The shift to remote working has forced many organizations to rethink whether an employee’s proximity to the office should still be a key factor for certain roles. In theory, technology allows us to work from anywhere in the world, but just how easy is it to manage a global workforce?
According to analyst company Gartner, more than 80 percent of companies plan to allow employees to work remotely at least part time after the pandemic. While restrictions on overseas travel still limit employees’ ability to truly “work from anywhere,” we could soon be seeing a more globally dispersed workforce.
Previously, it’s been difficult to work from another country for a long period of time. Not only because most companies wouldn’t allow it, but also due to the limitations of tourist visas that make staying in another country for more than a few weeks difficult. However, things could be about to change.
The digital nomad visa
Countries around the world are experimenting with “digital nomad” visas that will blend the boundaries between work and travel. One of the first countries to offer a long-term remote working visa was Barbados, with the launch of the Barbados Welcome Stamp in 2020, enabling digital nomads to stay for over twelve months — far longer than the usual 30 to 90 days.
Other countries have followed suit. It’s now possible to obtain similar visas for Bermuda, Costa Rica, Estonia, Croatia and the United Arab Emirates. Quite ironically, digital nomads are easy to locate. They build their careers on the internet, using technology to both share aspects of their personal lives and to keep in touch with colleagues during working hours. Having a mobile device is a tech essential.
Therefore, businesses that want to seize remote working opportunities will require technology that makes keeping in contact as simple as possible. While such travel freedom isn’t viable for all organisations, it’s evident that a large portion of businesses will retain some form of flexibility moving forwards — whether that means remote, hybrid or flexible working.
Service providers (SPs) are listening to these demands, offering communication packages that include video conferencing tools, unified communications bundles, and mobile device management (MDM) offerings including bring your own device strategies. While technologies such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) or WebRTC do well to support remote working, using the internet to make calls and reduce operational costs, there’s another area of mobile software that SPs are beginning to consider.
Introducing the eSIM
SIM cards are an integral authentication method for mobile networks and have been helping users access services securely since 1991. Inside the SIM card sits a programmable integrated circuit (IC) chip called a Universal Integrated Circuit Card (UICC) that stores the SIM’s authentication parameters, including subscriber credentials and network authentication keys.
Until now, mobile subscribers have had to manually insert SIM cards into their device as part of its set up. This has meant that a device can’t use the mobile network until the SIM card is available. It has also meant that mobile users need multiple SIM cards if they have more than one network contract, so those working remotely would need to keep track of several SIM cards, if they had mobile contracts in different locations.
But as working models shift, telecoms customer expectations are changing. Users, more than ever, are looking for simpler, more flexible ways of managing their mobile subscriptions from digital channels. And that’s where eSIMs come into play.
The standards of an embedded SIM, or eSIM, were introduced by the Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA) in 2010, primarily to serve Internet of Things (IoT) products. The technology allows service providers to provision — or programme — service profiles remotely. However, the same technology can be applied to consumer products, meaning a SIM profile could be provisioned remotely without the need for a physical SIM card.
The consumer use of eSIM was accepted by the GSMA in 2016 but has only really started to gain traction in the last twelve months as the penetration of eSIM capable devices has reached critical mass. eSIM means that SIM card technology can now be embedded into the device, rather than on the separate physical UICC.
Flexible, digital communication
There are many benefits to using eSIMs in mobile devices. One of the major boons is remote provisioning, allowing users to set up their devices instantly without needing to visit a retail store or wait for their SIM card to arrive via the post. For those working remotely, the ability to connect and communicate without delay will be key to maintaining productivity.
Having contracts with more than one network is also simpler. Because an eSIM lets you store multiple mobile services in a single device, users will be able to switch quickly between them. This could come in handy if in areas with poor or no signal, switching between personal or work contracts or availing of alternative, more competitive, roaming services.
Another advantage of eSIMs is that they will eventually negate the need for a physical SIM card and its tray. Smartphone manufacturers could use this space to increase a phone’s battery size or add more features to a handset.
