Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Lucky La Riccia, Head of Digital Services at Ericsson Middle East & Africa

Lucky La Riccia - Inside Telecom

Has the IoT industry been impacted by the pandemic? How are IoT applications in this digital ecosystem serving complex needs in the crisis?

Massive IoT technologies continue to be rolled out around the world. 2G and 3G connectivity still enable the majority of IoT applications, but during 2019, the number of Massive IoT connections increased by a factor of 3, reaching close to 100 million connections at the end of the year according to the recent Ericsson Mobility Report figures.

ICT has helped consumers handle the uncertainties of the COVID-19 crisis, with more and more activities carried out and time spent online. Given this, both fixed broadband and mobile networks are experiencing greater demand than ever seen before. Critical IoT is used for time-critical communications in both wide- and local-area use cases that require guaranteed data delivery with specified latency targets. Critical IoT will be introduced in 5G networks with the advanced time-critical communication capabilities of 5G NR.

What are some of the challenges you face in terms of network capacity, performance levels, during COVID-19?

There have been drastic shifts in data traffic globally due to COVID-19. For instance, we’ve seen major shifts in data and voice traffic moving from downtown to suburban and residential areas, as a result of lockdowns and less mobility and movement in cities. We’ve also seen a significant rise in mobile voice calls, as well as bi-directional services, such as video calls and tools for smart working.
The massive disruption caused by COVID-19 has demonstrated the criticality of the network in today’s society and we are currently working closely with our customers to keep their networks running. During this period, our supply and service delivery has worked with limited interruption.

What are some of the trends that have emerged since the current crisis? Do you see some of these trends having future impact on your industry or IoT?

With more and more activities being carried out online, and greater numbers of hours spent connected to both fixed and mobile broadband, the internet has become a fundamental part of daily life – as critical as access to food and electricity. The fastest-growing mobile app categories during the COVID-19 period have been those related to the crisis, remote working, education/e-learning and wellness.
Multitasking between devices and networks while staying at home, for everything from work to socializing, caused the amount of data consumed on smartphones to increase. The daily time consumers spent connected to fixed broadband increased by two and a half hours during the crisis, while the time spent connected to mobile broadband increased by an average of one hour per day. As many as 46 percent have spent significantly more time on fixed broadband, while 16 percent have done the same on mobile broadband. Ericsson Mobility Report figures.

Digital contact tracking service grow very fast in Asia using IOT connected devices (cell phones, cameras). Mobile Operators and government collaborated to launch theses services to manage the spread of COVID 19. Mobile operators ensured they have excellent nationwide coverage and ability to collect and manage IOT data to launch this service.

With 74 percent of respondents in a survey conducted by Ericsson Consumer Lab saying that mobile networks were performing better or the same than pre-crisis, it is safe to say that despite all odds, they have managed to meet consumer expectations. But additional capacity offered by 5G would definitely have helped.

What are some of Ericsson’s plans regarding 5G and IoT after the pandemic ends?

From improving employee productivity to implementing IoT for smart buildings and production lines, our research shows that enterprises see potential in private mobile networks. The first 5G NR-capable IoT platforms have recently been released. Modules from several vendors are available, as well as tailored platforms for PCs and advanced wearables. In the second half of 2020 and during 2021, this is expected to expand to include use cases involving personal and commercial vehicles, cameras, industry routers and gaming. Such devices will initially support mobile broadband capabilities, but performance is expected to evolve towards time-critical communication capabilities where needed, via software upgrades on devices and networks.

How has Ericsson’s supply chain been impacted by the current crisis? Are there plans in place to remedy the impact?

Ericsson has a global supply chain set up, which ensures the company works close to customers through its European, Asian and American operations. Our main production facilities are in Estonia, Poland, China, India, Brazil, Mexico and the US. All main Ericsson production sites are currently in operation. Ericsson continues to follow the situation of the novel Coronavirus and recommendation from the local authorities and WHO, as the company assesses its supply chain.

Ericsson delivered a solid result during the first quarter, with limited impact from the Covid-19 pandemic. For Q2 2020, our assessment remains that we can cover currently forecasted demands, considering known implications and expected outcome from mitigations made following the outbreak.

Privacy/data security is a growing concern for many. What are the security factors related to IoT implementation in the MENA region today?

By 2025, we’re going to have more than 24.6 billion IoT connections in the world based on Ericsson Mobility Report figures. It’s a vast opportunity but it also brings vast risk. How do you keep billions of devices secure? How about the networks they run on? How do you make sure the data from all those devices isn’t compromised?

