In this episode of the IoT For All Podcast, Teal Communications CEO and Co-Founder Robert Hamblet joins us to talk about everything eSIM. From what an eSIM platform actually is, to the current eSIM landscape, to how eSIM platforms differentiate themselves from one another. We then expand into the challenges companies face when trying to scale globally in IoT, and what advice Robert has for companies when it comes to picking the most appropriate connectivity for their IoT use case.
In addition, we discuss how Teal handles integrating with different networks and connectivity types, and what the future of the eSIM space looks like.
Robert Hamblet is the CEO and Co-Founder of Teal Communications, Inc. Prior to founding Teal, Robby developed one of the industry’s earliest eSIM platforms for connected carmakers GM and Daimler.
Interested in connecting with Robert? Reach out to him on Linkedin!
About Teal Communications: Teal Communications is the first cloud-native, Credentialing-as-a-Service platform that provides intelligent connectivity and networking solutions to IoT device and network operators. Teal’s patented network credentialing technology delivers thousands of network credentials to IoT devices and network operators through a single, cloud-based platform. Through Teal’s platform, IoT device operators can scale globally, evolve with new technologies including 5G and NB-IoT, and automatically prioritize and dynamically switch between networks, carriers, and communications protocols.
Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:
(00:53) Intro to Robert
(02:37) Intro to Teal
(06:30) What is an eSIM platform? What was the landscape like before Teal?
(09:03) How do eSIM platforms differ from each other?
(11:25) What are the biggest challenges companies face when trying to scale globally?
(15:04) How do you handle integration between different networks and network types?
(16:31) When customers come to you, what are the most common questions they ask?
(17:54) How do you help companies find the ideal connectivity solution for their particular use case? How do those conversations typically go?
(19:49) Where do you see the future of eSIM going? What should we get excited about?
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– [Ryan] Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of the IoT For All podcast on the IoT For All media network. I’m your host, Ryan Chacon, one of the co-creators of IoT For All. Now, before we jump into this episode, please, don’t forget to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform or join our newsletter at IoTforall.com/newsletter to catch all the newest episodes as soon as they come out. But before we get started, does your business waste hours searching for assets like equipment or vehicles and pay full-time employees just to manually enter location and status data? You can get real-time location and status updates for assets, indoors, and outdoors at the lowest cost possible with Leverege’s end-to-end IoT solutions. To learn more, go to IoTchangeseverything.com that’s IoTchangeseverything.com So without further to do, please enjoy this episode of the IoT For All podcast.
– [Ryan] Welcome Robert to the IoT For All podcast, Thanks for being here this week.
– [Robert] Thanks for having me.
– [Ryan] Yeah, I’m very excited about this conversation. I’d love, if you could start off by just giving a quick introduction about yourself, background experience, anything you think would be relevant for our audience.
– [Robert] Yeah. So nice to meet you. My name is Robert Hamblet. I am the CEO and one of the co-founders of Teal. My background before founding Teal was in east engineering. So that’s actually where I found the problem that I wanted to solve in the market and start a company to solve. So I worked on some very early connected car deployments and found that the way that eSIM was being deployed really wasn’t accomplishing its full potential. There were a lot of solutions that were buying platforms and then buying carriers and creating these kind of walled gardens, which were very solution specific and really wanted to get devices and solutions out of that kind of roaming model as well. There were a lot of shortcuts being used because eSIM is so difficult to work with today that a device we’re running up on networks in an unintended way, both for the, for the solution and for, for the MNO. So, it was kind of created to solve that problem. So we’re, we’re the merger of a credentialing platform
– [Ryan] Okay
– [Robert] with a continuity management platform. So, we’re a credentialing as a service solution. So that means you have access to any MNO that we onboard into our platform. And then you also have the ability to load your own eminence. Cause we’re not running like an MDNO model where it’s more of an arbitrage play.
– [Ryan] OK
– [Robert] So we work with people wanting to access public networks or private networks. We’ve done a lot of work with the CBRS and private LTE type technologies as well.
– [Ryan] Right. That’s great, And if you wouldn’t mind diving in a little bit more to kind of the story behind the company, more breaking down and kind of what the market and landscape look like, you know, the opportunity you saw with the other co-founders, which kind of led to the founding of Teal.
