How Telecom Operators Can Leverage IoT: Use Cases

Indeed, telecom continues to be part of the most prominent potential players in the high-technology industry. That is due to innovations around smartphones and the internet, driving rapid expansion in the telecom industry. As such, telcos continue promoting new services and capturing new geographies. 

In turn, proper management of the network is experiencing complexities. That is in addition to the thrust of launching new value-added services to address the prevailing competition. That is where the Internet of Things (IoT) comes in handy because, over and above, creating additional revenue streams, this technology improves operational efficiency as well.

According to Statista’s forecast, by 2025, the installed base of active IoT connected devices will reach 30.9 billion units. Additionally, the expectation is that IoT market share will reach $1,319.08 billion by 2026, and you can find more statistics here. That suggests that the telecom industry can gain a lot by investing in IoT. Here are a few IoT use cases for telecommunications operators.

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1. Cloud Migration

Today, the cloud is supporting businesses in various sectors, including those in the telecommunications industry. As such, IoT becomes an integral part of cloud migration strategies for telecom firms. Beyond driving operational efficiencies, the cloud is helping telcos improve customer experiences and modernize application infrastructures based on machine learning, IoT, analytics, among other tools.

The only issue is that cloud vendors may not offer solution flexibility and the best-of-breed IoT capabilities that genuine IoT providers avail. So, if you want to combine IoT and cloud technologies effectively, you need to identify the right partner, and you also need to internalize core competencies with time.

2. Enhancing Operational Efficiency

Remote infrastructure eats up a significant portion of a telco’s operational expenditure. That is where the original use case of IoT comes into play, which is remote monitoring and management. For instance, a cellular mobile operator network consists of multiple cell towers whose distribution is across a vast geographical area.

Although there are protocols and standards for managing telcos’ remote equipment, how do you handle environmental protection, asset management, and physical security? Below are details on how IoT can handle each of these issues.

a) Environmental Protection

Usually, remote sites remain prone to vandalism by the elements since air, fire, and water are a constant hazard. IoT can detect such conditions like harsh weather, smoke, or flooding. That results in issuing control commands to shut down the system to avert irreparable damage. Such a command can also prompt one to deploy the necessary preventive measures.

b) Asset Management and Monitoring

Besides the main telecommunication equipment, a remote cell tower site includes auxiliary equipment to ensure that everything is working. One such component is a generator since power backup is essential because it ensures round-the-clock network uptime. The other vital assets include energy meters, air conditioning, and UPS.

 All these components are part of the passive infrastructure, and monitoring them for operational efficiency is critical. IoT makes that possible because it helps you predict the failure of these components in advance, which is an essential requirement in remote management.

c) Physical Security

Investment in physical security in remote locations where you install costly equipment is not an option. That explains why you need an IoT-enabled intrusion detection system. Also, such a site will have pilferable consumables like batteries and fuel. Keeping track of such supplies is paramount if you do not want to incur unnecessary expenses. You can achieve that by acquiring a resource consumption tracking system, which will also reduce losses.

3. Delivery of Intelligent, Value-Added Services

Since telcos are an IoT last-mile connectivity service provider, the technology can open new revenue streams for players in the sector. That is an added advantage for telecommunications operators. The implication here is that telcos can benefit from IoT the same way value-added services continue to boost mobile services and basic telephony. That is possible in the following ways.

a) Fostering Machine to Machine Collaboration

Machines can find people and places the same way humans do because they are also getting smarter by the day. That implies that machines can learn to interact with the environment and collaborate with humans. For example, you may decide to alter your destination when traveling in a self-driven car. 

As such, changing lanes may be necessary, especially when you need to make a detour in such a situation. IoT can signal a “lane change” message to other vehicles within the vicinity to ensure that they yield to allow your car to change lanes. Such technology allows road infrastructure, vehicles, and pedestrians to communicate on the go. 

