18 Replies Latest reply: Apr 23, 2013 9:18 AM by Marissa Iovino RSS

low volume M2M plans

Tom Metro Newbie

I'm looking for recommendations for an M2M plan that would be most cost effective for low volumes - both data and number of devces. This would be for in-house use in network and security monitoring and would likely not exceed 10 devices (some located in the US and some in Canada), nor a few MB per month.

 

We've looked at consumer-grade pre-paid plans, which seem inexpensive initially at $100/year, but they're limited to one device per plan, so that extrapolates out to $1000/year.

 

The carriers seem to keep the information on M2M plans well hidden. I see some helpful info at jasperwireless.com (which led me here), but still the plan pricing is nowhere to be found on the carrier sites. Presumably because the data volume, number of devices, and other factors go into quoting a plan for a high volume M2M user.

 

Here:

http://www.embeddedworks.net/psummary.php?mn=wsim&mid=mwsim4022

 

I see a Sprint US/Canada plan that runs about $100/year + $10 per device, but this is CDMA. We'd prefer to use GSM (GPRS, etc.).

 

Thanks,

-Tom

  • Re: low volume M2M plans
    Apprentice

    Hi Tim,

     

    for the volumes you are talking about it may be better to approach a service reseller.

     

    Cheers

    Sandy

  • Re: low volume M2M plans
    Newbie

    CrossBridge Solutions is a MVNO that specializes in low volume rate plans and solutions you can email me and I can have you up an running in days.  We offer both CDMA and GSM plans, and are global.

    cspeaks@crossbridgesolutions.com

  • Re: low volume M2M plans
    Newbie

    A while ago I emailed a bunch of the service providers whose logos appear at the bottom of this page. Only one actually got back to me. The cheapest service plan from that company was a $50/month access fee and then a per-byte fee for each device (35KB for $3.49/month, on up to 250MB for $82/month). The monthly fees for the data packages are high, but tolerable, but that $50/month access fee is a deal breaker. Maybe if I was a large corporation with hundreds of devices over which I could amortize that $50 fee it would be all right, but I'm just an individual with a single device. I guess I'm not the kind of customer these providers want. AT&T doesn't want me, either; although they'll happily sell me 2GB of data for $25/month for an iPhone, their TOS explicitly prohibits the use of M2M devices.

     

    Bottom line, I had to give up on my vehicle tracking project because I cannot afford to pay for the cellular data service to run it.

    • Re: low volume M2M plans
      Tom Metro Newbie

      swarga wrote:

       

      The cheapest service plan from that company was a $50/month access fee and then a per-byte fee for each device...that $50/month access fee is a deal breaker.

      Likewise.

       

      Thanks to those above who recommended contactong resellers, but all who I contacted or whose sites I visited were valued-added resellers, and they charged significantly for the value-added aspect.

       

      This leaves someone like me, who is just looking for a bare-bones service offering, without any options. This is not good for the industry and is going to limit innovation by small startups.

       

      I can't turn to the carriers directly, because as far as I can see, carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile have no interest in offering M2M plans to small-time users. (The Sprint plan I referenced in my original post was the exception, but I want a GSM provider.) Is there a secrete number to call at AT&T to sign up for M2M plans?

       

      There's a business opportunity here for a low-overhead reseller. Someone with online, automated provisioning and self-service account creation. Fill-in your billing information, pick your plan, indicate how many SIM cards you want, and wait for them to show up in the mail.

       

      This has happened in many other industries, thanks to the Internet. Hopefully we'll see it happen in the M2M space.

       

      I know with limited spectrum being held by increasingly few carriers. there's little hope that we'll see a wave of data-only carriers emerge with M2M friendly plans. Resellers are pretty much the only hope.

       

      -Tom

  • Re: low volume M2M plans
    wstargardt Newbie

    Tom,

     

    I am not sure whom you contacted at Numerex or what response you received, but I think your real problem is your estimated data volume. For most network and security monitoring applications we see (and we see a lot), 2 MB per month is grossly excessive. And expensive. Part of the "value-added" that companies like Numerex provide is to work with application developers who are not accustomed to designing for usage charged networks to make their applications more communciations efficient.

