Scaling Telecom Everest: Leading The Charge In Global IoT Connectivity

IoT Leaders with Jodi Baxter, Vice-President, 5G & Industry Solutions at TELUS and Nick Earle, CEO at Eseye.

If the telecoms industry is Mount Everest, TELUS VP of 5G and Industry Solutions Jodi Baxter is leading the climb toward the peak of global IoT connectivity.

To achieve this, Jodi drives TELUS with a single-minded vision of collaboration among mobile network operators (MNOs). She says collaboration is the only way to unite and turn the tide of advancing technology — 5G, multi-radio access technology (multi-RAT), and smartly connected devices — in MNOs’ favor.

Listen to the podcast to find out:

  1. How a leading MNO will climb from base camp to the peak of the Mount Everest of connectivity.
  2. Why inter-operator collaboration is the key to unlocking the full potential of IoT devices and global connectivity.
  3. More about the white-labeled Eseye platform enabling TELUS to become a global SIM and operator.

Tune into this special episode to get the inside scoop on how they’re tackling the challenges facing the telecoms industry today.

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You’re listening to IoT Leaders, a podcast from Eseye that shares real IoT stories from the field about digital transformation swings and misses, lessons learned, and innovation strategies that work. In each episode, you’ll hear our conversations with top digitization leaders on how IoT is changing the world for the better. Let IoT leaders be your guide to IoT, digital transformation, and innovation. Let’s get into the show.

Nick Earle:
Hi. This is Nick Earle, and welcome to the IoT Leaders Podcast. I’m Eseye’s CEO. So this week’s episode is different because for the first time, what we’re going to do is talk to an operator, and it’s TELUS, and her name is Jodi Baxter, and she has been instrumental right from doing her MBA, as you’ll hear, in pursuing a vision, which is a collaborative model between the operators to deliver global IoT, and this resulted in TELUS making a decision to white label our platform as a global eSIM platform for them to become a global operator about four and a half years ago. We talk about that on the podcast of what’s happened since.

Then we talk about what’s going to happen in the telecom industry and 5G in particular because she’s also responsible for 5G and industry solutions for TELUS and all the developments around multi RAT 5G, explosion of sensors, billions of devices, and how in her view all of these developments which will play out satellites, will play out over the next few years, all of which require a totally new model for the industry, which is one based on interoperator collaboration and how she believes federations or alliances like Star Alliance model are needed in order to deliver value to customers.
So I think it’s a very good one, whether you’re from the enterprise side of the world or very definitely relevant if you’re in the operator. TELUS were the first people to white label our platform. Others have followed since. So she’s speaking from four years of experience in doing this and seeing great success outside their home markets in now selling truly global deals. So it is a really good one. She’s a very good friend of Eseye, knows as well, and we’re very pleased that she agreed to do the podcast. So here it is, my interview with Jodi Baxter, who’s the VP of 5G and Industry Solutions at TELUS in Canada. Enjoy.

Jodi, welcome to the IoT Leaders Podcast.

Jodi Baxter:
Thanks, Nick. It’s really nice to see you.

Nick Earle:
Yeah, it’s good to see you again. Now, we’ve known each other for quite a while. TELUS and Eseye have been partners for quite a while. In fact, that’s what we’re going to be talking about and the reasons behind that and what’s happened since then, but before we do all of that, I really want to get to know Jodi here for our listeners and, indeed, any viewers watching it on video. Because you’re the Vice President of 5G Industry Solutions at TELUS in Canada. What does that actually mean?

Jodi Baxter:
Yeah, it’s a bit of a generic title. Sometimes most people wonder. It’s good. It’s a conversation starter. Yes, at TELUS, I’ve actually been at TELUS for a very long time. I’ve got 20 plus years at TELUS. My current role at TELUS is leading our 5G strategy, which is inclusive of our connectivity strategy for internet of things, as well as the industry solutions that we want to bring into the market. So we’re very focused in worker safety, as well as fleet telematics from a solutions perspective. So, my focus right now is how do we bring to market greater value for our customers and enable the significant investment that we’ve made in 5G.

