Best practice for end-to-end IoT security

Security is one of the most significant barriers to IoT deployment, together with funding, interoperability and the business model . Fraud is growing in this area, and industry leaders across the ecosystem agree that securing the IoT application is the only way to fully develop its business potential. The good news is that the vast majority of attacks can be prevented, and the resilience of any IoT deployment significantly improved, with measures that are simple and cost-effective to implement.

This white paper from BICS explains how mobile connectivity is a central enabler of IoT security. It outlines best practice advice for protection built in at each layer of an IoT solution, and at every stage of its development.

4G roaming traffic doubles once more – BICS

Roaming platform provider BICS has revealed that 4G roaming traffic around the world doubled for the third year running in 2019.

BICS reckons this indicates surging appetite for 4G connectivity, which is pretty hard to argue with. It also takes this geometric growth as a good sign for 5G, noting that 50 national 5G networks are now live, although we should add that in many cases the term ‘national’ needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. BICS boldly predicts that 5G roaming will gain further traction this year.

“The exponential growth in roaming traffic highlights how important international connectivity has become to the subscriber experience,” said Mikaël Schachne, CMO of BICS. “Through the provision of seamless, cross-border 5G connectivity, operators will be able to create new revenue streams and support a wide range of new and innovative use cases in areas such as automotive, gaming, telemedicine and logistics. As carriers launch 5G networks, roaming must be at the heart of their offerings to deliver maximum value for subscribers.”

The rest of the short press release is mainly spent stressing how great BICS is at enabling all this roaming, which is fair enough but doesn’t really add much value for the curious industry punter. It will be interesting to see what happens to roaming after Brexit, which is due to finally complete its first phase at the end of this month. This is an opportunity for operators and intermediaries to show they don’t need the help of politicians to keep the global telecoms business functioning smoothly.

Outlay vs opportunity: the 5G roaming landscape

Telecoms.com periodically invites third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Mikaël Schachne, VP Mobility and IoT Business and CMO at BICS, looks at the economics of roaming in the 5G era.

Last month, South Korean operator SK Telecom reached a landmark one million 5G subscribers. Not content with enabling super-fast speeds and greater capacity domestically, SK Telecom has also established roaming agreements with China, Italy, Finland and Switzerland. As such, those with next-generation smartphones visiting these countries from South Korea (and vice versa), will be able to take advantage of 5G cellular services in much the same way as they do at home.

5G trials and roll-outs will continue – especially in regions within Korea and Japan, which remain at the forefront of the tech evolution – but delivering international 5G roaming will require collaboration between and investment from operators globally.

Despite the growth in 5G roaming, deploying 5G networks has largely remained a domestic priority. In the US, for example, mobile 5G is now available from Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint in a number of areas, with the likes of U.S Cellular, C Spire, Charter, Comcast and Starry either offering fixed 5G, testing services, or aiming to launch next year.

Look at the boom in data traffic generated from smartphones, and this will come as little surprise. Driven by the popularity of video streaming via mobile and the increase in the number of IoT devices, global mobile data is predicted to reach 131 exabytes per month by the end of 2024 – an almost unimaginable sum. Ensuring that subscribers get a reliable, consistent, high-quality service – while at the same time supporting connected businesses and heavy industry – remains the ultimate goal for operators.

5G: home or away?

This is where 5G comes in, providing greater bandwidth, easing network congestion and giving rise to new, ‘smart’ services, and whole new ‘smart’ cities. Let’s return to SK Telecom for an example of 5G in action. In October, the operator linked 46 houses in a remote village in South Korea to its 5G network, supporting an emergency response system, agritech applications, and VR-enabled learning at the village school. This example can be seen as a microcosm for macro, 5G-enabled urban areas in the future. However, while the benefits for the village’s emergency response teams, its schoolchildren, and its farmers are clear, the opportunities it can bring on a wider scale are limited, due to service availability being restricted to this small geographical area.

What would happen, for example, if a farmer wanted to develop a connected agritech business and distribute devices overseas; or if another farmer wanted to ship its crop and track the cargo across other countries? To guarantee always-on, borderless connectivity of devices, operators across the world must support 3G and 4G roaming. The number of 4G network launches and resulting roaming traffic is increasing year-on-year, but there’ll come a point at which these networks will not be capable of managing global traffic demands. The growth of smart cities and IoT deployments, alongside ever-more migratory populations and the globalisation of trade, means 5G roaming will be an essential next step.