Widespread adoption of eSIMs is inevitable — GSMA Intelligence estimates they will be used in between two and three billion smartphones by 2025. To help SPs get ahead of the curve, Mobilise has launched its own eSIM as a service.
Consisting of Mobilise’s digital platform, M-Connect, and eSIM infrastructure from Oasis Smart SIM, the service offers users a one-tap installation method that eliminates the need for QR codes and physical SIM cards. Using Mobilise’s eSIM as a Service, SPs can fully digitalise their services to make the onboarding process quick and uncomplicated for end users.
M-Connect takes digital service management a step further. As a fully customisable, modular platform, M-Connect’s digital interfaces allow for easy onboarding of customers via in-app eSIM provisioning. To make remote working effective, easy to manage software services is key. Using platforms such as M-Connect, SPs can implement digital-first service propositions with flexible modules that meet business needs. In turn, end users benefit from a truly digital experience that delivers freedom and flexibility to mobile communications.
Work has become a thing that you do, rather than a place you physically go to, and telecommunications must reflect this shift. Mobile services play a vital role in keeping employees connected with one another. The move to a digital first approach is inevitable for the telecommunications industry and becoming early adopters of technologies such as eSIM with in-app provisioning will help SPs retain their competitive advantage.
The era of the eSIM
Telcos have been reluctant to take up eSIMs. In some ways, who can blame them? After all, removing the physical SIM and embedding eSIM technology into a mobile device removes much of the hassle of changing service providers and makes it far easier for customers to switch, if they’re drawn in by a better deal.
However, there are many reasons why eSIMs are a telco’s friend, not a foe. And against the current backdrop of remote working, ever-evolving tech, and major shifts in the way we do business, now is the time for this reluctance to fade.
No longer is it necessary to purchase plastic SIM cards when travelling to new countries. Thanks to eSIM’s remote provisioning capabilities, all customers need to do to obtain the best network and service in their destination of choice is have access to an eSIM-capable device, install an app, select a network plan and purchase.
Most eSIM services will email over a QR code for the user to scan to activate the device, although others offer in-app provisioning for an even smoother experience.
Multiple plans can be stored on a single eSIM capable device and used when required. This isn’t only beneficial for end users — service providers are also able to work more flexibly and present various plan options to customers without the cost of distributing new cards.
eSIMs can help providers maintain their competitive advantage, rather than hinder it.
It’s also worth noting that there are far more eSIM-compatible devices on the market nowadays. eSIM first gained popularity in consumer devices when Apple launched the technology in its iPhone XS in 2019. At the time, the device retailed at around $999, or roughly £720 — placing it at the higher end of mobile device affordability.
Now, just a few years later, mid-range Apple devices such as the iPhone SE and iPhone 12 Mini have been produced with eSIM capabilities. Many of the latest Android phones also support eSIM, including the Samsung Galaxy S20 and 21 and multiple generations of the Google Pixel, to suit all customer preferences.
According to GSMA Intelligence, the definitive source of data and analysis for the mobile industry, 110 eSIM consumer devices were launched as of December 2020.
Lessons to learn
However, while new ways of working and the latest mobile tech foster an ideal environment for eSIM adoption, the technology’s widespread uptake still largely depends on decision makers understanding its value.
We’ve already discussed eSIM’s flexibility and ease of use for customers, but what’s the business case for service providers?
Advantages for service providers can be divided into cost saving and revenue boosting activities. As part of the former, and without the customary process of sending plastic SIM cards to customers, service providers can streamline their logistics, reduce costs and drive greater use of digital distribution channels.
As an inherent part of this process, relating to the latter benefit, service providers can enhance the customer purchasing process with simple onboarding and streamlined in-app provisioning.
When eSIMs first made it into the consumer realm, digital onboarding often required a QR code that customers needed to scan upon beginning their contract. Now, to make things even simpler, users can download the operator’s mobile app and activate their eSIM profile in just one tap.
Mobilise’s latest solution — eSIM as a Service — uses in-app eSIM activation, making the onboarding experience quick and uncomplicated. This option removes the need for visual explanation and step-by-step instructions, so users can focus on the things they want from their service provider, like staying connected.
