FAQ FOR PYCOM’S VODAFONE NB-IOT SIMS AND AIRTIME PROVISION

Here are some of the questions we think you might ask about Vodafone’s NB-IoT SIMs and associated Services prior to ordering and purchasing. The questions we address here are general and not technical. If you are looking for set up information, configuration details or scripts to run on your device, please head over to docs.pycom.io where you’ll find everything you need to use once you have your SIM(s) in hand.

If you end up  reading through this document and still have questions, please send them to sales@pycom.io where we’ll try and get back to you as quickly as possible.

Let’s go!

General Information about Vodafone Cellular Connectivity Services

 

What is NB-IoT?

NB-IoT is a LPWA network type which helps to minimise the power consumption of connected devices, while increasing system capacity and spectral efficiency. This means wider network coverage in areas that wouldn’t necessarily be covered by existing cellular technologies.

Pycom’s GPy, FiPy and G01 supports NB-IoT and Cat-M1 (LTE-M).

The GSMA is an excellent source of information for everything related to LPWA Networks such as NB-IoT, also sometimes referred to as Narrowband IoT or Cat-NB1.

Check it out here: https://www.gsma.com/iot/mobile-iot-technology-nb-iot/

 

Vodafone also offers their own Narrowband-IoT overview here: https://www.vodafone.com/business/news-and-insights/blog/gigabit-thinking/enabling-the-internet-of-things-with-nb-iot

 

 

Is NB-IoT different from 2/3/4G?

Yes. Packet data services over NB-IoT are functionally comparable to those over other mobile technologies but with a couple of differences:

  • Restriction in Real-World Internet Access: The hardware enables only UDP transport over IP and the destination IP is typically not a real world one. This enables better security for the devices and users.
  • Works with devices that go to sleep, as is often the case in IoT: The PDP connections over NB-IoT can remain in place with an IP address still assigned to the device even when the device is asleep. In this situation packet sent towards the device will simply be discarded by the network.

 

Why is Pycom providing Vodafone NB-IoT SIM Cards?

Over the past few years, Pycom has been in receipt of many a request for access to SIM cards. In many cases, it’s still difficult for the large mobile carriers to provide SIMs in 1s and 2s or even quantities of 10 or 20. With its already low-touch platform and ordering process, Pycom is perfectly positioned to remove the barriers to access and so we have.

We will be adding a global CAT-M1 provision to the mix very soon.

More about Vodafone and NB-IoT can be found here: https://www.vodafone.com/business/iot/managed-iot-connectivity/nb-iot

 

NETWORK COVERAGE

 

What networks will the SIMs work on?

The GSMA keeps a close eye on network roll outs and publicises them here:

https://www.gsma.com/iot/rollout-vodafone/

 

The list currently includes:

New Zealand LTE-M (CAT-M1)
The Netherlands NB-IoT and LTE-M (CAT-M1)
Australia (JV) NB-IoT
Czech Republic NB-IoT
Germany NB-IoT
Greece NB-IoT
Hungary NB-IoT
Ireland NB-IoT
Italy NB-IoT
Malta NB-IoT
New Zealand NB-IoT
Portugal NB-IoT
Spain NB-IoT
South Africa NB-IoT
The Netherlands NB-IoT
Turkey NB-IoT
United Kingdom NB-IoT
Ukraine NB-IoT

 

Pycom has tested the networks in the following countries: Australia, Germany, Ireland, Spain, The Netherlands and the UK and the service worked well.

We will also continue to collect feedback from customers in other territories.

The NB-IoT SIMs Pycom provides should be able to connect to any Vodafone home network. There are some exceptions so please check if in doubt.

NOTE: It should be noted that Vodafone reserves the right to modify the Networks and/or the Network Tiers they are associated with for commercial or regulatory reasons (including without limit where it enters into new roaming agreements and/or terminates existing roaming agreements). This is beyond Pycom’s control.

 

How will I know if it works in my local area?

Pycom is not responsible for the Vodafone Network roll out and doesn’t have any influence on where the network bases stations are enabled with NB-IoT.

As a rule of thumb, if you have a Vodafone 4G availability in your area there is a chance that this might be one that Vodafone will enable for NB-IoT.