We’ve seen 5G roaming launches in APAC and Europe (including Swisscom, which launched the first intercontinental 5G roaming service) but availability remains limited to a handful of areas within these countries. Subscribers in the European Union arguably have an advantage over global geographies, as they’re able to roam on 5G networks without the additional tariffs imposed elsewhere. This is due to the EU’s ‘roam like at home’ regulation, introduced in 2017, which has helped to drive the uptake in roaming services and the decrease in the number of ‘silent roamers’.

An elimination of bill shock, an ability to stream HD videos at lightening speed, new opportunities for global connected IoT businesses: the benefits of 5G roaming are many, so why is it that operators are slow – and sometimes reluctant – to launch new services?

The cost and the core

The 3GPP announced the specifications for non-standalone 5G back in 2017, which involved the radio part of the network, and enabled new 5G networks to be built on existing 4G infrastructure. Operators are still relying on 3G and 4G network cores, meaning we’re unlikely to see truly global 5G roaming until the core is moved to 5G, (still fairly new) standalone 5G specifications are met, and 5G signalling is adopted.

The second major challenge is the cost of upgrading core networks to 5G. This is a major investment which involves developing and testing network equipment, and deploying the infrastructure. In addition to this, stakeholders also have to navigate the political and cybersecurity minefield which currently governs the 5G equipment market.

Historically, roaming was a lucrative part of an operator’s business, providing it with additional revenues above and beyond domestic network access fees. However, recent market changes have disrupted this model, narrowing a revenue stream which could otherwise have helped to finance network upgrades and roaming roll-outs. The disruptor isn’t just EU regulation, it’s also increased competition from digital service providers as well as operators themselves which are missing opportunities to improve the quality of user experience.

Overcoming disruption; funding the future

Upgrading networks to 5G is an expensive business, but it’s also an inevitability. The money must come from somewhere, and that somewhere is the IoT and industrial IoT (IIoT). Businesses emerging from this latter ecosystem, in particular (which includes those in connected agriculture, processing and manufacturing plants, and utilities), have the funds and financial incentive to invest in and pay for high-speed, low-latency 5G connectivity. The result is a win-win: the IIoT benefits from remote tracking, robotics, greater productivity, automation and so on; and operators can unlock a major revenue opportunity, predicted to hit $619 billion by 2026.

In addition to heavy industry, there’s also a strong consumer-focussed use case. Funding investment in 5G infrastructure could be supported by developing and launching new business-to-consumer services. These include multi-player, virtual and augmented reality gaming, and with such a huge market of global gamers currently, up-selling these services to businesses (and then to subscribers) in the future is an opportunity that shouldn’t be ignored.

Over those six years we’ll see dramatic changes across the telecoms landscape, the digitalisation of industry, a vastly improved subscriber experience, and a move toward global, borderless mobile connectivity. While 5G roaming is an investment, it’s also a huge opportunity, open to those operators which look beyond traditional revenue streams, and focus on future IoT opportunities.

 

Mikaël joined the international division of Belgacom in 2001 which was then spun-off and merged with Swisscom International and MTN International. After having successfully led the product development and management of new international mobile data services such as Signalling, GPRS Roaming eXchange (GRX), SMS Hubbing, MMS Hubbing, Instant Roaming and Open Connectivity Roaming Hubbing, he’s now in charge of the Mobility and IoT Business at BICS. The portfolio is now supporting international mobile communications needs for more than 500 Mobile Operators and MVNOs across the world. He graduated from the Brussels University Applied Science Faculty (Belgium) as a Civil Electrical Engineer specialized in Electronic and Telecommunications and holds a master in Business-to-Business Marketing from the Vlerick Management School in Leuven, Belgium.

Swisscom, SK Telecom, Elisa and BICS claim world’s first 5G roaming services

The very small number of people who are capable and inclined can now roam between the 5G networks of Swisscom and either SK Telecom or Elisa.

Swisscom has over 6 million mobile subscribers but hasn’t revealed how many of them have upgraded to 5G. Since Swisscom only started to roll out its 5G network in April of this year, it seems safe to assume its 5G subscriber base is struggling to hit six figures. Of those, owners of Samsung Galaxy S10 5G smartphones can now fly from Zurich to Seoul confident of maintaining their newly-won boosted download speeds. The converse is true of SK Telecom’s 5G punters.

