eUICC capability is one of the current drivers of flexibility and composability in the ongoing uptake of IoT. Setting up an eUICC-powered IoT solution means to check for compatibility across all critical elements along the value chain, starting with choice the IoT connectivity provider or the SIM provider but of course also including the selection of compatible eUICC IoT hardware. Enclosed we give you a comprehensive guide over major features, trends, and relevant players around eUICC-capable IoT hardware, modules, and chipsets to allow you getting more familiar with the IoT ecosystem.
What eUICC Compatible Modules Are Present in the IoT Market?
a. eUICC Functionality
One should understand that there’s no IoT module category like ‘eUICC modules.’ While the top module players remain the same, some devices might comprise eUICC functionality or built-in support for eUICC technology, while others might not. The older models are more likely to be deprived of this technology. At the same time, eUICC SIM specifications like the form factor, which implies specific slot or embedment, roaming agreements, and support of complementary network technologies, should also be considered. There is no universal database on whether specific modules of a separate provider support eUICC, so our strong advice will always be to check hardware specifications and ask a vendor.
b. eUICC-Capable Module Vendors and Models
The list of trusted module providers in the IoT hardware industry is quite long, including Thales, Telit, Sunsea AIoT, SIMCOM, u-blox, Quectel, and Sierra Wireless. However, it’s more important to make sure that a specific provider’s model supports eUICC capability. Let’s go through a few of them:
Thales Cinterion PLS8. This is a 4G LTE Cat-1 module with eUICC support. The Peak Download Rate of the module is up to 100 Mbps, while the Peak Upload Rate - up to 50 Mbps. The temperature frames are between -40°C and +85°C. The module works with global coverage, without specifying separate targeted regions. Find more details here.
Sierra Wireless MC7421. An optimized 4G LTE connectivity module that is a part of the MC Series and provides high speed connectivity. It delivers 300Mbps of peak download and 100Mpbs upload rate, offers sXGP and is based on the PCI Express Mini Card standard. The temperature range covers -30°C / +70°C, -40°C / +85°C. Targeted for EMEA and Asia Pacific. Learn more.
SIM7100E by SIMCOM. It supports 4G LTE, 3G, and 2G, and is a part of SIMCom’s SIM7100 series. The peak download rate of SIM7100E is up to 100 Mbps (4G LTE), and the peak upload rate is up to 50 Mbps (4G LTE). It utilizes the standard mini-SIM (2FF) card. It is a global module designed to work in various regions worldwide within temperature ranges typically between -40°C to +85°C. Find more about the module.
Quectel EC21-EU. It supports 4G LTE, 3G, and 2G, and is a part of Quectel EC21 series. The peak download and upload rates are 300 Mbps and 50 Mbps correspondingly. It utilizes the standard mini-SIM (2FF) card. It is specifically designed for the European market, but it can also work in other regions with compatible network frequencies. The operating temperature ranges for EC21-EU are specified as -40°C to +85°C. Learn about Quectel module.
Besides the modules mentioned above, we have encountered further modules being used that support eUICC functionality. Note that the list below is based on desk research, it is recommended to reach out to the manufacturer directly to check about the required eUICC functionality for your specific use case:
Other Module Capabilities
Radio Access Technologies (RAT) (2G, 3G, 4G, 5G) and respective categories (the most frequent ones include LTE Cat 1, LTE Cat 1bis, LTE-M, or NB-IoT). Choosing the right options depends on the locations where the IoT device is going to be deployed, the scale (number of devices and their distribution), data requirements including volume and frequency of data transmission, as well as overall cost with this capability.
Frequency Bands and HSPA+. The supported frequencies are not always provided in the device specifications. Instead, there are usually the numbers of the frequency bands. HSPA+, short for "Evolved High Speed Packet Access" or HSPA Plus, is a wireless broadband standard that offers enhanced data transfer speeds, reaching up to 42.2 megabits per second (Mbps). In essence, HSPA+ serves as a hybrid network, combining the capabilities of both 3G and 4G technology to deliver faster connectivity. It’s a bridge between traditional 3G and the higher speeds associated with 4G networks. HSPA+ operates within specific frequency bands, and the latter can vary depending on the network operator and the geographic location. For example, B1 refers to Band 1, which corresponds to the 2100 MHz frequency band. B2 refers to Band 2, which is commonly associated with the 1900 MHz frequency band. These bands are used for transmitting and receiving signals in HSPA+ networks.