     

    At 2MB monthly per device, you should still be able to get data plan offerings from MVNO's at a relativley reasonable price. Just keep in mind, however, that data communications costs on cellular networks for M2M devices is 1x to 2x orders of magnitude more expensive, measured as $/MB, than the data plans on consumer handsets. And as you have found, the carriers are not set up to deal with your type of user directly.

     

    Wayne Stargardt

    Numerex

    • Re: low volume M2M plans
      Tom Metro Newbie

      wstargardt wrote:

      I am not sure whom you contacted at Numerex or what response you received...

       

      I did not engage anyone at Numerex. I just reveiewed the web site, and got the impression I would be unlikely to find the service I was seeking there.

       

       

      ...I think your real problem is your estimated data volume. For most network and security monitoring applications we see (and we see a lot), 2 MB per month is grossly excessive.

       

      Could very well be. It was just a guess.

       

      In a security application, it doesn't seem unreasonable that you'll want to hear from a node as often as once per minute. This communicatuon is layered on top of TCP/IP, and I assume all the header overhead is part of the data being charged for. It seemed like 512 bytes was a conservative packet size estimate, especially if the packet contains a cryptographic token. Over 30 days, that runs about 21 MB.

       

      To acheive my "excessive" 2 MB guess, you'd need to get the per minute packets down to 48 bytes. Between IP and TCP headers you've lost 40 of those bytes (see http://sd.wareonearth.com/~phil/net/overhead/ ) or 28 if you use UDP. So that's between 8 and 20 bytes of payload. That's not much. Next option is to drop the ping frequency down to somethings like once per 10 minutes. Lots can happen in 10 minutes...

       

      Part of the "value-added" that companies like Numerex provide is to work  with application developers who are not accustomed to designing for  usage charged networks to make their applications more communciations  efficient.

       

      I'm sure that's true, but I'm acustomed to working on the open source model, where you gain (and share) information such as that from the community.

       

       

      At 2MB monthly per device, you should still be able to get data plan offerings from MVNO's at a relativley reasonable price.

       

      If the service starts out with a $50/month ($600/year) account administration fee, even if the 2 MB/month data usage was free, I'd have to have 6 deployed devices just to break even with a pre-paid SIM card (at about $100/year).

       

       

      ...data communications costs on cellular networks for M2M devices is 1x to  2x orders of magnitude more expensive, measured as $/MB, than the data  plans on consumer handsets...

       

      Orders of magnitude? So if I'm paying $1/MB on a consumer network (this is what T-Mobile charges when roaming in Canada; likely at the high end for cost), it'll be $10/MB or more on M2M?

       

      I guess we really need data-oriented wireless infrastructure to supplant the cell carriers...

       

      -Tom

  • Re: low volume M2M plans
    Harald Naumann Expert

    What about USD 0? Just use an standard Pay As You Go SIM card from any operator you like plus HTPP request. A Pay As You Go / prepaid SIM card has no monthly fee. A HTTP request is supported by any SIM card as well, because without smartphones are not able to use the Internet.

     

    If you like I can help with the source code for HTTP request plus a free of charge test server. If you are interested in testing, then send an email to harald.naumann (at) gsm-modem.de  or give me a call at +49-1755774832. I will present you my experience  (25 year in radio communication / 15 years in GSM and GPS). Thank you in  advance for any challenge.

    • Re: low volume M2M plans
      Tom Metro Newbie

      Harald Naumann wrote:

      Just use an standard Pay As You Go SIM card...

       

      I discussed the economics of pre-paid SIM cards in my original posting:

      I wrote:

      We've looked at consumer-grade pre-paid plans, which seem inexpensive initially at $100/year, but they're limited to one device per plan, so that extrapolates out to $1000/year.