At Mobilise, we have seen the penetration of eSIM capable devices increase from five per cent twelve months ago to 35 percent now. Following this trajectory, by the end of 2022, we expect to see 70 to 80 percent market penetration of eSIM capable devices in Europe.
Front runners deploying eSIM early will have the benefit of competitive advantage, while others, before long, will find themselves racing to catch up. Now truly is the era of the eSIM.
It’s time for telcos to step up as drivers of industrial 5G
Industrial 5G is set to be a catalyst for unlocking the potential of intelligent industry and accelerating data-driven digital transformation. However, most organizations are yet to realize its true potential. A variety of challenges await industrial organizations as they navigate their 5G roadmaps, and now is the time for telcos to step in and aid manufacturers in achieving their ambitions.
Quite rightly, manufacturing firms widely recognize 5G as the cornerstone of the next generation of Industry 4.0. The combination of high capacity and coverage is making mid-band 5G a particularly attractive choice for a variety of new and transformative industrial use cases.
Recently, we conducted research on 5G in manufacturing and found that 40 percent of industrial organizations expect to roll out 5G at scale at a single site within two years.
Telcos are aware of the opportunity this presents, and they’ve been busy preparing. More than two thirds (68 percent) have already launched commercial 5G services, while the remaining third are at advanced stages of rollout.
However, as is the case with many endeavours, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant delays in implementation. This has led to slowed standards development, and delays in spectrum auctions, not to mention the supply chain disruptions, which have impacted telcos’ original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Yet these challenges have ultimately proven to be short-lived, and now governments and enterprises are accelerating their deployments.
Now that the wheels are in motion for 5G projects, telcos need to step-up and drive these projects forward, and there are several different ways in which they can do so.
More than connectivity
Telcos need to finally unburden themselves from their historical role as mere ‘connectivity providers’. In the 5G world they must act as a solution-driven provider equipped with value-added services — one that is fully aligned with, and is an integral part of, the manufacturers’ digital transformation journeys.
We know that more than half of telcos are aware of these opportunities, but the question remains: how can telcos turbocharge their current offerings with vertical-specific solutions that integrate connectivity, platforms, applications, and devices directly to enterprises?
Private networks and the edge
When industrial organizations plan their 5G initiatives, private 5G networks are the preferred choice, as they provide complete control over their networks and data along with high performance levels.
Our study found that telcos are aligning their enterprise 5G strategy with the demand for private 5G networks. Two-thirds (63 percent) have also launched industrial grade private network solutions to address the private network opportunity and meet the needs of industrial customers.
Verizon, for instance, sees itself as an end-to-end partner for private 5G network implementations, positioning itself to provide services along the customer journey: from helping organizations purchase local 5G spectrum to setting up and managing the private networks on their behalf.
Industry demand for low latency applications and real-time data and analytics continues to grow, with edge computing acting as a key enabler. Because of this, the market for edge computing is estimated to reach USD15.7 billion by 2025.
Take AT&T for example, its on-premises edge portfolio already includes 5G-capable edge computing, and Verizon has also launched a 5G-based edge platform. Telcos therefore must seize the opportunity and incorporate 5G-enabled edge computing services or strategies into their wider business development agenda.
Paint the benefits of 5G
Despite the increasing awareness around the benefits and opportunities presented by 5G, many industrial organizations are still not clear on whether 5G features will translate into practical applications on the ground.
Telcos should take proactive steps to educate industrial customers by demonstrating the impact of 5G in client-specific industrial environments, share real-world results of pilot projects and trials, or even provide a lab like T-Mobile, or create a lightweight platform. Capgemini has also developed 5G Labs in Paris and Mumbai to showcase industrial use cases and manifest new perspectives for industrial clients..
Play an active role
Telcos can play an active role in simplifying manufacturers’ path to 5G adoption and lay a strong foundation for their 5G implementations. By taking a deep dive into customers’ business problems and KPIs, while bringing together viewpoints from stakeholders across the business, telcos can help map out priority areas.