Data speed. When choosing an IoT module, it is essential to consider the data speed requirements of your IoT application. Each IoT module supports definite data speed, including peak download and upload rates depending on the cellular technology. For instance, 4G LTE modules can achieve peak download speeds of several hundred Mbps, and peak upload speeds of tens of Mbps. Emerging technologies like 5G offer even higher peak data rates, potentially reaching multi-Gbps download and upload speeds. For example:
Peak Download Rate: Several hundred Mbps (e.g., 300 Mbps, 600 Mbps)
Peak Upload Rate: Tens of Mbps (e.g., 50 Mbps, 75 Mbps)
Peak Download Rate: Gigabits per second (Gbps) (e.g., 1 Gbps, 3 Gbps)
Peak Upload Rate: Gigabits per second (Gbps) (e.g., 500 Mbps, 1.5 Gbps)
Device certification. IoT modules should obtain regulatory and compliance certifications to meet specific requirements set by regulatory bodies and network operators in different regions. Such regulations may include:
Regulatory compliance, which implies radio frequency emissions, electromagnetic capability, safety. Here, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), and the Telecommunication Engineering Center (TEC) in India, are involved as regulatory bodies.
Operator Certification ensures compatibility and proper functioning on operator networks within 2G, 3G, 4G LTE, or 5G technologies. Such certifications can be represented by Verizon Open Development Certification, AT&T IoT Device Certification, and Vodafone Global Certification.
There are also Global Certifications that work across multiple countries and networks and provide global recognition, such as Global Certification Forum (GCF) and the PTCRB (formerly known as PCS Type Certification Review Board). These kinds of certification ensure IoT modules compatibility with a wide range of networks and regions.
In addition, depending on unique requirements, specific technical regulations or frequency bands, there can be regional certifications. IoT module hardware. There're several key hardware factors specified by vendors that should be considered when selecting IoT module: dimensions, antenna options, and temperature range capabilities. Dimensions simply determine the size and form factor of the IoT device. There are surface-mount modules, modules with edge connectors, or modules designed for specific IoT use cases; therefore, any size restrictions, design peculiarities, available space, or additional requirements should be taken into account. In terms of antennas, they can be external or internal (built-in), possess different radiation pattern, frequency bands discussed above as well as different signal strength, measured using metrics such as Received Signal Strength Indicator (RSSI) or Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR).
Form factor and temperature ranges. The module form factor is directly related to its physical size, shape, and interface peculiarities. In order to sustain space efficiency, a module should be chosen so that it fits within the constraints of the device’s housing. There must always be compatibility between the module’s form factor and the device’s PCB (Printed Circuit Board) layout, which ensures appropriate connection and stability. It may seem that IoT modules dictate their form factor standards, but indeed the industry does. These industry standards include PCI-SIG (Peripheral Component Interconnect Special Interest Group), which specifies form factors such as Mini PCI Express or M.2 for connectivity modules. Furthermore, choosing a module supporting more widely adopted form factors means the module and device itself will serve longer.
Depending on the location and goal of the IoT device, the environment and temperature in particular will vary. IoT module providers often specify the temperature ranges within which the device will function without excessive risks. The wider temperature frames are specified, the more flexibility modules possess in changing environments.
Location services. These services enable accurate device positioning and tracking via different satellite systems including Galileo, GLONASS, GPS, and BeiDou Global Positioning System. The choice of a system mostly relies on regional coverage requirements and compatibility with existing infrastructure. A lot of IoT modules provide multiple satellite systems support.
Embedded software. This includes firmware and system drivers that enable proper functioning of an IoT device. Firmware is software that is permanently programmed into IoT module memory and gives all necessary instructions for the module to perform its basic functions. Firmware is responsible for controlling the module’s hardware, managing communication protocols, handling data processing, and executing various tasks specific to the IoT application. Together they ensure reliable operation and optimal performance of IoT devices.
Some other module specifications may include interfaces (USB 2.0, USB 3.0) and planned carriers.
Trends and Figures
In 2021, the cellular IoT module market experienced a 39 percent increase in shipments and a 54% growth in revenue. In 2022 –2023, this growth continued, proving sustained demand. Five vendors – Quectel, Fibocom, Sunsea AIoT, Thales, and Telit – make up 68% of the market in terms of revenues. Significantly, China-based module providers, like Quectel and Fibocom, which are fueled by the dramatic growth in the domestic IoT market, reached 55% of global cellular module demand.
4G LTE dominates the market, with LTE Cat-1, NB-IoT, and LTE-M gradually replacing the 2G and 3G technologies. LTE Cat-1 Chinese domestic chipsets showed high price competitiveness and thus broader adoption in devices in comparison with other LTE Cat-1 platforms. Nb-IoT module shipments remained more concentrated within China, with major international demand within the smart metering industries.
LTE Cat-1 are also widespread in North America, Europe, and part of the Asia-Pacific region, while LTE-M is an alternative for the reduced power consumption and long lifecycle requests of IoT the devices. LTE-M surpasses NB-IoT shipments outside of China due to its ability to perform over-the-air software upgrades. 5G NR module shipments are also gaining momentum, especially in smart vehicles and IoT gateways, where higher speed is required.
With adopting eUICC capability in IoT SIM cards, the leading module and chipset vendors are on their way to ensure their products are compatible with eUICC technology.
Find out more about eUICC in our short guideline.