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Shell carpet-bombs lofty enterprise connectivity claims

It may only be a single presentation from a single company, but Shell’s indifference to the latest connectivity fads is a reminder that the telco industry has a way of over-hyping itself.

Speaking at the Private Networks in a 5G World conference in London, Johan Krebbers, Shell’s IT CTO & VP TaCIT Architecture, suggested the company has little interest in campus networks unless absolutely forced into the situation, neither in edge computing nor 5G connectivity. The 5G mis-interest should be hedged as ‘for the moment’, though it does undermine the insistence by many telcos that the enterprise segment is thirsty for next-generation technologies.

This is not to say the company is not exploring how connectivity can enhance operations, but it does place somewhat of a dampener on the buzz which is being created around the industry.

“Does it need 5G? Maybe not. But does it need connectivity? Of course, it does,” Krebbers said while discussing the projects which are being driven forward today.

Krebbers work is currently focused on using connectivity to improve the prospects of various aspects of the business. For the moment, the team is primarily focused on the manufacturing and logistics areas of operations, with a keen focus on IOT. Most of the projects are focused more acutely on data, such as predictive maintenance of assets or data-centric reservoir modelling, though many of these projects can be enhanced through solutions available today rather than the glorious next-generation technologies of tomorrow.

Again, it is worth hedging the statements here, there are of course various applications which would require the implementation of much more advanced solutions. Remote inspection of assets using drone technology will require 5G benefits such as enhanced mobile broadband and low-latency, but these are projects for the future. The most interesting elements of this presentation was the disregard for the trends which are being hyped by the telco industry today.

Krebbers said the team would rely on the public internet, not private networks, unless his hand was forced. Countries like Oman and Nigeria have poor 4G coverage therefore it is necessary to invest. Edge computing holds little interest as the team makes almost exclusive use of public cloud infrastructure and services. The team is driving towards a more predictive, not reactive, business structure which also slightly undermines the need for speed which 5G offers.

Shell is still a company which will make use of connectivity solutions, but these are not the enhanced services or products which the telcos will be searching for to generate ROI on extensive investments. In the way by which Krebber is describing Shell, the telcos sit more comfortably in the commoditised, connectivity partner column. The likes of Amazon, Google and Microsoft are more likely to find favour and fortune here.

As mentioned above, this is just a single presentation at a single conference, but it does at least somewhat undermine the extravagant confidence the telcos have in the enterprise connectivity world.

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