interview


Q&A with Sreenivas Vijayan, Chief Financial Officer at Plintron

MVNO concept cell blurred background 3d illustration

Plintron has been a regular participant at the MVNOs series events over the last four years. In this interview, Sreenivas Vijayan, who joins them in Madrid as a speaker, shares an in-depth analysis of the opportunities and gaps in the IoT market that MVNOs can explore.

What are the opportunities for MVNOs in IoT?

At Plintron, we have noticed a lot of interest amongst MVNOs to cater to the rapidly growing IoT market ever since we launched our first IoT businesses back in 2016. Recent trends have also emerged within the ecosystem for the MVNOs participation in the IoT industry. Some MVNOs, for example, are tapping into the easiest offering of extending coverage and connectivity to IoT providers, others are now partnering with IoT platform providers and are attempting to offer solutions to IoT businesses beyond connectivity. Another trend we also witnessed is certain IoT platform providers venturing to become IoT focused MVNOs themselves.

As a licensed MVNO, and IoT Services provider in multiple countries and being integrated with 35+ telecom operators, we see a lot of demand for connectivity to IoT providers globally, and a lot of interest for end-to-end solution for IoT businesses –comprising SIM, Global connectivity, Connectivity management, IoT platform and IoT services.

When does it make sense for an MVNO to invest in IoT?

Given the tough market conditions faced by MVNOs in most geographies, combined with falling consumer tariffs, ever challenging business conditions, increasing competition in the B2C business – MVNOs are looking to diversify beyond just serving consumer segments and are developing strategies to serve the IoT market too. Hence, this is a great opportunity for MVNOs to invest in IoT at the moment.

As a part of the market entry, MVNOs must evolve beyond connectivity when attempting to enter in the IoT space. This requires a change in business mindset, and embracing the fact that a successful IoT business will require a cloud based operating model. MVNOs traditionally have operated on premise to their host operators. This is not financially viable when the business requirement is for a flexible approach to scaling capacity in line with the business volumes.

For MVNOs already serving enterprises, with a converged offering including a technology offering –investing in and serving the IoT market is a logical choice. Starting off by providing connectivity –these MVNOs can extend additional offerings including IoT offerings, analytics capabilities, device management and the like. Their existing Enterprise customer base itself may be a strong source of initial business in IoT.

What advantages do MVNOs have in grasping the IoT opportunity?

To make a serious play in the IoT opportunity, MVNOs face competition from network operators, several participants in the IoT ecosystem and interested MVNO participants as well. In addition, there are competing network technologies such as LoRa and Sigfox which has an impact on the market size.

IoT is a fast-evolving business with new use cases and new technologies continuously coming to market. The relative dynamism of the IoT business suits the MVNOs who are accustomed to a highly dynamic operating environment, with its cost pressures, shifting consumer preferences, regulatory changes and need to be continuously competitive and financially solvent! In IoT, as in the MVNO space – technology is often the differentiator. The main advantage that MVNOs must use to their advantage is their agility to work closely with the IoT ecosystem and demonstrate their innovativeness in the engagement model and commercial approach.

For instance, Plintron operates as an MVNO in some markets – and wherever it operates, it has become one of the most preferred choices as an IoT partner. We see certain key technologies that will help MVNOs capitalize on the IoT opportunities.

Cloud Technologies: For succeeding in the IoT market – MVNOs must be able to scale up very quickly, and on an ‘on demand’ basis. With ARPUs of devices at a level much below the ARPU of subscribers, MVNOs cannot afford expensive on-premise deployments or invest in building capacity upfront with heavy capital expenditure. A cloud hosted model, will come with pay-as-you-grow pricing, and will allow the MVNO to scale up quickly to practically any capacity in terms of processing and storage.

eSIM: While still nascent, we see MVNOs adopting eSIM heavily. Because of the nature of their operations, it becomes necessary to provision SIM cards over the air. Traditionally, MVNOs have required their customers to swap SIM cards – this is not possible in an IoT deployment. The device may run in a remote location, untouched and inaccessible for many years! In such a scenario – if MVNOs are to tap this opportunity, it becomes critical to adopt eSIMs and start partnering with various players in the larger IoT ecosystem.

Should MVNOs value proposition focus on providing connectivity or enabling services?

At the outset, Connectivity for IoT is commoditized, and inevitably lead to price competition with other IoT focused MVNOs or with telecom operators. That is a race to the bottom – which MVNOs can ill-afford. Hence, while Connectivity is an essential service, it is not adequate for any MVNO to participate in the IoT ecosystem.

MVNOs must significantly contribute greater value in the IoT ecosystem. Plintron estimates that less than 10% of the value of an IoT business is in connectivity. Hence, MVNOs have to extend their capabilities, either directly or through trusted partners, to provide IoT platforms and services. The use of technology could help the MVNOs contribute to solutions in Device Management, Analytics and Industry specific IoT application services. These customized services will help the MVNOs build a sustainable and profitable IoT business.

What are the challenges that need to be overcome in order to make IoT a reality?

IoT is already a reality! In many countries over the next couple of years – there will be many more connected IoT devices, than connected traditional mobile connections.

The nature of challenges faced are different in different countries. In Europe, North America, and countries like Japan and Korea –the challenges are about regulations, technology and the industry standards especially in the area of core network and on the devices. We also see challenges around the adoption of e-SIMs by the ecosystem

In developing markets in Asia, Latin America and Africa –the challenges originate around the lack of a suitable regulatory framework for the IoT business. In many countries – IoT connectivity provider (either an operator or a MVNO) must comply with regulations of a full-fledged telecom operator– including end-user information requirements and roaming regulations. The lack of competitive pricing for IoT solutions coupled with a relatively poor device ecosystem are also significant challenges.

Who do you look forward to meeting at MVNOs World Congress 2018 and why?

We look forward to meeting with the different participants in the IoT ecosystem and to hear the differing perspectives while analyzing the MVNO markets as we jointly explore the emerging trends. We also look forward to meeting prospective partners with whom Plintron can forge a relationship to work together across MVNO and IoT businesses.

 

Meet with Plintron at the MVNOs World Congress 2018. Sreenivas Vijayan, Chief Financial Officer at Plintron Group will be speaking in the Panel Discussion ‘Where is the gap in the IoT market that MVNOs can explore?’.

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