M2M Machine-to-machine technology concept. Hand Pressing button on virtual screen.


2024 will be an exciting year for the IoT: the expansion of LTE-M and NB-IoT will enable new Industry 4.0 applications. 2G is about to be switched off, while 5G is being rolled out. And for the first time, an eUICC standard is being tested that might be suitable for IoT applications. However, this rapid progress must not ignore the issue of security.

5G expansion is only driving IoT to a limited extent

Network operators around the world are implementing 5G in their mobile network structures, with private individuals being the main beneficiaries. For IoT solutions, 5G has so far played a rather subordinate role: building penetration is poorer and power consumption is higher than with other wireless technologies. On the other hand, 5G supports more users per cell and scores with low latency. Another advantage of 5G is the significant increase in data rates. With up to 10 Gbit/s – which is around 10-100 times faster than 4G (100 Mbit/s to 1 Gbit/s) – it is primarily relevant for IoT applications that were previously limited by lower data rates.

Use cases for which the increased number of users per cell is advantageous include payment and ticket systems at large events, festivals and mass events. The higher data throughput benefits camera systems, for example, which evaluate AI-controlled videos in newer IoT solutions and require a corresponding throughput. These include, for example, the monitoring of construction sites or applications with emotion recognition in the field of elderly care. Telemedicine use cases, such as a live connection to an emergency doctor in a moving ambulance, are also conceivable and will be able to access the required connection quality for the first time with 5G. It is important to keep in mind that data speeds and mass suitability come at the expense of energy efficiency and power consumption. This means that 5G is not a solution for many IoT devices whose use is primarily dependent on low data and low energy consumption.  

NB-IoT and LTE-M: Wireless Technologies for the IoT

NB-IoT (Narrowband IoT) and LTE-M (Long-Term Evolution for Machines) are wireless technologies specially developed for IoT applications. In contrast to 5G, where energy efficiency only plays a secondary role, these LPWAN technologies (Low Power Wide Area Networks) aim to achieve the most energy-efficient data transmission possible. This opens up new use cases for companies in the IoT sector, from smart cities to Industry 4.0. Due to their good range and building penetration, they are also suitable alternatives to 2G – provided they are sufficiently widespread. NB-IoT and LTE-M-capable end devices are currently still mostly equipped with a 2G fallback due to the current “patchwork” network coverage. Both technologies should be largely implemented by the time 2G is finally switched off, which will probably be the case in 2025/2026.

Energy-efficient Data Transmission for IoT Devices

Both LTE-M and NB-IoT set new standards in terms of energy-efficient data transmission. NB-IoT performs slightly better than LTE-M. But this comes at a price: unlike LTE-M, NB-IoT only supports very low data rates (up to 250 kbit/s), neither voice calls nor cell handover and has a higher latency (1.6 – 10 s). However, NB-IoT is a game changer for stationary end devices that only transmit small amounts of data over long periods of time and require long battery life. Smart metering, industrial automation and the transmission of sensor data in the agricultural sector are just some of the areas that benefit from this.

Better Penetration and Reach for Industry 4.0 Applications

Due to the greater range and better building penetration in difficult environments such as underground or remote locations, both LTE-M and NB-IoT are ideal for Industry 4.0. Both standards enable a reliable connection in basements, warehouses or production and industrial halls. The range of NB-IoT is slightly greater, therefore LTE-M is a reliable option for mobile devices thanks to seamless handover support. LTE-M also supports voice, which makes it suitable for emergency call systems, for example.

Data Ratesvery high – up to 10 Gbit/slower – up to 1 Mbit/slow – up to 250 kbit/s
Latency<1 ms< 1 s1.6 – 10 s
Energy Efficiency+++++
Tim Mueller, wherever SIM

eUICC: an upcoming revolution for the IoT?

The idea behind eUICC (embedded Universal Integrated Circuit Card) – changing the network operator profile on a SIM card remotely without having to change the physical SIM card – is not new. There have already been some attempts to implement this, although they are not fully developed. In reality, there were major hurdles to overcome: Unsuitable standards, high integration effort and extremely high costs. As a result, there are only a handful of successful eUICC projects to date.

All good things come in threes: New eUICC standard for the IoT

If we look at the growth to date and, above all, the further growth potential of the IoT market, the introduction of a new standard is actually long overdue. In 2023, the GSMA has now made a new attempt. The “IoT Standard” is the first concept to be presented that has potential for success. Unlike the previous approach (m2m or automotive standard; GSMA SGP.02), the profile change here involves significantly less integration effort and costs. The IoT standard is also geared towards LPWAN technologies for the first time, which solves the problems associated with the high power consumption of the m2m standard.

No mass adoption of eUICC before 2025

The advantages of eUICC for companies are obvious: more flexibility, easier scalability, more efficient SIM and IoT device management, simpler international connectivity, especially in countries with restrictive regulations, higher security standards plus protection against SIM card manipulation. However, it will be a while before we get there. Initial tests are planned for early 2024, and the IoT standard would be ready for mass use in 2025 at the earliest. It will be interesting to see whether the development that started in 2023 will pick up speed this year. If so, eUICC has the potential to turn the IoT landscape upside down in the long term.

Rapid IoT growth puts security at a disadvantage

With increasing amounts of data and even greater networking of systems, the issue of security must be anchored more deeply in corporate structures and thought about in a more modern way. It is frightening to see the increasing number of cases where companies are negligent in their handling of sensitive data and critical infrastructure. In the last year alone, DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) traffic originating from IoT botnets has increased fivefold. The number of IoT devices involved has risen to almost one million (up from 200,000), accounting for more than 40% of all DDoS traffic. There is a huge potential risk here and a lot of catching up to do.

wherever SIM: IoT expertise from Germany

Germany-based wherever SIM offers M2M SIM cards with flexible data tariffs exclusively for enterprise customers. The SIM cards support national roaming, enabling IoT devices to send and receive data via the mobile network, always using the strongest network at any location worldwide. Together with strong international partners and their extensive IoT market expertise, the company continuously develops its services – always based on the needs of their corporate customers. To date, wherever SIM has successfully implemented more than 1,000 IoT projects all over the world for enterprise customers like Hewlett Packard (hp), SEAT Mo or Viessmann.