LTE-M, 4G, and 5G coverage in Germany, will you have access to each of those networks? Can you isolate the network types that are compatible with your device, or will your devices still attempt to connect to 4G and 5G service by default, when they’re only compatible with LTE-M?
This is why it’s important to work with an IoT experienced provider that’s investing in new IoT- specific network partnerships to provide access to IoT network technology like NB-IoT over satellite and LTE-M. So if your IoT solution relies on LTE-M coverage and you have customers in Germany, you can get LTE-M coverage in Germany—a provider that only offers 4G or 5G coverage in Germany won’t do you any good, no matter how good that coverage is.
5. Does the provider use network steering?
Many connectivity providers give you little control over which carriers your devices connect to. For example, due to your provider’s agreements with operators, your devices may always connect to Carrier A when it’s available, even if Carrier B or Carrier C has a stronger signal. This is called network steering. Look for providers that offer agnostic, multi-carrier coverage so you can prioritize connectivity for your business versus theirs.
The IoT landscape is constantly changing. Your connectivity provider should provide a single, core mobile network to ensure a consistent set of connectivity capabilities, and single-pane of glass visibility and management tools across all access networks to manage SIMs, devices, network optimization, analytics, and accounts.
- How will the provider help you manage SIM lifecycles?
In cellular IoT, SIMs remain in the field for years. Here’s what you should consider about your provider’s SIM lifecycle management capabilities:.
- How does your provider help you adapt as MNOs repurpose network infrastructure, sunset older technologies, or discontinue their service?
- Can they ensure interoperability with future IoT devices and applications?
-Can you use a single management portal for automated global provisioning, activation, configuration, and deactivation of SIMs, or will you have to log into and manage SIMs from multiple providers via multiple management portals?
-Can you configure, provision, and activate devices automatically in near-real time or does this process require manual interactions that take days or even weeks? Are you able to buy SIMs and only pay for them once you activate them? Are you able to suspend and reactivate them as your business requires?
-Does the management platform scale for multiple geographies, use cases, and volumes, with a consistent set of services and features?
-Can you customize network selection for your specific use case and hyperlocal region, ensuring devices have the best possible connectivity?
-Will crossing borders require new SIMs or can connectivity be switched to a new provider via over the air updates?
2. What device management capabilities are available?
How your provider enables you to configure and control your devices will directly affect your operations. Here’s what to consider:
- Does the provider enable VPN services for remote access for device management? How long does it take to provision and is there an additional fee?
- Is real-time device location tracking available?
- Do they have batch management capabilities to automatically configure every device that will use the same settings, whether there are hundreds or hundreds of thousands of them?
- Can you control if your device can access certain radio access networks like 2G or 5G?
3. How will you manage separate accounts, users, and deployments?
As your business grows, more individuals will need access to your connectivity data. Here’s what you’ll want to consider:
- Does the provider offer hierarchical accounts with distinct entities, sub accounts, users, access, billing, currencies?
- Is modern authentication and SSO offered?
- Do they offer flexible options for data plans and give you the ability to create multiple data plans based on business needs?
4. What reporting and analytics capabilities will you have access to?
Your connectivity data becomes far more useful when your provider gives you tools to organize it in meaningful, relevant ways. Here’s what to consider when it comes to reporting and analytics:
- Do you have full visibility into network level events across all of your networks with granular data on each carrier, every connection and disconnection, network type, device data usage, warning and error events you need to optimize and control your connectivity and uptime?
- Will you have real-time data usage analytics across all of your networks?
- Do they have timesaving out-of-the-box reports available to show data usage by device, timeframe, and geography, as well as visualizations and dashboards to make insights easier to consume and share across the organization?
5. How is the provider demonstrating their investment in innovation?
The world of IoT is constantly evolving—and your connectivity provider should be, too. Here’s what to consider about their investment in innovation:
- Are they making continuous improvements in ease of use?
- How frequently do they update their platform interfaces?
- Do they make changes to their applications or portal in response to customer feedback?
- Are they delivering a modern user experience?
As of 2023, the following countries currently have some form of data localization laws which ban, regulate, or restrict the storage or processing of data in other countries: Brazil, Turkey, Nigeria, China, Egypt, India, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Germany, United States, Canada, and Australia.
How does the provider maintain compliance with data localization laws?
Data localization laws create challenges for some connectivity providers: they can’t legally process your data through their core network if it’s in another country. Core networks are how providers authenticate devices, ensure you’re billed appropriately for data consumption, and route your data to its destination. Normally, connectivity providers route your transmissions through their core network before sending them to the recipient. It’s called Home Routing, and it can violate data residency laws if the home network is outside of the country.
When you deploy in one of these countries, your SIMs have to use a profile from a local carrier. Your SIMs can only use roaming agreements to connect to local carriers for a limited time before your business will incur penalties or potentially even get banned from operating in the country.
Providers can relieve this pain point by deploying their core network through regional Internet breakouts that keep your data local. This requires that their core network is distributed and not tied to a specific data center. Cloud-based, distributed core networks solve this issue by routing data through regional breakouts, so your data doesn’t have to cross borders to travel back to a home network.
Integrations across the IoT stack stream connectivity data to IoT applications and workflows to provide new levels of insights, control, and automation. There’s a high degree of variability among connectivity providers in their approach to enabling integration, from network architecture to API management to support. With 90% of IoT applications built on top of cloud services, your provider’s ability to integrate seamlessly with cloud applications becomes increasingly important.
