Cellular connectivity can be rather expensive, and in the IoT realms, new LTE standards are still evolving and you may want to manage your own mini cellular network, so ideally we would need a provider that offers both low cost and flexibility. Hologram LTE network does both as it’s a software-defined network, and pricing starts at $5 for the SIM card and $0.40 per month per device.
The company also just announced that their network was available for global deployment with the service available in more than 170 countries via partnerships through over 200 cellular carriers. The SIM card supports automatic roaming and carrier switching, and spacebridge inbound tunnel access allows for secure remote programming and device management.
The SIM card specifications are as follows:
- 2G/GPRS, 3G HSPDA, 4G LTE
- Read/Write Cycles: Min. 500,000
- Operating Temperature: -25°C ~ 85°C
- Data Retention: Min. 25 years at 25°C
- Triple-cut for Mini, Micro, and Nano SIM formats
- Mini: 15 x 25mm
- Micro: 12 x 15mm
- Nano: 8.8 x 12.3mm
Pricing is divided into zone 1 (cyan) and zone 2 (purple blue) depending in the country where the SIM card operates, with the latter being more expensive.
Within each zone there are two pricing methods, with pay-as-you-go plans with a fixed platform fee per month plus a charge per megabyte, or monthly plans with a fixed amount of data. For example, a SIM card in zone 1 would cost a $0.40 platform fee per month plus $0.60 per megabyte (charged per KB), or $3.99 for 10MB of data, while a SIM card operating in zone 2 would be $0.40 platform fee per month plus $0.85 per MB, or $6.99 for a monthly 10MB plan. You can also choose monthly plans with less or more data up to 500MB per month, except in the US where the company offers high bandwidth monthly plans up to 5GB per month. Inbound SMS are free, and outbound SMS cost $0.19 per MB or $0.30 per MB depending on your zone. You’ll find all details on the pricing page.
While the SIM card costs $5, you can try the service for free by “purchasing” a developer SIM card that comes with 1MB data per month. I ordered one with DEVPLANBLASTOFF promo code for free shipping. I’ll see if I ever receive it, and whether I can use it where I live, since in theory all SIM cards must be registered with an ID card or passport to work, and mandatory fingerprinting is coming next year.
You can certainly use the SIM card on your own hardware, but the company can also provide Hologram Dash board based on Ublox Sara-U260 2G/3G module, and kits such as the one above with components, sensors, cables, and other accessories. The documentation explains how to get started with Dash board, the SIM card, and cloud messaging and APIs.
Hologram is not the only company offering pay-as-you-go and monthly plans for cellular IoT, as Particle (previously Spark) has offered an inexpensive monthly plan for a little while, but it does not relies on an SDN implemtation. You’ll find further information and details on Hologram website.