Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Nordic and iBasis field test eSIM for NB-IoT and LTE-M

Steve Rogerson
September 11, 2019



Nordic Semiconductor says it has invalidated any question marks over cellular IoT and eSIM technology used in NB-IoT and LTE-M LPWA use cases following successful field testing across 24 countries using a single eSIM from Massachusetts-based iBasis.
 
Field testing was completed over six months for LTE-M and over the past few months for NB-IoT. As a result of this successful phase, the connectivity is confirmed to be ready for general release at the end of this month.
 
IBasis says this field testing represents a critical milestone in the evolution of both NB-IoT and LTE-M cellular IoT wireless technology because it represents the first successful massive field-testing of the LPWA cellular connectivity with a single eSIM. NB-IoT and LTE-M cellular IoT devices are predicted to cross the five-billion connection mark by 2025.
 
“We are thrilled to announce this industry first with our partner Nordic Semiconductor,” said Ajay Joseph, CTO at iBasis. “Building on the momentum of our successful integration of the industry’s only open eSIM from iBasis with Nordic’s leading nRF91 series cellular IoT modules, we have now demonstrated the first successful execution of LTE-M and NB-IoT cross markets with a single eSIM. This is critical to support the ever-increasing demand for seamless, turnkey cellular connectivity for LPWA devices globally.”
 
Customers of Norway-based Nordic can now connect and monitor their LPWA devices globally on iBasis’ Open eSIM without the logistics of deploying different SIM cards in each country. Nordic’s testing of the iBasis Global Access for Things is the first time a provider has confirmed standards-based cellular technologies, including LTE-M, NB-IoT and eSIM, are ready for massive IoT deployments.
 
Markets include the USA, France and Finland for NB-IoT, and the USA, Canada, France, Australia, Japan, South Korea and more than 18 other countries for LTE-M, using the Nordic nRF9160 multi-mode NB-IoT and LTE-M SiP, Nordic Thingy:91 rapid prototyping platform, and iBasis’ single eSIM
 
“This is a very exciting development for Nordic,” said Nordic CEO, Svenn-Tore Larsen. “It’s another important step in our journey to create the absolute best customer experience by driving simplicity, flexibility and performance in all aspects of cellular IoT for the broadest array of devices deployed across the IoT ecosystem.”
 
The cellular connectivity tested is enabled on a single GSMA-compliant eSIM card. Assessments were performed configuring Nordic’s nRF9160 system-in-package (SiP) and Thingy:91 modems via the Nordic Link Monitor application, with AT commands used to switch between different networks and select and force different bands. AT commands were also used to switch between NB-IoT and LTE-M on the same board.
 
Where supported, power saving mode was tested, as well as IP-based data delivery in the core network together with data transfer optimisation over the S11u interface for the NB-IoT use case.
 
“It is good to see that iBasis is putting a lot of effort into making both LTE-M and NB-IoT work on the same SIM,” said Jan Willem Smeenk, CEO of Sodaq. “At the stage we are currently in with the international roll-out of NB-IoT and LTE-M whereby not in all countries support both networks, it is crucial to have a partner that works hard to support both network types.”
 
Robin Duke-Woolley, CEO of IoT analyst firm Beecham Research, added: “The time for eSIM has arrived in the IoT market and we expect it to dominate future growth of IoT cellular connections over the coming years. This achievement of iBasis and Nordic is most welcome and will significantly aid market growth of NB-IoT and LTE-M in the crucial high volume, low data rate segment of the IoT market.”
 
NB-IoT offers different use cases by supplying wireless connectivity to support applications requiring very low amounts of data over long periods of time such as smart water meters. For such low power devices, narrow band supports the ability to use a small amount of data followed by inactive periods that preserve battery life.
 
LTE-M specifically refers to LTE Cat M1, suitable for the IoT. LTE-M is a low power wide area technology that supports IoT through lower device complexity and provides extended coverage, while allowing the reuse of the LTE installed base, including support for VoLTE.