South African telecoms companies are missing several layers in their Internet of things (IOT) solution stack to fully converge their offerings.
So say analysts, who believe capable IOT platforms can help mobile operators gain new ways of monetising low-margin subscribers and attract new customers.
This as local operators are increasingly ramping up their IOT offerings. The big telcos, Vodacom and MTN, have already made strides in the IOT space.
Vodacom, SA’s number one mobile operator, this week launched a consumer IOT product range.
Executive head of consumer IOT Saloshni Muthal says the products are part of the company’s IOT ambitions and goals.
“Our vision with IOT services is to empower South Africans to live a connected life,” she says. “We are empowering people to take charge of business, home and possessions. We have a lot of exciting developments coming in the IOT space.”
Vodacom‘s strategy is bolstered by its recent acquisition of a majority stake in IOT.nxt. It has identified IOT as a key strategic growth area for the group.
MTN is also increasing its presence in the IOT space.
In its IOT push, the mobile operator has been aggressively rolling out new-generation technologies, such as NB-IOT and LoRaWANLow Power Wide Area Network, to support its machine-to-machine (M2M) and IOT platforms, and enhance security of business-critical information.
Six months ago, MTN and global provider of IOT services Eseye partnered to provide mobile IOT services through Amazon Web Services.
Analysts believe that as the number of connected devices on the IOT ecosystem is increasing exponentially, players in the telecoms industry are facing challenges in gearing up to the task.
They agree investment will continue to increase in IOT, and telcos need to invest more and join in the evolution.
Ahmad Sayed, regional head and VP of sales, Middle East and Africa at IOT platform provider Nexign, says a capable IOT platform is required if service providers are looking to efficiently monitor, control and manage connected devices, or diagnose any problems on connected devices.
This, he says, will help gain new ways of monetising low-margin subscribers, and attract new customers through value-added IOT services, including building IOT partner ecosystems with a range of solutions.
André Strauss, chief sales officer at IOT.nxt, says: “We see that these telecom companies are missing several layers in the IOT solution stack to fully converge their offerings.
“We are seeing that telecom players are definitely gearing up to take advantage of the many opportunities IOT presents in the market. There is, however, still a lot of work that needs to be done to provide end-to-end solutions to customers, and integrating complete solutions, including connectivity.”
To fully leverage IOT, Strauss says telcos will have to invest in both skills and resources.
“Customer needs are evolving and require solutions that add real business value. In order to provide complete solutions, these telcos will also have to form partnerships to bridge the gaps in their current technology offerings. We do, however, believe the telecoms industry will play a very important and significant role in driving the development of the IOT ecosystem,” he says.
Independent analyst and researcher, Dr Charley Lewis, believes telecoms companies are taking up the challenge to develop functional platforms that can support such IOT ecosystems.
“The scaling up and widespread deployment of IOT devices will be assisted by the rollout of 5G, certainly in urban areas. And, yes, it is true that IOT does place a demand on base stations in terms of the number of connections, but IOT is largely, in my understanding, a low-volume consumer of bandwidth, with limited impact on backhaul.”
He says further: “The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa has already moved some time back to increase dramatically the number ranges available for M2M communications, and so the impact of IOT on numbering has been foreseen and provided for.’’