– [Robert] Yeah. I mean, it really goes back to like we were working with the traditional SIM technology companies and we were, I was working for an NV and E at the time. So like a virtual network enabler, which is basically just to like, you know, ultra M VNM, if you will, something that was, that was to try to get solutions onto multiple MDNO networks or to create really large networking solutions. And, in that in that connected car use case that company had to buy a platform and then buy its carriers individually to integrate into that platform. And then actually when we had the exact same project requirements for another automotive company, we ended up having to buy another eSIM platform specific to that solution. And so like a lot of times in this, M to M eSIM space, cause there’s really two specs there’s consumer and M to M E and in the M to M enterprise side this, solutions are buying individual platform licenses. And they’re going through a lot of steps in work that are really duplicative compared to like consolidating all that work and creating one platform that everybody can plug into and access. That was the opportunity. It was like let’s end roaming. Let’s try to get off of roaming networks. Let’s make something that can actually onboard all 800 LTE networks. Like let’s, let’s be in a system for people so that that water meter can access the same kind of credentials as a car. Cause you know, a car can drive a lot of carrier requirements, but a water meter with 5,000 lines in one state might not be able to, to get access to a Brazilian operator credential that
– [Ryan] Sure. Right Easily And certainly doesn’t have the resources to pay for a carrier integration into every single operator they would want to do. Let’s let’s make, let’s make it all cloud-based and dynamic and single skew. So that it’s really programmatic it’s it’s, it’s programmable, it’s, it’s a layer that you can change based on the use case. And we’re not gonna, like, we’re not going to discount the higher end opportunities, but we’re not going to take solutions off the table for, you know, the lower end opportunities that need, that would really benefit from democratized credential access.
– [Ryan] Right. That makes a lot of sense. And on the, from a industry perspective or use case perspective, are there any area that you all particularly focus on or see more business in? And if you could kind of tie that to some active use cases where kind of, you know, showcases that highlights the offering, that would be fantastic.
– [Robert] Yeah. I think every cellular like IoT solution needs to be focused around what makes sense for cellular technology. Cause you could add cellular technology to like a smart TV and it probably wouldn’t be a matter that much like there there’s maybe not a cost benefit analysis and including that technology, maybe with private LTE, we’ll get there. But like right now on the cellular networks, it’s really about solutions that benefit from independent mobile connectivity. So they, they don’t want to have a back haul through land or they don’t want to have to have a fixed wireless access point that they need to access. So we, we focus on a lot of mobility, use cases, health tech, AG tech, and industrial. Those are kind of the big, the big four because they all benefit from, you know, wide area, independently connected devices.
– [Ryan] Right. Okay. That makes sense. And for audience out there, I think it’d be good if we could break down kind of exactly what an eSIM platform does and, and what it is. And what does the current kind of eSIM landscape look like now, as opposed to, you know, when, before you all kind of got into the space a bit more.
– [Robert] Yeah. So there’s like eSIM platforms today. A lot of the ways that people work with them, they either get it from an operator or they get it from an MVNO or they try to build their own. And there’s different principles behind what kind of ease and platform you’re getting. And whoever built the eSIM platform gets to say what you get to do with it, right? Like if you get a eSIM platform from it, a Tier 1 operator in the US they’re probably not going to enable you to, to then take your devices and use eSIM technology to switch to other Tier 1 operators.
– [Ryan] Ok
– [Robert] So they’re not, they’re not neutral. Similarly in MVNO is likely going to push you towards their core network. You know, they, they deploy their own P gateways, packet cores. They might have radio network access across multiple carriers. So like they could do an AT&T, a T-Mobile and a Verizon, but it’s going to go through their data channel and through their agreements. And so, you know, there’s, there’s very much like an arbitrage approach. And so do you know how that programmability, you don’t have that flexibility And then you’ve got the SIM technology providers, which, because they’re embedded with every single carrier, they don’t offer carrier services. So if you were to talk to like an Idemia or Jamalto or GND or somebody like that, they don’t have the CMP bit, the continuity management bit. So they can’t say, you know, here’s a profile that works with this tier one operator, and this is what it costs. And we already did all the work of integrating it. Here you go. Like, this is, this is something they’re focused on selling platform licenses. And so if you’re building a solution, you’re, you’re working with one of those three, there’s also the fourth option, which is where you get an eSIM and it doesn’t actually have a platform attached to it. So would be something like, like Particle, if you were to get one of those boards. And we wrote a great blog about how to use, how to superpower a Particle device with a real eSIM. And it has an MFF too, but it’s just locked to a Movistar and it doesn’t do anything else. Other than that, there’s no ability to load your own credentials. There’s not being the ability to, switch to a different MVNO credential it’s all lockdown.
