MNOs are facing signiﬁcant challenges – be it the potential disruption from eSIM, or digital service providers and OEMs launching their own global connectivity services. With the possibility of disintermediation in the global connectivity market, it remains to be seen whether MNOs will launch global connectivity services that are aligned with the needs of their enterprise customers.
While new IoT services involving multi-country deployment or cross-border mobility offer exciting opportunities, they come with their own challenges too like connectivity, service continuity, cost, security and control. As a result, the options for unlocking the maximum potential of such services have, until now, been limited.
Tata Communications has come up with a way to counter this scenario with its MOVE IoT Connect platform that provides network independent cross-border cellular connectivity. Needless to say, mobile network-as-a- service is a new model; however this is crucial in order to realise the full potential of the mobile economy.
Considering mobility in just the same way as the worldwide web and cloud infrastructure unlocks various new vistas. This is what Omate has done too. Wearables maker Omate has chosen Tata Communications to equip the new Omate x Nanoblock children’s smartwatch with instant, secure, global connectivity straight out of the box. The watch comes with a built-in Tata Communications MOVE IoT connect SIM. This SIM carries all location, messaging and video calling data over an end-toend encrypted VPN, ensuring maximum security. The selling proposition is primarily targeted at progressive parents, who can leverage the capabilities of this watch to know where their child is at any point of time and be able to communicate with the child regardless of which country they are in.
The MOVE platform of Tata Communications basically provides mobility capabilities to enterprises such as companies like Omate, service providers, equipment manufacturers, around the world. “What we have is effectively a mobile network that sits in the cloud – that’s what the Omate smartwatch connects to. It talks to cloud via application interfaces and is connected right out of the box,” says Anthony Bartolo, chief product officer at Tata Communications.
“We take away complexity and distribute simplicity to devices and people alike.”
In a way, Tata Communications is enabling Omate to provide wearable-as-a-service. “Because it’s a telecom device, by enabling in-built connectivity, we can sell the device as a full turnkey solution,” says Laurent Le Pen, founder and CEO of Omate. Omate x Nanoblock will be available for pre-order in April on www. omate.com and will start shipping in June 2018 exclusively in the US and in Europe. There will be a demo of the watch at MWC 2018 in Barcelona. In the meanwhile, Omate is in discussions with distributors in the Middle East, Le Pen tells CommsMEA. The aim is to ensure the product is available in the market before the ‘back to school’ season in September.
The data plan comes bundled as a service with the watch, hence removing the complexity of getting a SIM card separately to be able to use the watch.
Initially, Omate is offering this kids’ smartwatch at a nominal price of $179 that includes one year data plan. After using it for a year, users can top up data at $99 for a year.
Deploying a network in the cloud is key to transforming the potential of IoT, Bartolo says. “It hasn’t been unlocked yet because current mobile networks are inherently dependent on local deployments. Businesses that want to reach customers worldwide need a truly global borderless connectivity for their IoT devices and applications. That’s what we are doing. We are taking our 600 MNO partnerships around the world through our MOVE platform and allowing businesses to move and manage information on global scale.
“By offering an always connected digital experience via an application interface that’s software deﬁned, fully automated, accelerates time to market for new services, allowing service providers to deploy quickly either locally or internationally. That’s really powerful for the enterprises who are devising these devices and applications and for our MNO partners who get to unlock the transformative potential of IoT and tap into those additional revenues by connecting those devices to other MNO customers and their local networks.”
Bartolo highlights how such a model takes away the complexity from device manufacturers, who no longer need to enter into separate agreements with MNOs in several countries. With a single contract, they get access to crossborder connectivity, and can focus on their core competency.
However interesting that might sound for OEMs, does it also mean the control of connectivity going away from the MNOs? Bartolo sees it differently. “With this model, customers determine where they want their connectivity to come from. All MNOs came together and agreed under GSMA standard in 2017 and developed a protocol that facilitated connectivity to unlock the potential of M2M and IoT.
“In order to grow the usage of mobility, providing the user freedom to leverage connectivity around the world was seen as a better option than locking them to a single network operation. Considering customers’ need for ﬂexibility, GSMA moved in a direction that facilitated the same. At the end of the day, we are using MNOs’ connectivity, hence enabling them to generate revenues in a new area. With IoT devices growing exponentially, this is a chance for MNOs to claim a share of revenues.”
Bartolo sees no dearth of opportunities in the cross border mobility space. In addition to enabling smart devices with in-built connectivity, MNaaS accelerates and eases the entry of new MVNOs into a market.
Traditionally, SIM cards have been the strongest bonds between MNOs and customers. While the SIM card isn’t disappearing any time soon, the emergence of the embedded SIM brings with it both opportunities as well as challenges for legacy operators.“The IoT opportunity for MNOs will come broadly in three ﬂavours: unmanaged connectivity, platform-supported connectivity, and integrated solutions,”says Luis Cirne, partner (telco) ,Oliver Wyman (MEA).
“The bulk of the value is in offering integrated turnkey solutions (as the one in the case reference), but the breadth and fragmentation of use cases is so large that MNOs cannot hope to serve all. MNOs need to very carefully quantify the opportunity across top verticals (smart metering being typically one of the largest), select where they can and want to play, and identify who are the best partners to support them. The IoT turn key offering must then be integrated into the MNO’s broader ICT offering for the enterprise segment to create an efficient and compelling go to market approach.”
In parallel, MNOs need to put in place the platforms to provide platform-supported managed connectivity, so they can offer automated real-time analytics, dynamic pricing and selfprovisioning abilities to corporations using the MNO’s IoT connectivity, Cirne adds. “For those MNOs opting to delay these investments, they must at a minimum have the right value propositions to remain competitive in the unmanaged connectivity game.” Another angle MNOs need to manage delicately is the regulatory one, through which sweeping decisions can create (or forego) sizable opportunities in IoT.
CommsMEA also spoke to du to find out its views on adoption of eSIM. Saleem AlBlooshi – chief infrastructure officer, EITC says: “GSMA has taken active role with leading operators and SIM hardware providers to develop the ‘GSMA Embedded SIM Specification’ that enables a SIM card to be fully embedded in an M2M/consumer device but also have remote provisioning functionality, we in du are actively evolved with the GSMA in the evolution of this standard and we are in parallel enabling this capability of profile remote provisioning in our network.”
Use cases like that of Tata and Omate and the bigger B2B use cases involving IoT SIMs- does du see potential to make revenues by offering network as a service via players like Tata?
AlBlooshi says: “On the M2M side, the main IoT vertical adopting the eSIM technology as of today is the automotive, we are in discussions with lead automotive brands to enable their Vehicles eSIMs with du profiles.On the consumer side, we are also working with Apple and Samsung to ensure that their embedded SIM products are available for our subscribers to load their profiles on them.”