While IoT has had several false starts over the last decade, the past 18 months has seen an acceleration in IoT adoption and deployments as organisations and industries have looked to remotely operate sensors and devices. This is partly in response to the pandemic but mainly as a result of IoT finally becoming mainstream as its value is recognised.
As we enter 2022, in today’s ‘always on’ world, this demand for remotely operated IoT devices is only set to continue to boom. This means businesses across all industries will need to adapt their operating models to meet the new and changing needs of both customers and employees. This trend is being pulled by a more remote and distributed user population and being pushed by a desire for enterprises to take greater control over their IoT deployments as new technologies allow them to do so.
To successfully take control, enterprises need strong and reliable cellular connectivity, and they also require visibility and security. This will enable organisations to accelerate the rollout of remote operating models that deliver exceptional, reliable customer and employee experiences at the network edge. Furthermore, there is a need for enterprises to manage their devices as they move between networks, whether they’re operated by different MNOs, or using their own private 5G network.
Looking ahead, we see the next year as one of real progress, provoking a major shift in the power dynamic between enterprises, MNOs, and IoT service providers. This will result in the biggest disruption to MNO business models to date as eSIMs solve the interoperability challenge, breaking the historical MNO lock-in and allowing enterprises to make their own decisions about IoT connectivity and network selection.
Below, I’ve outlined my key predicted trends for 2022, and the resulting impact they will have:
The importance of Network Level Orchestration (NLO)
IoT devices that frequently switch operators are harder to track because they get a new IP address each time they switch. Implementing enterprise-wide policies and security is difficult as a result. To overcome this, IoT vendors will need to use a single MNO-agnostic platform and require a single multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) network which will enable managed service delivery at the edge.
The MVNO market will fracture into three distinct groups
Future-conscious MVNOs will embrace disruption and pivot to become value players, supporting enterprises with key services as they take control of IoT deployments. They’ll offer localisation on multiple MNOs, provide a single MPLS network and manage customer switching, as well as offer hardware device design consultancy. A second group will undertake a race to the bottom on cost, supporting high volume, low data deployments. The remainder will be caught in limbo, unable to offer value or volume. These companies will experience shrinking opportunities, acquisition or in the worst case, business failure.
5G networks in a box
The evolution of 5G will put the last piece of the puzzle under enterprise control. It will soon be possible to buy a private long-term evolution (LTE) network in a box, without needing an MNO. We will see Wi-Fi and Local Area Networks in buildings give way to 5G networks and a raft of new suppliers enter the market to meet the demand for private IoT.
In summary, 2022 will be the year several major elements of the traditional IoT technology stack change. Mass eUICC-compliant eSIM adoption will enable companies to build truly global product SKUs. The abstraction of the SM-SR switch from the MNO stack to the cloud will allow enterprises to set their own operator agnostic switching rules. The extension of encrypted network capabilities to the IoT edge will enable corporate IT departments to set security and compliance policy centrally and auto-deploy to the IoT edge.
The combination of these factors means enterprises can, for the first time, deploy operator agnostic IoT projects globally with the confidence that they are keeping control of security and policy.
This power shift will usher in the next phase of global digitisation, driving enormous opportunities for many of the IoT players, especially Systems Integrators. But it will have a disruptive impact on MNOs, who must adapt to a world where they are no longer in total control of the connection. To address this, the MNOs will increasingly white-label platforms that enable them to offer truly global connectivity via a ‘Star Alliance’ type interoperability model from MVNOs that offer Network Level Orchestration capabilities to the edge.
At the same time, 5G’s coming of age will drive considerable new IoT demand, especially from larger enterprises. This will, in turn, accelerate the adoption of these new technology capabilities. Without a doubt, 2022 will be a watershed year for IoT and one where enterprises finally take control.