Vendor View

How to translate IoT potential into real business

This Vendor View is sponsored by BICS

The concept of connected things has been with us since at least the 1980s, and the term Internet of Things (IoT) was invented at the turn of the century. However, it was only with recent advancements in communications technologies that IoT started to catch the imagination of the mainstream as a big business opportunity.

Big numbers have been projected for the IoT market. According to the latest forecast from Ericsson (“Ericsson Mobility Report, November 2020”), the total number of IoT connections will grow from close to 13 billion in 2020 to nearly 27 billion in 2026. The segment to deliver the fastest increase will be wide-area IoT, growing from two billion to over six billion in five years’ time.
Despite the promising predictions, telecom operators that have made serious investment in tapping into the IoT goldmines are yet to see the expected returns. There are several leading challenges these operators have faced.

The barriers to IoT ROI
The first challenge is in establishing a business model to serve the IoT needs of enterprises. While this may yield high returns, it also demands that operators undergo fundamental changes. For example, they may want to offer more autonomy to enterprises as they provision or deprovision, simplify tariff structures, and manage and troubleshoot SIMs embedded in their connected devices. However, having these capabilities requires completely new policies and BSS / OSS systems.

The second challenge is scale. While many operators are developing their solutions to address the need for IoT from local enterprises, meeting the needs of those with international demands can be more complex. To deliver on the expectations of global IoT businesses, mobile network operators must be able to provide seamless global coverage and connectivity for the main cellular technologies in a highly secure and reliable environment, with multi-network access in every country, bootstrapping capabilities, simplified tariff structures, trial capabilities to validate device, SIM and wireless module compatibilities, and finally accommodating for long and complex device manufacturing processes.

The third and most prominent challenge is the level of monetisation. From permanent roaming devices like smart meters or refrigerators, to devices that are always on the move like parcel trackers and autonomous cars, connected ‘things’ are the new generation of roamers that will take roaming to the next level. However, due to the weak visibility into IoT traffic crossing their networks, a mobile operator may not be able to monetise all the resources it provides. Roaming is a classic example. Today, most mobile operators are unable to tell whether an inbound roamer is a visiting mobile user, or if it is a connected device embedded with a SIM. Visibility, advanced analytics, and optimised service offerings are essential to monetisation, and will only improve with the new network tracking technologies supported by AI and ML that we expect to mature in the coming years.

Picking the right connectivity framework
However, several market trends are likely to improve mobile operators’ fortune in the IoT market. To start with, the rate of IoT adoption across a wide range of industries is accelerating. COVID-19, having forced many employees to work remotely for months on end, has compelled every single enterprise to look at different ways to serve their employees’, customers’, and products’ connectivity needs. And new initiatives, including different tracking technologies, are being explored to keep infrastructure, facilities, and employees safe now they’re starting to return to the office.

We are also likely to see network connectivity solutions becoming less fragmented. Many different models have been tested, including satellite, NB-IoT, Wi-Fi, LP-WAN, 5G / 4G / 3G and more. Survival of the fittest will dominate as the market will settle on the most suitable model.

We strongly believe that cellular connectivity, thanks to its ubiquity, reliability, and security, is the best connectivity framework for IoT. LPWAN technology such as NB-IoT is also the most effective connectivity model for a large variety of IoT projects that operators could monetise. NB-IoT offers enterprises a narrowband technology to improve the battery life of connected devices and decrease costs at the same time. It offers the advantage of allowing operators to clearly identify if it is being used by any specific device, therefore enabling greater monetisation in ways that LTE-M cannot yet match. All data points are showing that most IoT use cases are small and short sessions. Therefore, if the pricing is based on data volume, the scope of monetisation will be limited.

Another trend which will address the lack of visibility in roaming is the establishment of a business model for device roaming. Many IoT use cases depend on seamless global coverage. Enterprises are looking to mobile operators to provide a different type of global connectivity setup from that used for individual subscribers. They’re looking for seamless roaming from the start, autonomy in device provisioning / deprovisioning and management, simplified global tariff structures, and more. We are already seeing very strong uptake of seamless global roaming solutions and this market will see immense growth.

Supporting mobile operators’ IoT ambitions
IoT has been a key focus point for BICS. As an innovative communications enabler, we are addressing IoT by providing a global connectivity solution. Today, we have dedicated teams bridging our traditional mobile operator partners with the enterprise world. We have been working on adapting our offering and organisation to the current market needs for IoT for several years now, and have a full range of global connectivity, monetisation, network intelligence, and security offerings for mobile operators in the IoT ecosystem. This includes a transparent channel where usage from IoT traffic originating from international companies can be collected – broadening the business opportunity and giving operators full visibility.

We are also engaging with key players in the IoT ecosystem, including silicon manufacturers, OEMs and solution providers, that will generate end-user demand for IoT connectivity and will, in turn, help mobile operators monetise those new revenue streams.

Our goal is to facilitate access to global cellular connectivity to all the players in the IoT ecosystem, ensuring we are a one-stop-shop for IoT connectivity services across any technology.

Comprising multi-network coverage in more than 200 countries, our offering provides a connectivity management platform, support for 3G, 4G, 5G, LTE-M and NB-IoT, and the capabilities to integrate connectivity into the existing IT systems and infrastructure of our customers.

We have also invested in our fully virtualised global core network, especially developed for IoT, allowing us to offer optimised and cost-effective global connectivity solutions for enterprises. They benefit from adopting one SIM, one connectivity platform, and one partner for the whole world, underpinned by industry-leading security standards to protect IoT deployments.

Responding to one of the major challenges faced by MNOs in this new IoT era, our analytics solution empowers operators with the ability to identify inbound roamers that are IoT devices, enabling them to provide the most appropriate quality of service and monetisation possibilities.

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