Nick Earle:
And within that, that encompasses IoT.

Jodi Baxter:
IoT, yeah, and on the IoT space, we’re not just looking at our, and why we have had a long time relationship, we don’t just look at our domestic IoT capabilities in Canada, but how we’re enabling our customers to move outside of Canada on a global level and take advantage of eSIM and multi-SIM switching capabilities.

Nick Earle:
And that’s exactly where we’re going to go, but before we go, as the Americans say, let’s put a pin in that. Before we go there, now you’ve been with TELUS twenty years, but maybe we can delve back a bit further without trying to disclose age, but I win, anyway. I’m the older anyway, so I win, but what were you doing before that? What’s the background? How did you end up at TELUS essentially?

Jodi Baxter:
Yeah. Well, how I ended up at TELUS was honestly right out of university and somebody told me I should apply for this role at TELUS, and I thought, “Okay. I’ll go try this out for a few months until I get my office at the top,” but then that turned into actually a 25-year career, where I’ve had many roles, but how I got into IoT specifically is actually a really interesting journey. I spent seven years in TELUS Health, and during that tenure in TELUS Health, I was very focused on how we’re bringing information and enabling solutions for our end providers, specifically in the practitioner space, so physician and pharmacy.

During that time, I was offered an opportunity to complete an MBA through a program that actually TELUS put on. So it was with a cohort of 20 of my peers at TELUS at the University of Victoria in British Columbia. During that tenure of that very stressful time in my life, I actually picked a keystone project, which was the evolution of global connectivity and eSIM in the Canadian market and what we should do at TELUS from a strategic perspective.
It just happened that when I finished the program, there was a leadership role in connectivity in the business solutions area, and so I grabbed it, and I think the rest is kind of history.

Nick Earle:
And the rest is history, yeah. I think you’re the first person, I think we’ve done about 45, 46 of these IoT Leaders Podcasts, and you’re the first person who actually did a thesis as part of their MBA on connectivity in eSIM. That’s a great way of getting into the role, and I actually wasn’t aware of that story. That’s absolutely great. So then let’s go fast forward a bit.

Now, I’ve been in Eseye for about six years, and not long after I joined, we already had an interconnect, I think at the time, with TELUS, so we could access you on network via our platform, but pretty soon afterwards, the conversation started to become a little bit more strategic. You guys, and just for everybody listening, TELUS were the first company that actually said, “No, we need a new global capability and we’re going to white label Eseye’s solution.”

So essentially, what we’re talking about here is TELUS have, I think for three, getting on four years, I think I’m right in that being white labeling our solution, and you really were, from our point of view, a visionary in that end. Must have been a hell of an MBA course. I was just thinking in retrospect because you went first, and we’ll get onto it later on in the podcast, that there’s an awful lot of people now saying, “Oh, I’ve always believed that they did it for a long time,” but there’s a bit of a stampede behind you, but you were the first.

By some way, we’re talking probably between four and five years ago when the conversations first started. I think a lot of people listening to this will be very interested in that because when things happen, it’s obvious in retrospect, but when the first person jumps, then people say, “Why are you doing that?” So maybe you can give a little color, a little background. What drove thought process inside TELUS?

Jodi Baxter:
It actually did culminate out of the MBA thesis, a lot of what we decided to do. One of the things that we were seeing in the Canadian market, and there was a lot of hype and talk about five years ago about this emergence of eSIM or eUICC and how everybody was going to take over and move into eSIM. What that meant for the carriers was this was actually a competitive threat because no longer were our customers tied to us, and they could move. They could move around. That was the thought at the time five years ago, that they would just simply move around and it would be easy and there would be millions and millions of these eSIMs in the market.

So we thought, “Okay. Instead of holding our cards close to our chest, we need to think about how we become enablers of this capability,” because if you’re an enabler of the capability, then you become the trusted advisor of your end customer and you can actually grow in the face of competition. So what that meant was we had to make a decision on whether we had that skillset to build this capability in-house or we needed to go outside and look for somebody that already was doing that.

