If CSPs go over the top, they could get hit below the belt in the IoT
Will communications service providers (CSPs) let their infrastructure be colonised again, asks Nick Booth?
To be bamboozled out of your money once is understandable. To let it happen again, in exactly the same way, is unforgivable. And yet, that’s exactly what could happened to CSPs over the Internet of Things (IoT).
Nobody really knew what the first internet revolution would bring. There were many idealistic visions of a world without poverty, prejudice and class distinction. I bet none of the predictors of ‘the democratising effects of the internet’ saw president Trump coming, even on election night.
Under the circumstances, where nobody knows anything, it’s understandable that CSPs let their networks be colonised first time around. Mobile operators were used to providing infrastructure, so they weren’t equipped to compete when the likes of Facebook, Amazon and Youtube waltzed over the top and claimed all the valuable opportunities. The CSP’s idea of contentment was a nice big pipe.
Having lost out on the big over-the-top (OTT) opportunity, no CSP wants to see the same thing happen with the IoT. It’s also why many of them now are diversifying and nurturing creative start ups.
It was at a showcase for such new talent, Wayra’s Demo Day 2016, that a new IoT start up, Device Pilot caught the eye because it promises to slash the cost of managing devices on the IoT. Founder Pilgrim Beart was the creator of the connected home system, AlertMe, which British Gas bought for $100 million and rebranded as Hive. So when it comes to tackling the huge management challenges created by the internetworking of hundreds or even thousands of remote devices, the people at Device Pilot probably have a better idea of the way the industry is going than most people.
One of the problems Device Pilot could rectify, for example, is the exposure created by having hundreds of devices on the network that are still using the default passwords that came with the box they arrived in. This is what leads to denial of service attacks when hackers guess the obvious default passwords. Somehow, Device Pilot can find all the devices that have 1234 or Welcome or HackMe as their password and render them secure. Which saves the IoT operator a fortune in management and thwarted hijacks.
Since this is a cloud service, it can be linked up into a network almost immediately. A trial version can be made available in hours and a full service set up in a few days. A similar level of management from, say, a traditional global service provider can take five months.
This would be a great opportunity for CSPs to do something valuable for their IoT using clients, surely.
In the age of the IoT, the company that demonstrably runs the best network is offering the best value to clients but, I’m told, CSPs are surprisingly uninterested in differentiating themselves this way. Having outsourced the running of their networks to the service arms of Huawei and Ericsson, they have surrendered any aspirations to compete on this level. If CSPs are sharing their networks, they are clearly not that bothered about being the best. Perhaps they are more interested in creating apps and games to go over the top.
In the emerging world of the IoT the new consumer is a machine rather than a human. Each of these thousands of devices is likely to have a non-steered SIM card, which allows it to shop around for the best network, a judgment based on cheapness. So, unlike human clients on the mobile internet, the device on the IoT makes its buying decision not on the type of content it wants but the price/quality of the connection – at just the time when CSPs have decided that competing to be the best network is not for them.
In other words, CSPs missed out on the consumer internet by concentrating on infrastructure but now they want to make content even though that opportunity has gone and, at the very time they’re trying to go OTT, everyone else is going for the IoT. While they want to go over the top, they’re going to let hackers hit them under the belt. That’s unforgivable.