Also, note that there are multiple use cases here, including hazardous location/intersection warning, emergency braking notification, and forward-collision warning.

b) Merging Virtual and Physical Worlds

Imagine the possibility of finding your way from a physical to a virtual world seamlessly and vice versa. The concept is similar to Google’s Physical Web. The only thing is that the Physical Web operates only in a PAN (Personal Area Network) space. IoT can allow two devices to exchange data after detecting their proximity, and below is some insight into practical use cases of this approach. 

On-The-Go Collaboration

Picture this: You need to catch a flight, and for that reason, you are seeking an UBER to drop you at the airport. Besides making such an option available, IoT can also allow you to scan your neighborhood using your phone to identify other individuals leaving for the airport, and you can pool together.

Also, if you are going somewhere using your car, you can advertise your route and set the terms and conditions for those who may want to hitch a ride, thanks to IoT.

Finding Places

Moving from one point to another when you are in a new city can be challenging. If each public transport, bus, and train aggregation point within such a city has an IoT-enabled device, it can sync with your smartphone. That way, you will access an interactive application that can help you find your way around a new city. 

Also, if communication with such IoT devices is possible, you can get information on train and bus timings, among other details, which will help you make the right decision at the right time.

Finding People

Probably, you may want to know whether anyone within your LinkedIn network is present when attending a conference. In such a situation, your LinkedIn app can quickly scan the individuals in your network who are nearby if you and others have enabled an IoT application on your smartphones.

4. Providing Last Mile Access to Devices

It is worth mentioning that IoT is dependent on a reliable communication link. So, you need to consider services that do not suffer from the setbacks of telco’s terrestrial link failure. These include;

Low Power Radio

Telcos can play the service provider role to tap into the Machine to Machine (M2M) ecosystem. The advantage here is that M2M communication requires extremely low bandwidth, which is not the case for a human to human communication. The conventional way of enabling M2M communication is by using such technologies like WiFi and GSM. 

These technologies are overkill for M2M because they are high bandwidth-centric options. Also, if you rely on battery-powered applications, WiFi and GSM will prove energy inefficient because they are power guzzlers. The best part is that low-power, radio-based, wide-area technologies optimized for low data rates, known as LPWAN (Low Power WAN), are now available.

Typical use cases of such technologies are in deployment in public utilities like parking systems in urban areas and establishing communication links with sensors in the field when it comes to agriculture. Telcos can leverage the opportunity by providing last-mile IoT connectivity.

Satellite Links

The other solution that can help you overcome telco terrestrial link failure challenges is a satellite link. By deploying a satellite link for telcos’ remote sites, you will eliminate the need for sharing a terrestrial communication link. Remember that when you experience a terrestrial link failure, the IoT system will also become ineffective.

5. Paving The Way for The Future

Analytics, monitoring, and control are the most obvious use cases of IoT. However, a new trend is emerging. The new trend of collaborative applications focuses on merging the physical world into the virtual lives of individuals. In that case, one can transition from a physical-to-virtual or virtual-to-physical world seamlessly, and intelligent devices and smart things play a pivotal role here.

The expectation is that this approach will evolve into an intelligent, interconnected world for machines and humans in the next few years. Telcos role, in this case, should go beyond offering basic connectivity to providing intelligent, value-added services. That will be the next move that will open a new frontier for telecommunications operators.

Conclusion 

As technological advancements continue, telecommunications operators cannot afford to overlook the importance of adapting their operations. The reason is that they have a lot to gain from IoT, and the IoT industry can also achieve much from advancements in telecom. That makes it a win-win situation for operators in both industries.

Telecom remains at the forefront of IoT innovations since it is one of the most technologically sophisticated industries with access to engineering talent and modern connectivity infrastructure. As much as that is the case, improving service reliability and the risk of overstretching resources remain a grave concern.

As such, telecommunications operators will have to take the initiative of leading the way in technology development. Doing so will ensure that they flourish in AI, cloud, and IoT intensive environments.

Symphonica allows you to integrate your BSS to any network access technology with a few clicks, and easily design custom automated provisioning workflows. No coding required.

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