– -[Ryan] Got you. Interesting. And when I guess looking at it from a potential customer standpoint, how do most eSIM platforms you kind of already touched a little bit on this, but how do those eSIM platforms really differ from each other? Kind of just, I guess, breaking it down in non-technical terms, what would somebody see if they were kind of out there in the market looking at different eSIM platforms and how do they kind of decide between which path to go?
– [Robert] I think the most important thing is because functionally, it’s all based on the GSMA specs, you’re gonna in a, in an M2M solution and an enterprise solution where there’s a card and a chip that you’re providing to customers or you’re providing to your devices. That’s, that’s very much a push configuration. So it’s, it’s all centrally organized. And in a consumer model, it’s all a pulled. So the device pulls the credential off of a bot from, it could be on anybody’s platform because I don’t know, or Teal doesn’t know Apple’s keys, for example, like, I don’t know every iPhones credentials. So it has to come in as a pull request. Most people that are looking for this solution, they’re looking at the M2M or the enterprise that, and because it’s all, push-based because it’s essentially maintained, you really have to evaluate like, what are you allowed to do with it? Like how much control do you actually have? And, and how much does the company that built it or is offering it to you actually maintain that. So, you know, if you talk to an MVNO, no, there’s, there’s no MVNO out there that I’m aware of that are actually building their own code bases. They’re all using like an Idemia or Jamalto or GND or something like that. They’re white labeling it, and then they’re loading their credentials into it. And they’re saying, this is where you can do, you can access our credentials. And I know they’re trying to form their own partnerships. They’re trying to work their way around roaming use cases where traditionally a tier one operator would sign a roaming deal with an, a European operator between the US and Europe. Now they’re seeing this need for local credentials. So they’re really just adding eSIM so that they can empower their existing relationships. They’re not building something that actually allows you to change out and have that programmatic access that you really want with the switch carriers. When you say so, and you can go as far as to load the credentials that you want when you want them.
– [Ryan] Got you. Okay, i know this plays a really large role, especially when we’re talking about IoT, digital transformation, all that kind of good stuff to help solve the challenges companies face when they’re trying to scale globally with a solution. So I, if you wouldn’t mind touching on, from your perspective, what are you seeing are the biggest challenges companies do face when they try to scale globally as it relates to IoT solutions and then how the, you know, the eSIM side plays into helping them achieve that?
– [Robert] Yes.
– So there’s, there’s a part of eSIM where it’s like, it’s just making it easier to access those networks because you’re now able to download a credential that works there. Like, you know, in a, in a use case like Brazil, it’s, there’s no roaming access allowed, like it’s actually illegal to roam into Brazil. So, you know, all of those solutions that were built on roaming and to Brazil now, they really wish they had built something that uses eSIM. So there’s, there’s one aspect of it. That’s just like, let’s say easier to access those networks. And then there’s another aspect of it where you, you add the conductivity management side and it’s, how do you manage those networks that you’ve deployed? So you combine the eSIM technology with the management layer. So now, now you’re doing one carrier integration instead of doing 10 different Jasper integrations, a bunch of different, you know, Ericsson type integrations, it’s, it’s one entry point. And then you’re able to deploy with the best credential for that market in any market you want to go into, which you know, is combining the, just, you know, ease of deployment with the actual added functionality of being able to do multiple operators. So we’ve seen a lot of solutions that they’re not just looking for one MNO and the US and one in, you know, like last year or something,
– [Ryan] Sure
– [Robert] they’re looking for a more robust site deployment. So they’re, they’re looking at the United States and they’re saying, well, great. You know, this, this carrier works well in Utah, but this one has that almost nothing in Montana. How can we deploy on both without having, you know, multiple different API has multiple different SIM cards and eSIM really opens up multi network deployments domestically, like inside of one country as well.
– [Ryan] Okay. And this is obviously not just a solution to help scale globally, but also regionally in different, like for instance, we take the United States, there’s different networks around the country that I assume this would also then help with scaling across a certain area that might be smaller as opposed to just, you know, global.