The official statement for network coverage map from Vodafone is for 17 roll outs:

 

  • Spain
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Netherlands
  • Australia
  • Turkey
  • Czech Republic
  • South Africa
  • Germany
  • New Zealand
  • Malta
  • Greece
  • UK
  • Portugal
  • Hungary

Partner markets:

 

  • -TDC
  • -Maxis

 

The list will continue to evolve, and we would consider it prudent to check with Vodafone if you are considering a deployment with them.

https://www.vodafone.com/business/iot/managed-iot-connectivity/nb-iot#narrowbandiot-nbiot

 

What happens if I find out that there is no Vodafone network in my area?

You should check network availability in your area of use before ordering SIMs with Pycom.

It would be a shame to go through the hassle of ordering and paying for the SIM card and contract only to find that there’s no network available.

Check NB-IoT coverage in your specific location of use.

 

 

Ordering SIMs

 

How can I order Vodafone SIMs?

You can order SIMs when you purchase your Pycom devices or alternatively on their own from Pycom’s webshop. For larger quantities the SIMs can be ordered via email to sales@pycom.io.

What’s the process for subscribing to cellular airtime provision from Vodafone?

 

When you order SIMs from Pycom’s webshop you will be asked to sign a contract.

Once the contract is signed, there are fees associated with cancelling. Therefore, it’s important to pick a subscription/prepay package that matches your needs.

During the ordering you will be asked to select the term you wish to subscribe to the network services. The current terms available are 36 months, 24 months and 12 months.

You will also be asked to select a data package. You have a choice between 60KB/month, 1024KB/month and 4320KB/Month.

During the order process, you will be asked for your Pybytes account details. This is because the SIMs will be added to your Pybytes account.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The SIMs can only be used with a Pycom device on Pybytes. It is not possible for Pycom to provide Vodafone SIMs that do not connect to Pybytes.

 

 

Billing

 

We give you a choice between prepaid and monthly billing.

Supported payment methods are Stripe, credit card, and Apple Pay on our webshop. We accept Bank Transfer for larger quantities of SIMs.

All the payment information is outlined in our General Terms of Service.

 

 

What types of SIM does Pycom provide?

 

As standard, Pycom provides traditional SIM (UICC). This is a plastic Nano SIM card, also known as a formfactor called 4FF.

These are the only SIM supported by our GPy, G01 and FiPy.

These standard SIMs support up to 500,000 read/write cycles.

Pycom can provide industrial 4FF SIMs upon request. We can also provide chip SIMs (MFF2) that have to be soldered onto the circuit board during production.

To discuss, please contact our sales team via email to sales@pycom.io.

 

What services are available with the Vodafone NB-IoT SIMs?

Technical Component Included Price information
Shared internet APN Please email sales@pycom.io
Private Corporate APN with IPSEC Please email sales@pycom.io
Private Internet APN Please email sales@pycom.io
Private Corporate APN with Dual IPSEC Please email sales@pycom.io
Private Corporate APN to VRF Please email sales@pycom.io

 

 

SIM Activation and Provisioning

 

How do I activate and provision my SIMs?

Once you have received your SIM in the post, please head over to Pybytes (http://pybytes.pycom.io)

 

Will the SIMs work with non-Pycom devices?

In principle the SIM is the same as all other Vodafone NB-IoT SIMs.

However, to deliver the service in accordance with Vodafone Terms and Conditions, Pycom’s NB-IoT connectivity provision has been configured to work only with Pycom’s Pybytes platform.

This is not to lock users in but a function of how Vodafone sets up the provision with their airtime partners using a non-real-world IP address to secure the data transfer.

 

 

DATA, MONTHLY ALLOWANCE & COSTS

 

What is a data Session?

Data Sessions are measured on a 1KB basis and generally rounded up to the nearest KB. For a small number of Connected Networks this may vary but Vodafone will pass on the rounding from the Connected Network provider.

Data used in a session can only be registered once the session has been terminated. It will only be available to view shortly thereafter.

How is Data Usage billed?

Data usage is billed on a per KB basis.

 

How much data can I send / receive from/to the devices

The allowance on Pycom’s Vodafone NB-IoT SIMs is classed in 3 sets:

  • 4320KB / Month
  • 1024KB/Month
  • 60KB/Month

 

It is not possible to use more data than the contract stipulates.

Once the data threshold has been reached for the month, the SIM will be entered into a suspended state.

 

Can I pool my data between various SIMs?

Yes, this is possible for larger estates of SIMs..

 

What happens if I go over my data allowance?

It is not possible to use more data than the contract stipulates.

 

Can I use the NB-IoT network for Voice?

No

 

Can I use the NB-IoT network for location-based updates?

