BICS Is Building a Global IoT Business
Massive IoT may not be here, but seamless global IoT is already a business for BICS, the international arm of Belgian operator Proximus.
The world's biggest roaming carrier, BICS has leveraged its scale to deliver IoT to enterprises that need seamless connectivity worldwide.
BICS has connections to 500 operators worldwide and a network that carries more than 50% of the world's data roaming traffic and a third of the signaling traffic.
It's an emerging operator segment we don't hear much about.
"The IoT opportunity is to offer a global solution to manufacturers," said CMO and vice president for mobility and IoT Mikael Schachne.
For example, he cites a China-based e-scooter manufacturer "that can put our SIM in their scooter, test it in the lab, and send it around the world. We also have e-bus manufacturers, smartwatch-makers and so on.
"They need to be sure the connectivity will work well in whatever country their product is sold -- that is what we provide."
For the manufacturer, the LTE connection may track the performance and wear and tear of components, or in the case of buses provide WiFi.
For now, BICS is immune to the 5G fever raging across the industry. Schachne doesn't expect to see 5G services in any volume for at least two or three years.
The current 5G modems are expensive and lack global coverage, he says.
"The modems are coming out now, but you need 18 months before they can be deployed.
"Manufacturer lifecycles are very long. You have to work the modems into your manufacturing process, and then the connections must be able to work everywhere."
By contrast, in the consumer product cycle the handset goes straight to the retail shelf.
Additionally, 4G can still support all the current IoT use cases, he says.
"It's available everywhere. The modems are quite dependable, the technology is pretty mature and stable, and everyone knows how to make use of it."
When 5G does arrive, Schachne spies opportunity in consumer-application connectivity, such as notifications and authentication, in support of new or expanding apps like real-time gaming.
In BICS' other main line of business, fraud prevention, the company has patented a blockchain solution to tackle fraud.
"We still see CSPs struggling with fraud, whether it's voice, messaging or roaming."
Schachne says BICS has built a fraud prevention database based on "crowdsourced" data supplied by clients.
"Today it's centralized but it can evolve into a distributed ledger. We see it as a future version of our anti-fraud solution."
— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading