Connectivity remains one of the biggest issues in any IoT deployment, and as IoT systems grow bigger both in terms of devices included and distance covered, we are getting closer to the reality of truly global IoT.
Cellular connectivity remains one of the favorite solutions for any company that is looking to implement an international or global-scale IoT system due to its scalability, reliability, and cost-effectiveness.
However, with so many different network providers and IoT data plans available, choosing the right IoT data plan for your business can be quite confusing. This is why below we will discuss some important factors to consider when choosing between different IoT data plans. By weighing these different criteria, you can make a more informed decision for the best data plan according to your IoT deploymentís needs.
Factors To Consider When Choosing an IoT Data Plan
- Cost and Flexibility
The most important factor to consider in a data plan is whether itís going to be cost-effective for your specific IoT implementation. However, in the case of IoT deployment, this can be a complex discussion to have.
First, all IoT deployments are unique, and they might have different features from different data plans. So, simply choosing the most affordable plan might not cut it if the data plan doesnít offer a specific feature required by the data plan. For example, an IoT system might require the network provider to regularly send SMS triggers to the device/sensor, which might cost more.
Another important consideration here is scalability. If you plan to add more devices in the future, will the plan include some hidden costs? If so, it might translate into a massive increase in costs as you add more devices and scale your IoT network.
So, the general principle is to look for the most affordable plan that offers the features you absolutely need while also considering whether the data plan is future-proof.
This factor is especially important if you are planning to scale your IoT network. Nowadays, regional or even global IoT networks are pretty common, and you might want to consider whether you are going to use mobile IoT devices (i.e. unmanned vehicles) in the future. If thatís the case, you might want to find a data plan that offers regional or global coverage with established tier-1 networks.
Above anything else, you should make sure the data plan has reliable coverage in areas your IoT network will be deployed in. You can check the coverage map/list offered by the network provider, as some specialize in certain regions but not the others.
Another important consideration is roaming charges across regions. Look for a provider that allows you to seamlessly switch between different networks in different locations without charging you those expensive roaming charges. This is important for implementations like IoT vehicles that might move between regions and networks all the time.
- Network Compatibilities
4G LTE isnít the only network that is used by IoT sensors and devices. Older sensors might need 3G or even 2G networks, while newer IoT devices might support the brand new 5G connectivity.
There are also cellular connectivity options that are specially developed for IoT with lower power consumptions like Cat-M LTE and NB-IoT (NarrowBand IoT). Truphone for Things data plans and IoT SIM cards, for example, offer the ability to choose between 2G, 3G, 4G, and Cat-M while also offering a global network coverage.
- Device Management and Support
This is a factor unique to IoT data plans, where managing a lot of interconnected devices in a massive IoT network can be a very complex task.
A proper IoT data plan should offer a device management solution where you can easily manage your devices in a single app, and even perform remote provisioning and customizations. Even if your IoT system is currently small, itís important to consider future-proofing your system by having a data plan that offers a robust device management solution.
Customer support, preferably 24/7, is also an important factor to consider. In an IoT system where real-time data transaction is very important, immediate troubleshooting when problems arise is required.
Cybersecurity threats have been on the rise in recent years, and many cyber criminals are now targeting IoT devices and sensors Ė a lot of them are more vulnerable than computers.
So, security should be your top concern when choosing between different IoT data plans and providers. Different network providers might offer different approaches to security, but you should at least look for basic security measures like VPN/APN features, multilayer network support, routing, and transport security features.
Again, a network provider that offers 24/7 customer support and preferably network monitoring is very important so you can notice any cybersecurity issues as soon as possible and get immediate help when required.
Managing your IoT connectivity costs can be a very complex task when your IoT network includes hundreds of devices and sensors in different locations.
Again, itís best to partner with a network provider with a future-proof infrastructure that also offers transparency and simplicity in its pricing. Make sure it wonít charge any hidden fees like unexpected roaming charges, data overages fee, and so on.
In general, make sure you can easily calculate your total costs and your cost per device, so you can be sure about how much you should pay if you add more devices as you scale your IoT system.
Tips To Optimize Your Connectivity Costs
Here are some actionable tips you can implement to optimize your connectivity costs:
- Check whether your network provider charges any fixed fees for each SIM per month. This is to ensure the fees are only applicable for activated SIM cards, since in IoT networks some devices may lay dormant for a while.
- IoT devices typically only use a small amount of data but will repeatedly access the network. However, calculating the actual data usage of your IoT devices might be difficult. Itís better to get a data plan with a pay-as-use pricing model with a data limit. Some network providers also offer pooling plans to better accommodate scalability. Make sure to get the most cost-efficient data plan according to your systemís needs and use cases.
- Consider coverage fees, which are the fees incurred when you exceed your data rate limit. Make sure you have enough according to your needs and avoid shoddy providers that charge hefty coverage fees.
- For moving IoT devices, always consider potential roaming charges in your calculations.
If you want your IoT data plan to keep performing reliably as your deployment scales, you have to make sure your network provider actually offers a dedicated IoT data plan and not just a standard plan advertised as ďfor IoTĒ. Especially look for providers that offer an IoT device management system where you can onboard and manage your devices in one place.
Consider a network partner that offers transparency in cost and ensures its pricing model is future-proof according to your scalability plan.