       

      Harald Naumann wrote:

      What about USD 0?

      Even the least cost pre-paid plans require a yearly payment to avoid expiration, so $0 is rather an exaggeration.

       

      Additionally, I'm not aware of any US GSM carrier that offers a pay-as-you go (not monthly-no-contract) plan that includes data (unless you consider SMS to be data). For my personal cell phone I use T-Mobile, which I found to offer the best deal on (low volume) pre-paid plans, and they require that you use a fee-per-day (they charge $2 or $3 per day every day you have any cell carrier usage) plan in order to get data service. While this gets you unlimited data, if you attempted to use it in a monitoring application (where you ping the device daily or more often) for 10 devices, you'd end up paying $7300/year ($2 day * 365 days * 10 devices).

       

      Then there is Canada, the other market I'm interested in, and T-Mobile is the only US GSM carrier that even lets you roam in Canada with a pre-paid plan. Data service while roaming runs something like $10/megabyte, if it works at all. Last I looked, the pre-paid plans offered by Rogers and Bell were generally worse than the offerings from T-Mobile (short expiration time on minutes).

       

      A HTTP request is supported by any SIM card as well...

      I'm not sure where you got that idea, if you are implying that all pre-paid plans include data. While any T-Mobile plan does permit HTTP access, it is constrained to a few web sites they control (effectively a captive portal). I don't see anything special about using HTTP. If you have unrestricted HTTP, then any random TCP protocol, or even UDP ought to work.

       

      derrickcalderon wrote:

      ...if you are going to be deploying a large amount of Sims it is not the way to go.

      Sure, I can see the benefit of having a management platform if you are deploying hundreds of SIMs, but there are countless "long tail" applications where the customers are in-house, or small-scale business-to-business, with volumes in the tens of devices instead of hundreds.

       

      Right now the M2M industry is optimized for high-volume device deployments to consumers and large-scale b2b. I don't consider the "long tail" need addressed until I am able to open an M2M account via a self-serve web site, pay some nominal base fee, like $100 year, and some nominal per-device setup fee per SIM, like $5, and then have them all draw from a common pool of pay-per-use data.

       

      -Tom

      • Re: low volume M2M plans
        Harald Naumann Expert
        Even the least cost pre-paid plans require a yearly payment to avoid expiration, so $0 is rather an exaggeration.

        In EU / Germany I can get SIM cards with daily rate and daily use. No use means USD 0.

         

        I'm not sure where you got that idea,

        This is no idea. This is real.

         

        Just take the SIM card out of the phone of my young son and put it in my M2M device amd you will see that it works fine.

         

        Right now the M2M industry is optimized for high-volume device deployments to consumers and large-scale b2b.

        Are you sure? Right now I am playing with USSD. USSD is the smallest and cheapest solution you can get. And it is fast as well. It faster, cheaper with less power consumption.

  • Re: low volume M2M plans
    Newbie

    Tom,

    It was interesting reading this post and the responses. At CrossBridge Solutions, we offer pay as you go, pooled and traditional plans. As stated in a post we do offer a pay as you go plan with data only (low MRC and Low KB cost). So in other words if you do not use any data you only pay the low MRC per month. If you use data it is billed out per KB.

    As far as your Canada cutomers believe it or not our pay as you go plans in Canada are lower than they are in the US.

    Of course pricing is hard to find on carriers sites because you are right it depends the volume, location and amount of data used per month.

    We can also offer static IP, VPN, tunnels and a 24/7/365 fully staffed operations and support center.

    Feel free to give me a call or email to discuss your requirements. I am confident we can find you a plan to fit your needs.

    Michael Timm

    Director of Sales - CrossBridge Solutions

    847-478-4810

    mtimm@crossbridgesolutions.com

  • Re: low volume M2M plans
    Apprentice

    Hi Tom,

     

    I suggest you contact cellular providers and ask for their recomendations.  You need to find out what coverage is available in the location of where you will install your system.  Some resellers may have better plans.  They may have bought a lot in bulk and may have better pricing.