“SK Telecom once again proved its leadership in advanced roaming technology with the launch of world’s first 5G roaming service” said Han Myung-jin, Head of the MNO Business Supporting Group of SK Telecom. “We will continuously expand our 5G roaming service to enhance customer experience and benefits.”

“We want to offer our customers the best network – both in Switzerland and abroad,” said Dirk Wierzbitzki, Head of Product and Marketing at Swisscom. “So we are proud to be one of the world’s first providers to offer 5G abroad. We will continue to expand 5G availability abroad with additional partners.”

Swisscom has struck up a similar deal with Finnish operator Elisa, which is also claiming the world first, so it looks like SK Telecom has a fight on its hands. We were amongst the first countries to start building 5G networks in Finland,” said Elisa’s Director of Consumer Handset Subscriptions Jan Virkki. “Now that Swisscom has opened their 5G network, we are more than happy to be able to provide the ultrafast 5G to our consumer and corporate customers travelling to Switzerland.”

Roaming specialist BICS also wants a piece of the action, having got involved in the SK Telecom gig. “Today’s successful implementation of a trans-continental 5G data roaming relation further endorses our position at the forefront of global mobility for people, applications and things,” crowed Mikaël Schachne, CMO and VP Mobility & IoT Business at BICS. We couldn’t find any other corporate chest-beating over this bit of news but there probably was some.

Potential return of roaming premiums causes latest Brexit flap

UK parliament has drafted new legislation that would release UK operators from their commitments not to charge extra for roaming in Europe.

The scoop was grabbed by the Huffington Post, which notes that the government will probably release operators from this obligation in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit. The apparent rationale is that, since the UK will no longer be able to oblige European operators not to charge UK operators a wholesale premium for roaming, it wouldn’t be fair to prevent them from passing that cost onto their customers.

Those opposed to Brexit have inevitably seized on this latest development as further evidence of what a catastrophe the whole thing will be. Labour MP Tom Watson brought it up in the house of commons and exploited the opportunity for a spot of scripted grandstanding to the fullest, which you can see at the bottom of this piece.

Wholesale carrier service provider BICS reckons it’s unlikely we’ll see a return to the bad old days, however, because operators on both sides of the channel will be aware of how unpopular such a move would be.

“The prospect of a ‘no deal’ in March has fuelled speculation about whether we’ll see the return of roaming charges, and post-holiday ‘bill shock’,” said Mikaël Schachne, VP of Mobility Solutions and IoT Business at BICS. “But with LTE/4G data roaming traffic in Europe surging by 600-800% after the implementation of Roam Like at Home, it would be exceptionally unwise for operators to go against such clear demand.

“In its abolition of roaming charges, the EU set a major precedent, and motivated other operators to offer competitive international tariffs. Most of us have now grown accustomed to using our mobile phones – and all of those data-intensive apps and services – when we’re abroad, to a similar degree as when we’re in the UK. In taking that away, operators risk alienating their customer base, and risk haemorrhaging subscribers to those offering more cost-efficient roaming packages.

“In the event that all UK operators decide to opt out of Roam Like at Home following a no-deal, we’re still unlikely to see the high tariffs that once existed. Roaming packages promote and drive subscriber loyalty, and encourage the use of all manner of mobile services and apps, helping operators to market and deliver additional services, making it in service providers’ best interests to stay competitive.”

Last summer UK operators indicated they have no intention of bringing back roaming, but as the prospect of ‘no deal’ grows only Three seems to be categorically ruling out any kind of hike. That could get interesting for Three if their wholesale roaming partners start getting funny ideas and our advice would be to publicly name and shame any such opportunistic European operators.

There will certainly be all sorts of bureaucratic chaos when Brexit finally happens, but you can’t undo decades of co-dependence overnight. Still, on the plus side, thanks to anticipated shortages of Mars bars, McDonald’s and Magnums we’ll probably all lose loads of weight and look great on the beach. Shame we won’t be able to afford to show off about it on social media, but you can’t have everything can you?

 

4G roaming traffic doubled globally last year – BICS

Regulatory changes and increased competition continue to drive massive growth in LTE roaming around the world, according to new data from BICS.

The precise increase is 95%, with a major catalyst still being the European Union’s regulation that banned European operators from charging a premium for roaming within the bloc. While we’re not seeing the ridiculous increase in European roaming that took place in 2017, the first full year after roaming was abolished, growth is still pretty steep.