When it comes to IoT, security requirements are unique. Connecting devices is different from connecting individual people and personal computers. To verify its identity, an IoT device can’t simply enter a password as a person would. Similarly, the systems that run our PCs are regularly updated, but IoT has to work all the time.
A reliable infrastructure is a must, and this is especially true for mission-critical applications. 3GPP technologies provide this reliability. The IoT expands rapidly, and security must be end-to-end.

What are some of the obstacles/challenges you might face when implementing IoT in the MENA region

When talking about the challenges that companies are likely to face when starting their journey within Machine Learning and IoT, trust is a key component. Handling the IoT product lifecycle is very complex, and requires trust in three dimensions; internally, between the company and the end user, and lastly across your partners – the ecosystem needs to align and take a more active role in the co-creation process.

Furthermore, it is important to have a product mindset – to focus on the business problem you are trying to solve and work together with the ecosystem to bring the greatest possible value to your end customer.

How long will it take for the infrastructure to fully accommodate an IoT transformation? What countries in the region are leading the way?

To drive IOT transformation you need connectivity everywhere to collect data from devices, sensors, things, etc. In some countries in the region like GCC, Egypt, Turkey, Jordan and others, the nationwide coverage is almost there. Thus, IOT transformation is taking place with solution for smart offices, smart malls, smart bus stops, healthcare apps and others.

The biggest impact of COVID 19 was on the human capital in several industries and enterprises. This caused a rise in demand for automation using industrial IoT for Factories, Ports, Oil & Gas, Transportation, and Mining. To drive industrial IoT you need a 5G connectivity due to the industrial requirements for ultra-low latency, high speed bandwidth, data security and edge computing.

There are several countries in the region that are starting to lead industrial IoT transformation like Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman. These countries have 5G coverage in major cities and are offering private 5G network for industries. I think you will see world class industrial IoT use cases implemented in the region.

Has the virus hindered your plans for 5G deployment?

While in some markets 5G subscription growth has slowed as a result of the pandemic, this is outweighed by other markets where it is accelerating, leading us to raise our forecast of global 5G subscriptions at the end of 2020. However, the success of 5G cannot be measured in subscriptions alone. The value 5G brings will be determined by the success of new use cases and applications for consumers and businesses.

We expect our industry to show resilience throughout the pandemic and we are well positioned with a competitive 5G product offering and cost structure. There is near-term uncertainty around sales volumes due to Covid-19 and the macroeconomic situation, but with current visibility we have no reason to change our financial targets for 2020 and 2022.

How is Ericsson working with telco’s and tech companies to ensure that IoT works seamlessly and securely during the pandemic?

Ericsson’s Cellular IoT solution addresses diverse use cases ranging from the more basic use cases such as asset tracking and smart metering to more advanced use cases such as drones, AR/VR, to even higher demanding use cases such as autonomous vehicles and collaborative robotics.

For enterprises, cellular IoT turns concepts into realities with shorter development times for IoT solutions, fast and simple deployment, and profitable growth at any scale. For service providers, it scales their IoT business by making it easy for their enterprise customers to connect and manage IoT devices locally and globally. And for ecosystem partners, it enables faster time to market a seamless integration into any ecosystem, supported by an existing global ecosystem that provides coverage in over 104 countries.

We are proud to partner with so many communications service providers (CSPs) who have selected our leading platform to provide IoT services to more than 4,500 enterprises around the world.

With IoT on the rise, what kind of role will Mobile Network Operators have?

The IoT market is rapidly growing and this indicates a substantial business potential for communications service providers, industries and enterprises. In Ericsson’s Mobility Report June 2020 , it is forecasted that there will be 5.2 billion Cellular IoT connections by the year 2025. Our report, the 5G Business Potential, shows that this is an USD 619 billion revenue opportunity for telecom operators by 2026. End-to end-solutions from Ericsson are supporting the MENA region’s telecommunications service providers as it accelerates its drive to digitalize business, industry and society. We empower both government and private sectors’ journey towards digital transformation, as well as accelerating the deployment of digital services, and expanding Internet of Things (IoT) usage.

Is Ericsson taking part in any social initiatives to implement IoT for those without access? (For example, education initiatives)

Working with our partners to develop IoT use cases for education has always been in focus for Ericsson. In fact, in response to how the global COVID-19 Pandemic has disrupted education and learning around the world, Ericsson has joined the UNESCO-led Global Education Coalition and launched Ericsson Educate which is a digital program delivering online learning content focused on improving digital skills for students in secondary schools and universities. This digital learning program has the potential to benefit students all around the world who are currently disadvantaged due to lockdowns and home quarantines. The program includes different learning paths, customized to the educational needs and maturity level of the target audience, and can be accessed free of charge via web portals specifically created by Ericsson.