There’s a few players in the market that were doing eSIM capabilities, but what we were really attracted with the Eseye solution was the fact that it wasn’t just an eUICC capability that the Eseye team was able to provide for us. You had a multi-SIM switching capability that allowed you to put up to 11 profiles of 11 different carrier, IMSIs, we call them or carrier profiles onto a SIM, which could be plastic or virtual, and allowed that customer then to move the device around the world.

What we saw in the Canadian market is that there are lots of global players in the market. A lot of them are entering Canada and they’re working in Canada. So, how can we attract some of those customers into our ecosystem via our TELUS global connectivity platform powered by Eseye, or how can we enable our customers to move outside of Canada?

One of the biggest use cases that we saw was actually around inventory. So when we think about a fleet telematics organization or even a health application with a device at the end of it, most of those devices are shipped somewhere overseas for manufacturing. In the original world, the end user would have a relationship with every carrier, in every country that they sold that device, and they would have to ship the SIM cards from every carrier in every country to their manufacturer ,who would then solder them in and place them inside and they’d be in an airtight protected location. Then, the manufacturer has to then ship that inventory to all the distribution points around the world, and they would find that they have inventory surplus or shortage, but it’s not like you can just ship a device from France to Germany or from Canada to the US or vice versa simply.

So, that was the use case that we grabbed a hold of and we structured a lot of what we were doing around that use case and had started to have conversations with the original equipment manufacturers to see what their thoughts were. Honestly, Nick, a lot of the companies thought they could do it themselves. They said, “We’re going to go and do our own eSIM and we’re going to create our own eSIM platform,” and you guys just give us the connectivity, and that’s fine, but I think what we didn’t think about five years ago is just how hard the device setup is and how hard setting up an eSIM and managing that eSIM ecosystem is.

So, when we move forward with the Eseye platform, that was a big piece of what we wanted to do was bring simplicity to the market and help our customers understand, not just the device side of the business, but the connectivity side of the business and how important getting those put together were.

Nick Earle:
Not every listener, of course, listens to every podcast, so in danger of repeating some things for some people, but we actually, going back to what you just said, Jodi, we’ve been obviously saying that you want a full managed service for this, not a set of tools. You wouldn’t build your own car, I guess some people do, but you would buy a car, but actually, an awful lot of people, they still say that. What I was referring to there is that we did a piece of research that you’ll be well aware of and people listening. It’s on our website. We interviewed 1,000 customers, no, 800 customers with 1,000 employees or more who had done an IoT project. So it wasn’t just that you’re thinking of doing one, it was an IoT project, and we asked them a very specific set of questions, which is, “In retrospect, when you look back, what was it that you thought was going to be easy and actually it wasn’t easy?” and it’s almost word for word what you said.

If you look at the findings, one of the first findings was they totally underestimated the importance of the device. Of course, in a world where you can be to some extent agnostic to the MNO, but we’ll get onto that from a MNO white label, but where the IMSI, the operator, the profile can be switched, you need intelligence in the device. The firmware has to be optimized, and the integration with the modem and the restart, the switching, the time, there’s a lot of complexity there. I always say, I blame Marc Andreessen for setting market expectations by saying, “Oh, software’s going to meet in hardware. The cloud is a computer in somebody else’s office, so you don’t have to worry about hardware anymore. It’s over. It’s over.”

Actually with IoT, you not only had to worry about it, it was actually, I think it was 81% in the survey said the single biggest issue that they found was the device, and the second one they had was when they said that they would do it themselves, the administrative overhead of managing multiple contracts. as you say, manufacturing open devices, inserting local sims, locally, which by the way, in a region, didn’t give you 100% connectivity anyway, and so that didn’t solve the problem.

Limited set of roaming agreements failing, having to manage all those contracts, having to worry about roaming agreements breaking, it’s just a very dynamic under the water set of parameters that most people have never even thought about, but it’s normal for people in the telecom industry. It’s what happens. They said, “Oh, my God. In retrospect, I’m becoming a telecom company, but what I actually want to be a vending machine company or a medical device company.”

