IoT asset tracking

How remote SIM provisioning can accelerate the scalability of NB-IoT enabled devices

Innovators increasingly consider Narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT) as a potential catalyst that can expand the commercial opportunities of IoT to new industries and new regions. As the demand for cellular connectivity increases, the benefits of this emerging network access technology start to look even more appealing.

NB-IoT’s appeal is no wonder when you understand the advantages it brings to many new and previously unsupportable cellular use cases. This basic but capable radio bearer delivers:

  • Off-grid connectivity.
  • Low power consumption.
  • Cost reductions from minimised device complexity and lower device build and connectivity rates.
  • Ease of integration into an Operators existing core network and BSS platforms.

However, NB-IoT limitations give innovators pause. For almost any business, battery life of 10+ years and the ability to support deployments on a global scale means frequent carrier network changes — a challenging task that requires a physical switch of a SIM card. The alternative: you’re stuck with the same mobile network operator’s (MNO) coverage blackspots and costs for the device’s lifecycle. The possible solution: remote SIM provisioning (RSP).

RSP adds security and mobility to NB-IoT

The GSMA RSP specification enables the remote management of operator profiles in an eSIM device and includes a thorough, trusted accreditation and compliance process to support interoperability and network protection. Successful scaling of IoT requires the integration of RSP and NB-IoT. However, the newness of NB-IoT proves a consistent roadblock when developers look for ways to include RSP capabilities and its benefits on NB-IOT devices. Key connectivity pieces are still missing, but the innovation continues and the potential for is promising.

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Current factors impacting potential RSP and NB-IoT alignment

The need for NB-IoT roaming

A device needs network roaming capabilities if you’re going to deploy it across national borders. The NB-IoT hasn’t established a sustainable roaming environment and full framework. There’s still a need for multi-band antennae designs, for example.  But there’s reason to hope it’s on the way. MNOs are testing NB-IoT roaming as we speak, and the GSMA defined a complete set of test instances for NB-IoT roaming.

Accessibility of NB-IoT subscriptions

NB-IoT subscriptions aren’t easy to get. Though network operators continue to enthusiastically expand the NB-IoT network footprint because live trials show it can go where other networks struggle, NB-IoT connectivity technology isn’t ready for global businesses, and coverage remains localized.

Consistent SMS support in NB-IoT devices

RSP helps SMS messages transfer efficiently, but SMS isn’t a given feature in NB-IoT network deployments. There’s no standard that requires it. When developers leave it out to reduce complexity, they also assume there’s no need for RSP. Even in use cases where NB-IoT and RSP do support SMS, power-savings features that keep a device in stasis limit RSP’s ability to deliver messages efficiently. A device needs to be awake and online to trigger an RSP event.

NB-IoT cellular modules that support RSP

A cellular module that supports RSP needs to include some basic features. For example, it needs to ensure the modem can establish the secure data channel between the SIM and the RSP server, and the SMS in the server push mode can tell eSIM it needs to carry out an RSP task. The bottom line: the cellular module has to let any requested action finish. If it breaks the cellular connection prematurely, the server and the eSIM card will be out of sync, and the action will fail.

Need to know more about how RSP can help your organization leverage the potential of NB-IoT?

Kigen’s eSIM and iSIM solutions make it easier to integrate SIM technologies and cellular IoT connectivity across devices and platforms to create new business models.  They can help accelerate NB-IoT momentum and incorporate RSP in commercial uses globally. 

Download the whitepaper Remote SIM Provisioning over Narrowband IoT.