A couple of eye-catching moves from the leading players, including Cisco causing some friction by switching pricing models and Ericsson enabling an inter-operator reseller model, has created increasing interest in the Connectivity Support Platform space, and there’s more change to come.
On 23rd November Transforma Insights published a new report entitled ‘IoT Connectivity Support Platform update: slow diversification and cloud integration’ which examined the landscape for those middleware platforms associated with supporting connectivity on cellular networks including SIM onboarding and management, and billing. It’s a market dominated by two main vendors, Cisco (Control Center) and Ericsson (Device Connection Platform – DCP), plus a number of in-house developed platforms, most prominently Vodafone’s GDSP.
Over the last few years this had become something of a settled space in IoT. There haven’t been any major new arrivals or M&A in recent years. The only major functionality upgrade has been the introduction of eSIM/eUICC stimulated by need for regulatory compliance and supply chain efficiency. The important thing for Connectivity Support Platforms is that eUICC created new entry and exit points for connections, potentially at huge scale.
As outlined in the report, there are many more disruptive changes happening now and in the near future. Some of the changes come as a result of the wider disruptions occurring in IoT, to which the Connectivity Support Platforms need to adapt. For instance, the increasing importance of the cloud, with these platforms themselves moving into the cloud, and the increased need for northbound interfaces to the cloud for integration with application enablement platforms (see ‘IoT Application Enablement Platform (AEP) Peer Benchmarking 2020’ for more on AEPs).
This cloudification of IoT will inevitably lead to greater commoditisation or marginalisation of the Connectivity Support Platform. The functionality will be abstractable (to a large degree) into the AEP, and it will be replicable by a new breed of software-defined platforms, enabled by the disaggregation of hardware from the control layer. See blogpost ‘Network disaggregation/virtualisation, 5G and edge computing will create a ‘Network New Normal’ with radical implications for how telecommunications services are delivered, and by whom' for more details.
In light of this, and the fact that there aren’t many more global operators to target, Cisco and Ericsson have moved into gear to explore new commercial models. Perhaps the most notable has been Cisco shift of pricing models, which has not been universally welcomed by its operator partners. It has also been looking to cross-sell (via its operator partners) other IoT-related products and services. Ericsson has expanded the functionality within its ‘IoT Accelerator’ to include security and device management, and has turned its attention to inter-operator connectivity reselling, via its Advanced Reseller programme, which was announced just last week. The latter seeks to correct the biggest problem with the old alliances (Global M2M Association and IoT World Alliance) of not really creating a viable framework for cross-selling connectivity.
The themes mentioned above are all examined in the report, along with topics such as platform polarisation, the impact of 5G and mobile private networks, and examination of the key players.