– [Robert] Yes. So we even go as far as to allow for these micro MNOs, these private network operators. So these are like CBRS providers, or they’re using others, some other kind of license or unlicensed spectrum to build out like a cellular network on an oil rig or in a mining shaft or something where cellular technology brings, you know, slicing and power control and more bandwidth compared to a WiFi solution. Now they’re able to balance those smaller deployments and those regional solutions. And there’s plenty of, you know, even, even more, I guess, even bigger than, than the mining equipment, but smaller than the public MNOs. There’s plenty of regional carriers that exist inside of these countries that have a profile that’s more optimal than roaming and a true eSIM bridges, that gap between having to need three different SIM cards for those three different use cases.
– [Ryan] Okay. That makes sense. And how do you all handle just from your side of things, handle the integration with different networks, different connectivity types, you know, just like logistically speaking, how does that kind of all work?
– [Robert] Yeah, so we onboard carriers based on what project requirements we have. So right now, you know, we’ve been a company for, for three or four years and we’re, we’re adding more and more carriers. Our goal is to integrate a hundred carriers next year, we have about 30 different credential types, 30 different carrier credentials that exist in the platform today. And when we onboard them, it’s a very streamlined approach because if you were to buy an eSIM file form and then have to manage that project integrate as somebody who’s done it, a bunch of times, if there’s not clear deliverables, the carriers can take like nine months to actually onboard something. And there’s different types of integration points. so there’s something called an ES2, which is where the carrier does a profile donation into an SMDP. And then there’s something called an ES3, which is where there’s a SMDP cluster created around one SMSR. And we’re probably going beyond like the, the basic knowledge of a lot of, a lot of listeners, but two types of credential, activations, potential integrations that happen with MNOs functionally.
– [Ryan] So yeah, if you’re taking this from the perspective of, you know, an everyday customer that you all speak with, when you have these conversations, you know, what’s the easiest way to kind of explain, or I guess, what are the, what are the areas that they come to you with with the most amount of questions? Is it really about which networks are you on? You know, how much coverage do you have in these certain areas? How easy is it for us to use costs? And what are the things that they’re, they’re concerned most about?
– [Robert] I think they’re most concerned about actually seeing eSIM technology be utilized because they’ve been using a lot of roaming providers. They’ve been using a lot of multi NZ solutions where it’s more like a static business logic.
– [Ryan] Got you. A lot of the customers really like to see like what they set an evaluation criteria with every project. and typically that’s, let’s land in Montenegro and let’s download a carrier there and then actually showing them that and showing them that they can do that this week.
– [Ryan] Yeah.
– [Robert] That’s really cool. So that’s, that’s the biggest thing is programmability. Like they actually want to see that this thing is dynamic. They’re not going to get locked into a SIM card that has three phone numbers in it and it’s just going to toggle depending on where you turn it on.
– [Ryan] Right.
– [Robert] And it could be embedded, but that cloud focus that that actual dynamicism to, to our platform is, is really what customers like to like to see.
– [Ryan] Got you, And when you speak with customers, what advice do you have for these companies during their IoT journey? When they’re looking to better understand the connectivity side of things, picking the most appropriate connectivity for their use case and in that kind of conversation, how does it usually go? What advice you usually have for those kinds of kinds of companies?
– [Robert] I think you have to evaluate like what the needs are. Like sometimes people are looking for like a network technology, so they’re like, we’d love to use cellular in this deployment. What kind of technology would you recommend? And so, you know, there’s 5G subscriptions that work only inside of native operators. cause there’s no 5G roaming and that’s something we’re often was really good at allocating credentials that actually accomplish like 5G access versus like an MVNO that would break that functionality through their own packet core. So we, we talk about, you know, 5G, we talk about 4G, we talk about what’s the best LPWAN technology, which is important to do IoT devices, obviously. Cause a lot of them are smaller consumptions and there’s a lot of discussion as to like NBI IoT versus cat app and which one’s better for the deployment. It’s a lot easier to work with LTE-M you’re a lot less protocol constrained. You can roam if you need to, you know, you, you have higher bandwidth, so you can actually turn the radio off faster.
– [Ryan] Right.
– [Robert] NB-IoT is better for things that are just, you know, ticking away once, once, once every five minutes, but they’re staying camped on the network, more continuous data stream. Yeah. So, yeah. So we do talk to customers a lot about like what network is best for their type of deployment. And we see kind of the two extremes. It’s either something that’s doing like visual positioning and LIDAR, and it’s using a lot of data or it’s something very small, like an asset tracker we’re going to use kilobytes per month. And that’s what LPWAN works best.