“European subscribers have enjoyed being able to ‘Roam Like at Home’ and now seek high quality, affordable roaming services, wherever they travel,” said Mikaël Schachne, VP of Mobility Solutions at BICS. “This is forcing operators in other regions outside of the EU to match the European offering by coming together to offer more cost-effective packages to subscribers, while optimising traffic flow at the back-end.”

We had a chat with Schachne to get some further insight into this trend. He reckons that changes in the regulatory environment have forced operators to rethink their approach to roaming. This more competitive environment has been self-reinforcing and it looks like operators worldwide are now inclined to offer much more attractive roaming packages than they did a few years ago.

Another major reason for them to curtail their roaming profiteering is the growth in dual-SIM as a smartphone feature. This makes it much easier for people to buy a local SIM when they’re travelling and this circumvent roaming entirely. On top of that public wifi is improving all the time so the simple fact is that if roaming is too expensive, most people just won’t use it.

BICS is forecasting global 4G roaming growth of around half the rate of 2018 this year, which is hardly surprising considering how extreme it was previously. Another major driver is expected to be IoT over cellular networks, for which global roaming is a key feature, with billions of embedded SIMs expected to hit the market in the near future.

How Your Capacity Provider Can Help Address the Demands of the Digital-Driven Economy

Network operators are the backbone of today’s digital economy. Led by explosive demand for bandwidth and connectivity from consumers and businesses, the opportunities available to them are numerous.

However, finding the right balance between meeting this demand, stimulating further revenue growth via new services, and maintaining a consistent quality of experience throughout, will not be straightforward.

To tackle the challenge ahead, the existing relationship between service provider and wholesale partner needs to adapt.

This paper looks at how this will work in practice. It also examines the areas where a wholesale partner can help drive new business models and prepare network operators for what’s coming next.

Happy birthday roam like at home: Impacts and opportunities one year on

Telecoms.com periodically invites third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Mikaël Schachne, VP Mobility Solutions at BICS, takes a look back at the first year of no roaming charges in Europe.

The EU has again picked June for a well-timed summer-holiday-coinciding telecoms-themed announcement. At the start of the month, governors and lawmakers in the European Union proposed capping the cost of calls and texts between Member States.

The yet-to-be decided move follows the abolition of roaming charges, announced in 2017 to the delight of many holidaymakers. In addition to avoiding ‘bill shock’, if signed off in the autumn, subscribers travelling within the EU will pay a maximum of 17p per minute for calls and 5p for text messages.

The EU’s move marks a further shift towards a model of borderless connectivity, which could soon be replicated on a global scale. This shift not only presents opportunities for operators – through encouraging more international calls and less restricted device usage – but also delivers sizable benefits for consumers and businesses.

However, the transformation in telecoms is not without its challenges. These include negative reaction to roam like at home (RLAH) from some in the industry and the need to make up for any losses in revenue.

800% growth in data roaming traffic

RLAH has certainly been a hit with consumers, evidenced by the massive increase in data roaming traffic last summer. The period June to September 2017 saw a 600-800% increase in LTE data roaming traffic in the EU, compared with the same period in 2016.

Note that this is data traffic, which was the main driver in the overall increase in roaming traffic in the EU. European subscribers have clearly been enjoying the same kinds of OTT messaging apps and entertainment services on holiday and on business trips, as they do at home. Since April 2018, this has been made even easier, thanks to the EU’s content portability regulation. Those who hold accounts with OTT content services – like Netflix, Amazon Prime or Spotify – are now able to access videos, TV shows, music etc. on their accounts wherever they travel in the EU.

In addition to humans roaming with smartphones, there is also a growing number of connected devices and ‘things’ which need to remain ‘always on’ as they move from country to country.

Global connectivity is a crucial enabler for machine-to-machine communications and the wider IoT, unlocking a major revenue opportunity for operators. Many businesses will be looking to extend their connected business beyond domestic borders and achieve a global machine-to-machine network footprint. This could encompass anything from tracking packages to ensuring a connected car is able to send and receive data wherever its driver takes it. These new business cases will rely on operators’ roaming services and global networks, helping to drive revenue and replace that lost through the falling use of traditional voice and SMS services.

But what kind of implications will low-cost roaming in the EU have for other regions? Subscribers will quickly become accustomed to a seamless, high-quality service whether at home or away, with border-crossing no longer interfering with or restricting connectivity. Subscribers travelling outside the EU will expect a similar level of service, at a similar price point.

