The Right Way to Integrate IoT Connectivity? 1nce Wants to Keep It Simple

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By Jamie Moss | 4Q 2018 | IN-5314

1nce is a cellular connectivity service provider for Machine-to-Machine (M2M) and Internet of Things (IoT) devices. 1nce announced itself in March 2018 at the Mobile World Congress and in August 2018 opened an online shop to allow its services to be purchased. 1nce had been accepting preorders since March, but the opening of its online shop effectively marked the service provider’s official commercial launch and the commercial availability of its in-house connectivity management platform. Aimed at IoT applications with low data volumes, 1nce is offering €10 plans that last for 10 years. The company markets itself as “Europe’s first data flat rate for the Internet of Things.”

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The Anatomy of a Service


1nce provides customers with a Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) card for a one-time fee supported by an inclusive connectivity management platform. This SIM card can connect to 2G, 3G, and Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) networks and may be extended to connect to 4G and Long-Term Evolution for Machines (LTE-M) networks in the future. 1nce SIM cards have a footprint that covers 28 countries in Europe and roaming in the United States. At present, NB-IoT is only available in Germany. 1nce is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) that uses Deutsche Telekom (DT) as its host carrier. Consequently, 1nce’s footprint mirrors that of DT’s T-Mobile wireless subsidiaries and any networks that have a roaming agreement with T-Mobile. 1nce is registered as a mobile network operator and is operating its own International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) range using a nongeographic 901 Mobile-Country-Code (MCC) based mobile network code that was assigned by the International Telecommunication Union to DT.

1nce’s connectivity services are limited to the closed, application-specific communication needs of M2M and IoT devices, and all terminal equipment must be sourced by the customer. 1nce provides Internet Protocol (IP) data and SMS messages that allow a customer’s devices to report information to a centralized server but specifically does not allow open access to the Internet or peer-to-peer communication among terminal devices. A “qualifying” M2M or IoT device is determined by its incorporation of modules and sensors that are certified as “M2M only” by 1nce and its strategic partner DT. Roaming services are enabled by default, and each SIM is allocated a dedicated IP address.

1nce’s connectivity management platform is called the Customer Portal. It is accessible via a web interface or an Application Programming Interface (API) link to an enterprise’s back-end system, through which a continuous real-time stream of reporting can be delivered. The Customer Portal allows ordering, monitoring, and management of connections. Customers can view consumption usage history; see the allowance remaining; purchase additional allowances; order new cards; view the network status of a device; reset connections; and deactivate cards. All monitoring and reporting is real time with usage data stored and available for download for a minimum of six months. Support center services are available for customers in either the English or German languages.

Ten Euros for Ten Years


Each 1nce subscription has a 10-year lifetime allowance of 500 MB and 250 SMS for the price of €10. Allowances may not be pooled between multiple connections, but top ups can be purchased at any time for an additional €10. Deactivation of SIMs occurs 18 months after the end of the initial contract or after the allowance has been used up, whichever happens first, up until when top ups can still be purchased. Notifications are sent to customers to warn them when 80% of either the data or SMS allowance of any of its SIMs have been used. 1nce’s coverage in Europe makes its service useful for permanent roaming applications as well as for nonpermanent roaming applications in the United States—all for a single up-front price point.

1nce supplies plastic form-factor (FF), 2FF, 3FF, and 4FF SIMs, ruggedized with an extended operating temperature range and a data-retention guarantee of (necessarily) 10 years. 1nce also offers chip-based M2M Form Factor (MFF2) SIMs that are soldered to Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs), with the same 10-year data retention ability and an even greater operating temperature range. Plastic SIMs can be purchased in a minimum quantity of one. But, since it is a specialized product designed for enterprises with a more mature, physically embedded vision of their M2M/IoT connectivity needs, MFF2 SIMs are only available in minimum multiples of 100.

The use of a nongeographic 901 MCC to power 1nce’s SIM cards is an innovative yet tried-and-tested use of the IMSI numbering system to enable seamless international M2M/IoT connectivity. Connectivity platform pioneer Cisco Jasper (formerly Jasper Wireless) first used 901 MCCs in this way; 901 MCC is also the mechanism behind the “Global SIM” that is a fundamental part of Vodafone’s Global Data Service Platform (GDSP) for M2M. A 901 SIM does not have a home country, as the world is its home base. The same single number can be used for each SIM card; it is not necessary to transform it to that of a new network using remote SIM re-provisioning to avoid roaming costs when crossing a geographic border. Future carrier partners can also be instantly added to the 1nce pool of networks for everyone’s use without any modification to a subscription.

Scaling Down as Well as Up


The connectivity services and platform self-service functions available from 1nce are basic but essential. For the last 10 years, leading connectivity providers have been offering enterprises self-management of their connected devices via connectivity management platforms. The transparency of the 1nce service offering is highly commendable, however. 1nce takes the simplicity with which IoT connectivity can be purchased further than most by removing the need to directly interact with a sales representative. One disadvantage of being an MVNO with a single connectivity provider may come in the form of restrictions on service flexibility that is inherited from the upstream wholesale conditions of its carrier partner. Essentially, DT’s connectivity has been repackaged but can still only be used as DT allows.

While 1nce is a new entrant in a market that is not new but is early in maturity, it has innovatively managed to target and serve on equal terms the smallest needs of an enterprise through its minimum bookable order (e.g., for an order of a single SIM card). The ability for a connectivity service provider to economically scale downward has been one that carriers have historically struggled to meet. Yet it is an ability that is crucial to on-board enterprises that may have modest needs early on but that may require thousands of SIMs in the future. 1nce’s strategy also allows the service provider to cater for the cumulatively valuable small- or medium-sized enterprise longtail. Alone, these can be worth little, but together in aggregate they may constitute the majority of IoT market value.

M2M and IoT services for enterprises need to offer as much value for the money as possible. 1nce has done well to optimize costs through accounting that rounds up usage to the nearest kilobyte of data used. Similarly, having predictable expenses over time and data transmissions capped at 128 kilobits on the uplink and downlink helps to manage traffic and ensure connectivity is only used for the intended low-bandwidth applications. The importance of the affordability and predictability of connectivity costs is magnified when dealing with enterprises that need large numbers of connections. It is a consideration that is not mitigated by the virtue of big businesses having more money to spend. 1nce wishes to serve large enterprises with easy-to-understand services, but it has developed a democratized service that may be useful to all.


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