     

     

    best regards,

     

    Maria Lemone

    ICP DAS USA

    1-888-971-9888 ext 105

    http://www.icpdas-usa.com

  • Re: low volume M2M plans
    Tom Metro Newbie

    Following up on my original post from a bit over a year ago, I never found anything to my satisfaction and gave up on the idea, at least for now.

     

    The most promising option I've seen so far is Ting. They are a Sprint MVNO operated by the same people behind tucows. They charge a base price of $6/month, and then all devices share a common pool of minutes and data. So that's $72/year per device. Another $36/year gets you 100 MB/month, or $156/year for 1/2 GB, which could be amortized across all devices.

     

    I see there is a $0.50 per MB surcharge for data in Canada, so that $72/year turns into $672/year if you use all 100 MB/month each month from Canada. May still be viable if you only needed a few KB of data per day.

     

    Potentially the biggest down side is that this is built on the Sprint network, so it uses CDMA instead of GSM.

    • Re: low volume M2M plans
      Newbie

      Hi Tom

       

      Take a look at http://gprssim.com , we specialize in low data gsm/gprs plans.

       

      Eddy Stevens

      1.800.383.9125

      1.416.990.1696

      • Re: low volume M2M plans
        Newbie

        Hi Tom,

        You might consider USSD.  Depending on your application, it may be a reasonable alternative.  We can deliver nationwide USSD to a custom URL.

        Anthony

        308.225.2222

        • Re: low volume M2M plans
          Tom Metro Newbie

          Anthony wrote:

          You might consider USSD. 

          That would be Unstructured Supplementary Service Data?

           

          Wikipedia tells me "USSD messages are up to 182 alphanumeric characters in length" and that they are "real-time connections" with no store-and-forward functionality. The article didn't say whether these messages are reliable, like TCP, or best effort, like UDP or SMS.

           

          Not so clear how you go about sending USSD messages. Is this something a common USB GSM radio is likely to handle?

           

          The applications listed were also very carrier-centric. Used for things like letting the phone ask the carrier for the current account balance, and other feature phone information services. It sounds like the messages are always routed back to the home carrier.

           

          Will this be part of the services phased out with 2G?

           

          We can deliver nationwide USSD to a custom URL.

          Who is we, and what are the costs like?

           

          So you are saying your company will provide a SIM and act as the home carrier for the device, which then can roam on any GSM network, issue USSD messages, which get routed back to your server, and then passed as an argument in a GET or POST request to a designated URL?

           

          -Tom

      • Re: low volume M2M plans
        Tom Metro Newbie

        Take a look at http://gprssim.com , we specialize in low data gsm/gprs plans.

        Not too bad. This company is a T-Mobile and Rogers (Canada) reseller. They'll sell a SIM for $10, and then data plans start at $5/month for 500K bytes/month in the US, and $7.80 for 100K bytes/month in Canada.

         

        Pretty cheap, but a single pool of data that can be shared across multiple devices would be better.

         

        I'd be curious to know whether the bytes/month style plans are a reflection of the way the wholesale service is purchased from the carriers, or if it is just how they chose to repackage the service.

         

        -Tom

  • Re: low volume M2M plans
    Marissa Iovino Novice

    Tom,

     

    I'm head of GSM accounts at Aeris Communications and Embedded Works resells GSM services with us. They are a distribution part of Aeris and has great expertise in the M2M space with competitive rates.

     

    If you are unfamiliar, Aeris provides cellular connectivity on a global scale for both GSM and CDMA. We built our system from the ground up exclusively for machines and therefore have a higher quality of service for M2M solutions, while maintaining lower costs.

     

    I would definitely give them a call 888-993-6233. (http://www.embeddedworks.net/pcategory.php?mn=aeris)

     

    Also, please feel free to reach out to me at Marissa.Iovino@aeris.net if you have any further questions or if you would like an introduce to Embedded Works.

     

    Kind Regards

    Marissa