Yes, location is supported in Pybytes and you can see where you device is located via triangulation.

 

 

Can I request additional data for my subscription and how much is that?

It is not possible to increase the data allowance on a SIM beyond the 4320KB/Month. If your data needs change during your use, please contact Pycom via email to sales@pyccom.io.

 

Where do I go to find my networking data?

You will be able to find your data in the Pybytes platform. It is associated to the SIM card you have used in your Pycom device(s)

 

 

DATA, REPORTING & VISUALISATION

 

Reporting

This is work in progress with our implementation on Pybytes. Our SIM and session reports are still being developed and you will find updates over the summer of 2020.

 

How do I know when I reach my monthly allowance?

You will receive an email from Pycom

 

Can I use my own backend/management platform for the connectivity?

In the future, it will be possible to pull your connectivity data from Pybytes. This is not yet enabled. Pycom anticipates that this will be enabled in Q3 2020.

 

Can I pull data from Pybytes?

We are working on a set of APIs is available for Pybytes so you can pull data from your devices into your own platform.

Please see the docs portal for this information.

 

AIRTIME CONTRACT TERMS

 

What’s the Length of the contract?

The SIMs are on a 36 months initial contract term. Unless terminated earlier, the Agreement will continue after the Initial Term until ended in accordance with its terms or otherwise amended by mutual consent. The first 12 months are billed up front.

 

Who will my airtime contract be with?

Pycom is an authorised Vodafone Airtime Reseller and so your airtime contract is with Pycom.

 

What state will my SIM ship in?

All SIMs will be supplied in an Active Suspend mode. They need to be activated on the Pybytes Portal. here are the typical states a SIM can be in and the meaning of that state:

SIM State Description
Active Suspend The SIM is recognised by Network but incapable communication until manually set to Active Live
Active Sleep The SIM is removed from the network following 2 months in Active Suspend state until manually set to Active Live
Active Standby The SIM is recognised by the Network but incapable of communication and will automatically transition to Active-Live on the first Data Session
Inactive-Stopped The SIM is incapable of communication and will be automatically be transitioned to Terminated after a 1-month period. During the 1 month period SIMs can be reactivated again.
Terminated The SIM has been permanently removed from the Network, will not be capable of communication and cannot be reactivated again
 

When does billing start for my SIM card?

From shipment date.

 

Will I be charged monthly or annually?

Monthly or upfront depending on what package you purchased.

This does not apply to Prepaid subscriptions.

 

What is the renewal process?

We will contact you prior to expiration of service.

 

Can I order Vodafone SIMs for non-Pycom Devices

No… sorry! The SIMs are specifically enabled for Pycom devices and cloud. We do not charge for the use of our cloud so fear not! Just insert the SIMs and enjoy!

 

How do I order other services with my SIM cards (Private APNs and Security Services such as IPV6/IPSec..)?

Good old fashioned email/phone call to support@pycom.io

 

Can I cancel the subscription?

Once the SIMs are in use on the network is it no longer possible to cancel the subscription. Pycom is on the hook for your 3 years of subscription and so would kindly ask that you honour the terms of the  contract.

 

 

 

SECURITY

We are very serious about data security! Your devices will be supported by an airtime service with an encrypted end-to-end data connection from each endpoint to Pycom’s back-end systems in Pybytes. By default, your devices connect to Pybytes over a shared APN using a dynamic IP address. But, if you wish, you can opt for a dedicated private access point name (APN) and dynamic, fixed or mixed IP allocations over a range of connections including IPSec tunnels and leased lines. Only devices and assets with SIMs assigned to your organisation can transfer data via the dedicated APN — preventing unauthorised access.

We can also protect your devices from making unauthorised data transfers. We offer device-specific credentials and IMEI locks so that your SIMs only work in the devices you specify.

The link connecting Vodafone’s Global IoT Platform web services server and our Pybytes back-end systems is secured, too, using HTTPS. The implementation includes server and client certificates, protecting our entire IoT infrastructure.

 

  

SUPPORT

 

For support on Pycom devices, please read our NB-IoT Trouble Shooting Guide, here: COMING SOON!

If you already know you need support with the set up and getting things running, please check out our support packets. Simply put, it’s €120/hour and we’re happy to help you get off to a good start.

While our NB-IoT enabled devices are all exactly the same, all combinations of networks and IoT applications functionality present opportunity for variance. If you think there’s something odd going on and you need support, please raise a ticket here and one of our developers will come back to you as soon as possible.

 

 

 

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