Enterprise IoT will play a key role in the 5G era, bringing with it multiple revenue and monetisation opportunities for operators. Research conducted by GSMA Intelligence has shown that 5G is set to contribute $2.2 trillion to the global economy over the next 14 years, with key industries such as manufacturing, utilities, and professional and financial services benefitting the most from the new technology.
But with this wealth of potential opportunity comes the need to overcome the complexity associated with ensuring seamless 5G connectivity. With enterprise IoT connections on track to reach 13.3 billion in the next five years—accounting for just over half of all IoT connections in 2025—operators must have the right tools to assure and guarantee a seamless experience that can deliver new revenue streams.
Guaranteeing the enterprise IoT opportunity
While consumer IoT applications have got some parts of the industry excited, for operators, the excitement lies with the enterprise IoT applications. These services will allow operators to tap in into new verticals and markets and monetise 5G in a way that is not possible with consumer applications. These applications will span everything from smart factories kitted out with IoT sensors and devices, smart transportation via autonomous and connected cars, to smart healthcare via health devices. For enterprises, 5G will afford them the connectivity means that have been missing from previous wireless generations of technology—high reliability and ultra low latency.
This presents a huge opportunity for operators to work with enterprises to deliver the connectivity services they need in order for enterprises to enable the IoT applications of the future. But how can operators truly guarantee that the network will work as it should? Enterprise IoT applications will need SLA-grade connectivity, according to their individual connectivity requirements. Operators will only be able to monetise their 5G assets for IoT applications by being able to deliver faultless connectivity and demonstrating that they have real-time visibility into what is occurring across their entire network, at any given time. This guarantee will see enterprises become more willing to pay a premium for uninterrupted connectivity, especially for applications where reliability is of utmost importance.
Getting to enterprise IoT utopia
If we think about the factory of the future—one connected via thousands of IoT devices, each requiring its own level of connectivity and own SLA-grade requirements—it’s easy to see the complexities that this factory can throw up. It will not do to assure the factory of the future with yesterday’s ‘one size fits all’ monitoring solutions that reacted to faults, instead of predicting them, and which so heavily relied on human analysis to identify network outages and issues. The reality is that the more connected devices there are, the more difficult it is to guarantee SLA-grade quality of experience (QoE) and quality of service (QoS), and this level of complexity is one that human engineers simply cannot handle or manage on their own. What’s more, IoT devices will be intolerant to human errors or inadequacies. So while mobile users—human ones that is—can put up with a lot in terms of service outages and network problems, IoT devices will not interact in the same way and will instead be programmed to switch to other available networks, or shut down altogether.
So, in a scenario where an outage occurs and multiple devices or machines shut down, factory production can grind to a halt and see the entire supply chain affected. Enterprises simply can’t afford to take this downtime risk.
Their solution lies in automated, predictive, analytics-based, real-time visibility and network monitoring that extends way beyond the capabilities of the human eye. The combination of automation and analytics allows enterprises to predict outages or issues before they occur, or impact the device(s) or machine(s) in question. This end-to-end, granular level of visibility will significantly help to assure networks and enterprise applications in a way that has not otherwise been possible before. For operators, this level of guarantee can prove to be a lucrative revenue stream, especially in a network slicing-enabled 5G world where enterprise applications can be “sold” on a slice by slice basis, and where SLAs will need to be managed as such. This level of granularity will be critical to the success of network slicing monetisation of enterprise IoT applications.
5G is presenting new and exciting opportunities for operators and enterprises. For operators, it is allowing them to enter new verticals and markets, and explore new areas that they may have not otherwise been familiar with. For enterprises, it is giving them the connectivity means to enable new and exciting applications. But maximising the potential capabilities of 5G will rely on seamless, constant and continuous connectivity—a guarantee operators must give their enterprise customers. Failure to do so could see enterprises look for their connectivity needs elsewhere, and with private networks quickly gathering pace, is that a risk operators are willing to take?