM. 

While both technologies seem similar at first glance, with an eUICC SIM, users cannot seamlessly switch from one profile to another. Not to get too technical, but when operators are changed, the user needs to completely move from the previous one and integrate with a different RSP for a new operator. 

Essentially, there is a lot of backend work that gets expensive and complicated very quickly. In contrast, a Mlti-IMSI SIM can be managed through a single connectivity provider who works with the MNOs. When devices need to switch profiles, this can be done automatically (logic in the SIM), via OTA (in real-time), or the device’s application (AT commands). 

Join Our Explainer Webinar ‘Connectivity 101’ to Learn More

floLIVE and connectivity provider Velocity are teaming up to present “Connectivity 101” during a March 13 webinar at 10 a.m. ET/3 p.m. GMT so you can get the most simplified approach to powering your devices. 

We’ll discuss further how different connectivity technologies impact different use cases and how to winnow down your choices so that your unique application is best served through the most simplified approach. 

You can register here, and I hope to see you there!

This graphic, which shows floLIVE's "IoT Connectivity Cookbook" eBook cover allows the viewer to click on the download button to be redirected to the eBook's landing page.

February 27

Curtis Govan

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