– [Ryan] Okay. I can follow that. That makes a lot of sense. And the one of the last question I want to ask you before we wrap up here is talking about, you know, where these ease of space was, you know, when, before Teal now still exists and into the future, where does, if you see the eSIM space going, what are the biggest needs? You know, what are you most excited about?
– [Robert] I really hope that eSIM creates the network of networks model that it’s been processed and that it actually democratizes access to these, to these credentials. So, you know, the carriers have their share of the blame and the same technology providers have their share of the blame as to why when you get a particle device, you can’t download an AT&T profile to it, or you can’t download a T-Mobile profile or a Verizon profile. It’s all it’s locked in to that SIM technology provider policy that was created at the time. I hope that we get to a more interoperable future. And I think platforms like Teal need to exist to essentially maintain and organize those carers, make sure that the requirements are all straightforward as far as what’s being allowed to access those networks and under what conditions. And yeah, I hope that we get to a future where it’s very easy for people to build private networks and, and credential those appropriately. There’s just going to be more and more challenges around roaming, specifically where network of networks is really going to be important and, you know, data, legislation’s going to continue to itch towards more data sovereignty within those countries. And, you know, Brazil, Singapore, Canada, those are some of the first dominoes to fall, but you know where that device is actually lives like where, where that credential came from, that’s going to be really important to the future of, of IoT.
– [Ryan] Yeah, no, I completely agree. I’m very excited to kind of see where this space goes. I, so we’re going to feel that people in the past about this space, not as in-depth, we went by for sure, but, but this has been very insightful, not just for myself, but I think our audience is gonna get a ton out of this because it is a very popular topic, but it’s often not easily understood kind of all the benefits and value of working with different companies and why this choose one company over the other. And I think you’ve shed a lot of light on that today. So I really appreciate the time and effort. You, you know, you coming on here and talking more about this is fantastic.
– [Robert] Of course.
– I hope my enthusiasm for the space really passionate about breaking down these barriers, like access to just get a SIM card in the past. Like you had to take the right person out for a steak dinner
– [Ryan] right.
– [Robert] Really need to move past that. And the roaming arbitrage models and these things that have made it very difficult for the solutions to deploy effectively like economics and the right tech. So.
– [Ryan] Yeah, I, I couldn’t, I couldn’t agree more. It’s, it’s a, it’s a very interesting space, very exciting space enables so much on the IoT adoption side, which is what we’re all kind of collectively working towards together. So again, I really appreciate your time. Let’s, let’s wrap up with you just telling us best way for people to follow up and get in contact with you, the company, if they have questions. And is there anything new, exciting coming out from Teal that we should be look out for?
– [Robert] Yeah. So I think the thing I’ll start with the last thing. So the, the things to look out for our 5G networks are launching our platform this quarter. So we’ll be able to access these carrier native 5G networks, not running through, you know, subpar data center or, you know, breaking the packet core that the carrier put in place. You know, they’ve invested a lot in their networks and we think natively credentialing is very important. So, you know, look for that. You’ll, I’m sure you’ll see lots of announcements on LinkedIn best way to reach out. You know, I love taking messages on LinkedIn. I love collecting emails firstname.lastname@example.org. You know, I get, get my hands dirty on the product side a lot, cause I’m a product CEO. So I really love to hear about the problems people are facing in the industry and provide guidance, even if it’s not something that that Teal necessarily can help out with. But yeah, you know, just follow us on LinkedIn. That’s where we’re most active Twitter. We don’t have such a big footprint yet, but I think we do technically have a Twitter. So just Tealcommunications.com or Tealcom.io is our websites.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. Well, Robert, I really appreciate your time. This has been been a great conversation. Look forward to getting this out to our audience in the coming weeks. And I’m doing more with Teal whenever we have the chance.
– [Robert] Thank you Ryan.
– [Ryan] Alright, everyone. Thanks again for joining us this week on the IoT For All podcast. I hope you enjoyed this episode and if you did, please leave us a rating or review and be sure to subscribe to our podcast on whichever platform you’re listening to us on. Also, if you have a guest you’d like to see on the show, please drop us a note ryan@IoTforall.com and we’ll do everything we can to get them as a featured guest. Other than that, thanks again for listening. And we’ll see you next time.