Thales is on a three-pronged mission to help MNOs connect, protect and predict in a world of 5G connectivity.
Let’s dive into the first – connect – to see how carriers can manage billions of connected devices.
Mobile connectivity is one of the great success stories of the last 20 years.
It's still not enough.
People want more data. They want super-fast video streaming, low latency gaming and new virtual reality services.
Enterprises, meanwhile, are impatient to explore the potential of data-hungry uses cases such as connected cars and telemedicine.
They also want to dive deeper into machine learning and create networks that comprise millions of smart connected sensors – aka the industrial Internet of Things.
The good news? 5G connectivity
All of this is possible in the coming era of 5G connectivity.
5G is not just an upgrade on 3G and 4G. It is built on a new kind of software-defined network.
Because of this, 5G connectivity can deliver not incremental but exponential improvements in speed, capacity and (device) longevity.
- Up 10 gigabits per second - up to x100 faster than 4G
- One millisecond latency
- Up to 100x number of connected devices per unit area (compared with 4G LTE). That's 1 million devices per square kilometre.
- 100% coverage
- Low power consumption – allowing connected objects with up to 10 years of battery life to operate for months without the need for human assistance.
Opportunity #1. Connect the unconnected
Clearly, 5G presents a huge connectivity opportunity to the world's mobile network operators.
First, they can use it to connect the unconnected.
There are hundreds of millions of subscribers that MNOs still cannot serve.
Even after nearly two decades, 4G still reaches just 63 per cent of the world’s population and 37 per cent of its landmass.
With the extraordinary reach of the new 5G networks, MNOs will finally be able to extend their reach to remote locations – and address the problem of degraded network performance in densely populated urban areas.
Opportunity #2. Connect billions of 'things'
At the same time, MNOs can focus on connecting billions of 'things'.
Today, IoT users have to make constant trade-offs (between speed, range and power consumption) in their choice of wireless technology.
With 5G connectivity, they will be able to have it all.
Needless to say, the promise of 5G connectivity comes with questions for MNOs, OEMs and end-users, namely:
- How can I keep track of millions of connections?
- How can I remotely change the profiles of my devices?
- How can I know and trust the identity of my connected products?
These are questions Thales works hard to address. We offer a range of products and services that cover all facets of connectivity.
They range from physical SIMs and modules (that make it possible for a device to connect to the network) to management tools (that make it easy to remotely organise a vast number of connections).
Let's dive in.
An IoT module is a small electronic chip that can be embedded in a sensor or machine. It connects to wireless networks and sends and receives data.
Modules contain the same technology and data circuits found in mobile phones but without features like a display or keypad. They provide always-on connectivity and are built to be durable.
Thales offers a portfolio of Cinterion IoT modules, terminals, and modem cards suitable for the most extreme environments.
The range includes modules configured for 5G.
Embedded SIM (eSIM)
The traditional plastic SIM works well when a human customer inserts it. It is not suitable for an era of connected machines and sensors.
So in its place, the industry created the embedded SIM card. The eSIM is soldered into the device's board. It's also rewritable. This is critical.
It means that the credentials needed to sign on to the MNO network can be downloaded over the air – and therefore changed – at any time.
Thales has the most significant number of SIM and eSIM customers and partners worldwide. The company has already delivered over 200 eSIM management platforms to MNOs and OEMs.
Integrated SIM (iSIM)
Can the industry improve on the eSIM?
Yes, it can.
Mobile stakeholders are now developing the integrated SIM. iSIM builds the connectivity directly into the chipset, which reduces the cost of distribution and power consumption.
Thales is currently developing iSIM technology for Qualcomm chipsets.
Managing SIMs and device ecosystems
As we have seen, the SIM makes it possible to connect and provision millions of remote devices over the air.
This challenge raises an important question: how can MNOs keep track of the vast range of platforms and OEMs active on their networks?
To answer this, Thales developed its Thales Device Management solution. It comprises a library containing more than 222,200 device references from over 7,700 manufacturers. It is expanded with thousands of new models each year.
This solution can detect a new handset on the network and remotely configure it with the correct operator settings.
SIM and eSIM fleet management
MNOs need to make it easy for their new customer types (from carmakers to city planners to farmers) to provision and de-activate millions of remote devices.
Thales’ Advanced OTA SIM management solution does this via a software as a service model to manage the SIMs. It is built on open standards and is fully interoperable.
In the case of next-generation embedded SIMs, our eSIM Management platform, the most popular globally, ensures secure management over the lifecycle of cellular subscriptions.
Building non-terrestrial 5G networks
We have already referenced the ability of 5G to reach 100 per cent of the earth's landmass. However, there are limits to what can be achieved with terrestrial infrastructure. For this reason, MNOs are now investing in non-terrestrial networks (NTN).
They are teaming up with satellite operators to address difficult-to-serve markets without having to deploy traditional ground-based radio equipment.
Thales Alenia Space satellite division is leading this activity – designing 3GPP-defined satellites for operation in non-geostationary orbit.