‘GRLAH’?

Fortunately, many operators will be able to offer a similar level of service, thanks to an increase in the number that now support LTE services. Global LTE traffic more than doubled in 2017 with a total of 562 operators offering LTE services; an increase of 25% on 2016. LTE in Africa in particular has really taken off, with a growth in the number of MVNOs and tier three/four operators introducing LTE roaming services in the region during 2017, helping to kick-start wider roll-out.

But just because subscribers can access LTE services in more global destinations, the high cost of roaming in many non-EU countries will result in a high number of ‘silent roamers’ when they travel – or huge phone bills.

This issue was recently brought to the fore, with uSwitch predicting that football fans travelling to Russia for the World Cup could face roaming charges of up to £3,696 over a two-week trip. In response, some operators have launched global roaming packages, where subscribers can pay a fixed daily fee to access the same data, minutes and text allowance in a number of regions worldwide.

RLAH has opened operators’ eyes to the wants of today’s consumer: seamless, high-quality, worldwide connectivity, at low cost. This has in turn opened up the possibility of ‘GRLAH’: global roam like at home. For this to happen, regulators considering implementing similar policies must collaborate with mobile operators and the wider telecoms industry. Dialogue should focus on how overall mobile usage can be increased and should ensure that any changes in legislation (and potential revenue losses) are balanced by methods to boost/future-proof revenues in other areas of business.

Silent roamers: an opportunity worth shouting about

One way to balance the books in light of RLAH is to ‘awaken’ silent roamers outside of the EU. RLAH will have highlighted the comparatively high costs of roaming in many global destinations, serving as a prompt to many subscribers to switch off their data roaming, or switch off their smartphone altogether when outside of the EU.

Operators should draw on the vast wealth of subscriber data they have access to and offer personalised roaming packages which incentivise subscribers to remain connected to a network, wherever they are. This could involve identifying a phone user’s normal pattern of usage and preferred services, and creating a tailored bundle (which is both affordable and convenient) based on the findings.

To allay fears of post-holiday bill shock, operators can also provide subscribers with greater visibility into their data roaming usage. Real-time consumption monitoring, the ability to set and manage usage caps, and notifications relating to this can all help empower consumers and foster a positive operator/subscriber relationship.

Demand for roaming services shows no sign of slowing. Following a positive reaction – and mass uptake – in the EU, subscriber demand for access to low-cost, high-quality services worldwide will also grow. Operators must adapt to this new paradigm by unlocking new opportunities in the provision of IoT roaming services, stimulate mobile usage through tailored services, and optimise the user experience. The industry must band together and maintain an open, ongoing dialogue to deliver global connectivity, and future-proof the business of telecoms.

 

Mikael Schachne 2018Mikaël Schachne joined the international division of Belgacom in 2001 which was then spun-off and merged with Swisscom International and MTN International. After having successfully led the product development and management of new international mobile data services such as Signalling, GPRS Roaming eXchange (GRX), SMS Hubbing, MMS Hubbing, Instant Roaming and Open Connectivity Roaming Hubbing, he’s now in charge of the Mobile Data Business at BICS. The portfolio which has been built across the last 10 years is now supporting international mobile communications needs for more than 400 Mobile Operators and MVNOs across the world.

BICS and Fastweb combine to link Europe and MEA

Connectivity vendor BICS has joined forces with Italian operator Fastweb to augment communications links between Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The strategic partnership aims to combine BICS’ pan-European network with Fastweb’s fibre backbone in Italy and its access to submarine cable systems originating in Sicily. The point of this joint effort is to offer intercontinental connectivity services wholesale to other operators.

“We are highly satisfied with this partnership agreement with such a major international player as BICS, which highlights the strength of our network and the solid nature of our strategy,” said Fabrizio Casati, Chief Wholesale Officer at Fastweb. “The partnership with BICS adds further value to our investments, following on from our participation in the Open Hub Med consortium in Sicily and the development of an innovative and future-proof Flexible Optical Network all along Italy.”

“BICS has always been committed to providing its customers with first-class connectivity, and this partnership confirms our position as a bridging partner for operators expanding their capacity provision throughout Europe,” said Daniel Kurgan, CEO at BICS.

In case you’re wondering where else BICS connects here are a couple of maps for you. We couldn’t find any for Fastweb, sorry.

BICS Europe

BICS global