The need of safe and quality connections is a must to develop the Internet of Things (IoT) and that is why Ericsson is already testing Machine to Machine (M2M) in those areas in the region where operators can offer this type of connectivity.
“There has to be a lot of connectivity to support this [IoT]. What we have done is identify the challenges to work on them,” explains Rafiah Ibrahim, president region Middle East at Ericsson, to CommsMEA.
For Ericsson, there are four main challenges that need to be tackle in order to make IoT more affordable, accessible and profitable. The first one is the cost of devices used for IoT, as they are still expensive. “Devices need to come to a level of affordability.”
“We have now a software feature that operators can use .What it does is to look at the functionality of the devices and simplify them so that we only use some parts. We have identified how to simplify the use, so that we do not use the whole device, as you do with your smartphone, to reduce the complexity. We started with a few operators internationally to see how it works and it will be available in the region by first quarter of 2016,” she adds.
Battery life is the second challenge that operators and vendors are facing when deploying M2M solutions. “As an example of M2M, we can have smart metering, whether is water or electricity. You need to have the battery life that last long time. We have done a feature that can last ten-year of battery life so we do not need to change it or charge it. Ericsson also offers a feature that activates and deactivates devices, so they are only used when required to optimise battery life,” Ibrahim said.
Coverage is another issue that telecoms players need to solve, as M2M requires deep coverage. When asked about the role of small cells when deploying M2M connections and improving connectivity, Ibrahim said that the company is already testing them with operators in order to enhance the coverage. “It has been already done and it is working very well. We test the technology with the operator, and we find a business model that works for them.”
The latest challenge that Ericsson identified was service prioritisation, as IoT gathers different connections from several sectors, from electricity to health care. “We need to offer network prioritisation for some services and manage the priority that some connections might require compared to others,” she explains.
Ericsson is already testing the IoT applications in the Gulf and the battery time for devices is the feature that these countries are working on, as Ibrahim explains. Turkey and Egypt are in early discussions to see how they can develop M2M in different areas.
“The rest of the countries are talking about voice. They need to be ready and think on moving from 2G to 4G directly, if it is possible. In Pakistan, we have been successful doing that. We are talking to all our customers about IoT, either to explain the concept or to test it.”
When deploying IoT, another challenge come to mind in the region. Spectrum management, as it is still an issue for operators. “If we listen to the key operators, all of them are talking to the regulators to get more spectrum to offer a satisfactory service to the consumers, as this is a service that we are offering to the public. During the Radio World Conference, telecommunications experts are talking about this need.”
Ibrahim says that the IoT is more prominent in the Gulf region than in Europe as it is driven by the government, instead of the private sector. “Governments are demanding the private sector to help them.”