Kore Wireless’ new OmniSIM is part of a growing trend in utilizing eSIM to develop innovative products designed to make the lives of IoT customers easier.
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Coverage and Capacity
Internet of Things (IoT) service provider Kore Wireless has launched two new embedded Subscriber Identity Module (eSIM) products under the brand name of OmniSIM. Both products combine the embedded Universal Integrated Circuit Card (eUICC) form factor, with the Global Standard for Mobile Association (GSMA) defined eSIM specification, and each is tailored for different IoT connectivity requirements. The first, OmniSIM Reach, is designed for maximum coverage, providing roaming access to a claimed 600 networks across 198 countries. The second, OmniSIM Rush, is designed for high-bandwidth IoT applications and offers customers a data allowance of between 100 megabyte (MB) and one gigabyte (GB) per month. Kore Wireless states that “These are the first of many scheduled offerings with more planned for early next year” (2022).
OmniSIM Reach in effect achieves global coverage by levering the full remit of Kore’s strategic wireless carrier partners and their own roaming agreements. It uses a multiple-Integrated Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) approach, meaning that each SIM contains multiple “phone numbers”, which can be dynamically switched between as coverage and pricing requirements necessitate. OmniSIM Rush is more restricted and is only available in the USA and Europe, over a claimed 61 networks that span 34 countries. It effectively leverages Kore’s direct partners only, allowing for tighter cost control over the data transported, enabling high bandwidth plans at a guaranteed price per MB. OmniSIM Rush makes use of a non-geographic 901 Mobile Country Code (MCC) based Mobile Network Code (MNC) owned by Kore itself.
OmniSIM combines Kore’s own IMSIs and its carrier partners’3 IMSIs with the multi-IMSI storage and number switching abilities of eSIM. Kore Wireless has been in operation since 2003 and has the second largest installed base of connections for an IoT Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO). It has acquired the assets of competitors Jazz Wireless Data and RacoWireless in 2014, the Wyless Group in 2016, and ASPIDER in 2018, to accumulate a total of 11.8 million IoT connections at the end of 2020. While Kore operates its own core network and value-added IoT management platforms, it does not own any radio spectrum licenses. Kore’s remit is to be a global service provider, selling to enterprises anywhere in the world and to enterprises that need to distribute their connected products and services worldwide. To which end it purchases connectivity wholesales from strategic carrier partners, weaving together a global coverage network of its own.
Using connectivity as a platform to build value, and not simply being a reseller repackaging the services of others to profit from the inevitably slender margin added, is easier said than done. Kore is both a partner and a customer of the wireless carriers, and the key is to use cellular connectivity as one component of a larger system that helps solves a business problem for enterprises and not just as a standalone product. The guarantee of a business outcome is what IoT customers want and will pay a premium for, regardless of what has gone into creating it. The encapsulation of Kore’s virtual Radio Access Network (RAN) within its new eSIM offerings helps do this. The intelligent management of connectivity to guarantee either maximal coverage or throughput provides simplified answers, intended to “just work”, especially if embedded in devices at the point of manufacture.
OmniSIM can be offered with plastic SIMs but will be most effective when built-in within a chip-form factor component, to be soldered directly to the circuit board. These are known as Machine-to-Machine Form Factor (MFF) SIMs and are ruggedized by nature, originally specified for use in the automotive industry with higher tolerances for temperature, vibration, shock, and with a longer operational lifespan than a plastic SIM card. This makes it ideal for use in IoT devices that must operate constantly, consistently, autonomously, and remotely for years until they reach their end of life. Plenty of IoT service providers offer MFF SIMs, but they tend to be a form-factor option for general purpose IoT tariff plans. MFF SIMs are not often functionally tied to exclusive plans intended for specific purposes, even though this is the best way for them to be marketed. eUICC and eSIM are natural partners that fit hand in glove, with each standard helping the other to realize its full functional potential.
eSIM is often talked about but in the context of the IoT, but it is underutilized. Responsibility for the standardization of the Over-The-Air-Provisioning (OTAP) of SIMs was taken on by the GSMA to prevent disruptive third parties creating a de facto industry standard that might prove disadvantageous to wireless carriers. Yet, relatively little has been done with it since. Carriers vehemently protect the methods of accessing and manipulating the networks they have paid to billions of dollars to roll out, using the spectrum they have paid billions of dollars to license. They are also are reluctant to relinquish connections and hand them off to partner networks by authorizing the re-provisioning of the IMSI unless a connection has become irretrievably uneconomical to serve. This is despite the positive noises often made around cooperating to ensure local pricing for IoT customers.
eSIM has therefore fallen to MVNOs to make best use of. As MVNOs wholesale connectivity from multiple wireless carriers, it is a useful tool to manage their customers’ utilization of those partner suppliers’ networks. Out of the 62 connectivity management platform (CMP) vendors identified in ABI Research’s report, “Connectivity Management Platforms and Managed Connectivity for The IoT”, 22 of them (35%) offer eSIM. eSIM is essential for IMSI transformation where permanent roaming is prohibited and where local breakout is necessary to comply with local data privacy laws. For example, eSIM is fundamental to enabling Tata MOVE’s global IoT connectivity, as it grows the business originally acquired from Teleena. Newer IoT entrant Pelion is seeking to transition all of its’ customers to eSIM, stating that most new RFPs now request support for it. Even Vodafone’s 901 global SIM-based global Data Service Platform (GDSP) is supporting eSIM now, for the sake of being an actual global connectivity service provider.
Kore Wireless’ new OmniSIM is part of a growing trend in utilizing eSIM to develop innovative products designed to make the lives of IoT customers easier. eSIM enables network switching but is rarely ever used by customers to change their serving provider. Instead, it is almost exclusively used for one-time network provisioning, after which a device stays on the same network for the rest of its lifetime. This is for the sake of centralized manufacturing, and localized activation. Even in the use of eSIM by Kore, Kore remains the contracted service provider, and its customers never need to know that any change in host network has occurred. All that matters to them is that their connected devices function continually and consistently, as a managed service. It will be interesting to see what other connectivity recipes Kore can concoct, to bake into IoT devices with eSIM.