Belgium-based operator Citymesh, for instance, identified more than 100 use cases for one of its clients, based on extensive discussions with stakeholders from across the organization. It has presented a solid starting point for 5G implementations by helping organizations see the full set of possibilities that 5G can offer them before they identify priority areas.
Telcos can also consider simplifying access to vertical-specific solutions by providing them as an as-a-service/ subscription-based model, and onboard suitable partners rapidly to tailor specific industrial 5G use cases. To weather the rapid globalization process, telcos should also develop scalable and global solutions that address the 5G networking needs for a worldwide industrial customer base.
Manufacturers have varying needs, so telcos should offer a portfolio of solutions that address multiple network deployment scenarios, including private or dedicated, hybrid or virtual hybrid, all with clear service level agreements (SLAs). Telcos must also stay focused on security and sustainability to ensure that the networks they help build are resilient and future-proof.
Creating the ecosystem for tomorrow
Industrial executives are now seeking solutions that enable them to not worry about managing a multi-vendor 5G environment. Telcos should therefore focus on building an integrated service offering that combines connectivity with devices, applications, and the security layer – all of which are essential components of an overall 5G solution.
This will require building trusted relationships with a range of ecosystem partners, including cloud providers, edge computing providers, network equipment vendors, hardware providers, and system integrators.
Looking at real life cases, South Korea’s SK Telecom launched a subscription-based smart factory solution for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that enables organizations to optimize equipment maintenance using 5G-enabled sensors placed on manufacturing equipment.
Only by working together with cloud providers, OEMs, and other partners to build a holistic ecosystem of devices, solutions, and service offerings, can telcos successfully unleash the possibilities of 5G and accelerate adoption in the industrial sector.
Connectivity of choice: Why you should prioritise FTTP
Back in 2001, internet connection speeds were estimated to be just 0.1Mbps. In fewer than 20 years, broadband and connectivity have changed in ways we could never have imagined.
And the evolution is far from over.
Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) takes the fibre optic connection directly from the local exchange into a business’ building, offering download speeds of up to 330Mbps and upload speeds of up to 50Mbps. These figures demonstrate just how fast the world is changing. If businesses don’t change with it, they’re at risk of being left behind.
Primarily, FTTP ensures ultra-fast performance with little-to-no dropouts thanks to the direct fibre connection.
Although accelerated by the pandemic, the new work-from-home landscape is here to stay, with 26 percent of Brits planning to work from home regularly once all restrictions are lifted. Businesses around the world are beginning to recognise the benefits of a flexible approach to working for both productivity and employee wellbeing. This shift has caused a spike in the drive and demand for increased bandwidth.
However, 80 percent of the country is currently unable to access a stable fibre broadband connection. So, establishing the infrastructure to handle this volume of people working remotely starts with FTTP.
Many employers are worried about their staff being unable to maintain a secure and speedy internet connection throughout the day. Investing in FTTP will guarantee employees can work remotely without the drawbacks of unreliable residential connections — particularly in more rural areas of the country.
Not only are more people working from home than ever, but the average number of connected devices per household continues to creep up. Each home has just over nine connected devices— from laptops to tablets to smartwatches —that require a stable internet connection. An FTTP connection supports all these devices and ensures each one’s performance isn’t hindered by the volume of devices connected to the same network.
The prices of traditional broadband are on the rise, and the era of analogue phone lines is coming to an end. The 2025 ISDN Switch-Off is just four years away, meaning all traditional copper phone lines will be replaced with VoIP, which requires an active internet connection.
Currently, 42 percent of SMEs in the UK still rely on analogue lines to transmit data. For the businesses that don’t upgrade their systems, the Switch-Off is likely to have consequences.
Without a big enough bandwidth to host the VoIP services, businesses will experience poor audio quality or intermittent services that hamper their operations.
So, businesses need to start planning ahead.
Why wait until every business is scrambling to safeguard their connectivity and stay up and running? Why wait until the price of FTTP shoots up due to a surge in urgent demand?
Anticipating these fast-approaching changes and getting the ball rolling will be invaluable to securing a cost-effective and trusted connection before it’s too late.
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It’s time for telcos to step up as drivers of industrial 5G