IoT devices are notoriously vulnerable to hacking and data theft, especially since most lack the battery power and data throughput to support basic security functions. The data traffic of regular SIM cards is secured within the mobile network but traverses the public internet between the mobile network and the application. The device and application are not only susceptible to attacks but it also makes it difficult to establish remote device management.
Working with multiple connectivity providers adds complexity to your security management. The lack of cross-network visibility and data reduces the ability to detect anomalies that point to misuse or attacks on your devices and data.
1. How will the provider help you adapt to emerging IoT security standards and technologies?
Security is an area of IoT that’s advancing rapidly to help organizations mitigate risks and build more trustworthy and robust IoT systems. IoT SAFE (IoT Security Assurance Framework) is a standardized framework developed by the Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA) to address security challenges inherent in IoT. IoT SAFE is focused on securing communication between IoT devices and application servers, particularly in scenarios where cellular networks are involved.
Another emerging framework is Secure Access Service Edge (SASE). SASE is a network architecture that combines network security and wide-area networking (WAN) capabilities into a unified cloud-based service. SASE provides security and networking services from the cloud, closer to the user or device, rather than backhauling traffic to a centralized data center. SASE integrates multiple security functions, such as secure web gateways, firewalls, intrusion prevention systems, data loss prevention, and more, into a unified service. These security functions are delivered from the cloud and applied dynamically based on policy and context.
Some emerging security trends and standards you’ll want to ask providers about include:
- Are their SIMs ready for IoT SAFE?
- Can the provider take advantage of a cloud-native, distributed SASE approach to data, security, and networking services?
- Does your provider rely on the public Internet for device management and data routing?
- Is the provider SOC 2 certified
2. How does the connectivity provider help protect IoT devices and data?
In the field, IoT devices aren’t just vulnerable to network-based attacks. Your devices might be in public places or other environments where people can physically access them.
Someone may steal your device itself, or if you have removable SIM cards, they may just take the SIM to use it in another device.
Every device has an International Mobile Equipment Identification (IMEI) number which enables a carrier to identify specific devices that are authorized to use their network. Some connectivity providers can set IMEI locks which prevent a device with a different IMEI from using the SIM card. So if the SIM card is ever stolen, that doesn’t mean your data will be, too.
Depending on your provider, you may not learn about data theft until it shows up on your bill. Even if you can manually monitor your data usage, that may not be enough. More sophisticated providers, however, can analyze data consumption patterns and recognize anomalies in real-time—whether they’re caused by attackers or even just human error. Ideally, your provider should proactively notify you when their analysis detects a potential threat.
Here are some further considerations as you assess each provider’s ability to keep your devices and data from being misused:
- What level of visibility and control do you have over device connectivity? How fast can you identify and react to suspicious data transfers?
- Do you have insights into network events across all networks to help detect misuse or anomalous behavior?
- Do you have secure connections for remote device management or do you have to rely on public internet connectivity? How easy is it to set up VPNs for secure communications?
- Does your provider offer advanced firewall features?
- Can you configure and utilize your own DNS to protect IoT devices from Denial of Service attacks and prevent access from devices already infected by a cyber attack?
Connectivity is such a critical component of your IoT solutions that your ability to support your customers often directly depends on your connectivity provider’s ability to support you. The more fragmented your connectivity solution is, the more difficult it becomes for any one provider to have full visibility across all networks, to troubleshoot issues and work with your technicians to resolve them quickly. And while traditional telecommunications operators have support resources, IoT businesses need to ensure that their chosen provider has IoT experts available.
Your IoT connectivity provider and the services they offer will have a significant impact on the success of your IoT solution. Device uptime, operational efficiency, security, and the longevity of your solution in market are all dependent on choosing the right IoT connectivity service provider for your business. The best cellular IoT connectivity provider for your business will:
- Offer the redundant, IoT-specific network access your business needs today and as you grow.
- Future-proof your IoT solutions to adapt to changes in the industry and new opportunities.
- Scale connectivity management as your business grows.
- Provide the integration tools and technology to make your connectivity capabilities compatible with the rest of your IoT stack.
- Increase IoT security with a consistent, modern set of security capabilities regardless of which network you’re connecting to.
- Support your business and your teams with IoT specific knowledge and expertise.
As a leader in cloud-native, cellular IoT connectivity, emnify delivers on the key considerations highlighted in this guide. The SuperNetwork reduces the complexity of IoT connectivity with a distributed, global network for reliable and redundant coverage across the globe. A modern approach to connectivity management enables our customers greater consistency and control to deploy, monitor, manage, secure, and optimize all of their devices across all networks from a single connectivity portal. Open APIs, low-code, and no-code integrations streamline access to SuperNetwork data and tools across your entire IoT stack. And importantly, the SuperNetwork embraces state-of-the art security technology to protect data and devices.
Want to see what emnify can do for your business?
Talk to one of our IoT experts today. We’ll give you a tour of the features that matter most to your business and discuss the best solutions for your application. If you prefer a self-guided approach, you can also start a free trial. We’ll send you everything you need to start testing.
Every day thousands of businesses rely on emnify’s SuperNetwork
to connect millions of devices worldwide, including GPS fleet trackers,
smart meters, predictive maintenance sensors, medical devices, and
more. The SuperNetwork encompasses more than 540 networks in
over 180 countries, all accessible through a single eSIM. Our intuitive
connectivity management platform empowers businesses to monitor,
analyze, control, and automate their device connectivity, with multilayered
IoT security to protect devices and data.
We hope this free resource helps you confidently compare cellular
IoT connectivity providers and make the selection that’s right for
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