As I said, that was in retrospect. People say no, but it is interesting that it was marketed at eSIM. I’m interested in your view on this. eSIM and eUICC almost marketed as the magic powder or it was a magic wand that just with a simple shake of eSIM and the eUICC standard, suddenly we’re all happy, smiling people, holding hands, and interoperability.

Jodi Baxter:
That’s what it was when I wrote my MBA thesis. The research was millions, billions of devices by 2020 were going to be in an eUICC, and that we all know is not the case. The reality versus the perception was very different in this scenario.

Nick Earle:
Do you think it was because you were … TELUS are a big player, but on the global stage, you’re not one of the very, very biggest. One thing I found when I was at Cisco for many years is that disruption is often embraced first by the challenges, not the huge incumbents. So do you think that played part of this? Because you have some very big neighbors, south of the border in the US, right?

Jodi Baxter:
Yeah, we have big neighbors south of the border and we have big-

Nick Earle:
In Canada?

Jodi Baxter:
In Canada and even in Europe, and so for sure. I don’t know if being more of a localized … From a telco perspective, we were definitely not on the global stage, but we had a few capabilities that we’ve also invested in that I think drove not only our need for global capabilities, but helped us with having those conversations not just with Eseye, but potential other carriers on how we would work together with them, and that would be our foray into TELUS Health, which was absolutely a global strategy on affecting healthcare at a global level.

Then the second is our push in agriculture. The majority of our agriculture business is actually outside of Canada. Then we have TELUS International, which is our business process oriented organization, which has grown into significant software development and data services capability over time. So I think those three capabilities that we’ve got today within our umbrella have helped to foster our growth on a global scale from a tech company perspective, for sure.

Nick Earle:
And one of our previous podcasts was in the TELUS agriculture space with Precision Animals, who are a TELUS agriculture company we invested in, but the very ambitious project, as you say, outside of Canada and US, but then global to actually solve the problems of the number one killer of cattle, which is BRD, Bovine Respiratory Disease or cow pneumonia, and that came directly out of that. So that’s the type of deal which you and we wouldn’t have even been aware of. In fact, the deal probably wouldn’t have happened. The company wouldn’t have been formed unless a solution was available, but then to create a single global product SKU, in this case, a specialist router or a router as they call it in the US, that actually could be installed on a fence post anywhere in the world and can monitor that.

Jodi Baxter:
But I think that one is actually a really interesting use case that just actually solidifies the whole complexity around the device because in that situation, not only did we have to figure out how to get the connectivity on a global level, we had to figure out how to make that device work in the ecosystem of which it was operating. I think that is another piece which moves me to the professional services side.

Nick Earle:
Specifically, how do you get tags, smart tags onto an 800-pound cow and keep it there? So the whole hardware had to be designed from scratch, and how do you get the data and how do you use artificial intelligence to look at anomaly detection behavior in terms of the way the cattle move? It was a very interesting podcast, but again, they wouldn’t, those two vets, wouldn’t have started that business unless there was a global capability. So, that shines the light on another thing, which is people ask us, “Oh, is this replacement business?” and actually what we’ve said is because IoT was so very difficult, which you’ve talked about, actually, you’re addressing an unmet need. So it’s incremental business. It’s business that nobody is getting, because people say, “Unless you can give me a single global solution which works with all the devices and could be agnostic across the operators, and it’s a single throat to choke, then I’m not just not going to do the project in the first place.”

So the great thing about this is no one’s trying to replace anything. What we’re actually saying is we’re actually going to win brand new business, which is where the money is because the money, the inverse Pareto that the money is in the 20% of companies that make 80% of things, and so it’s the big companies, the big opportunities that need the single SKU. So it all makes sense, but again, you were a visionary.

So let’s go back to that. That was four years ago, I think we concluded it, and full disclosure, you guys made an equity investment in us at the same time. So I’m talking to a shareholder, but thank you very much, an investor, but also, there’s been a lot of learnings on both sides. We were both plunging in together for the first time. So maybe we could share the chill learnings, maybe a couple of war stories, I don’t know, but it’s been a journey. Shall we put it that way?

Jodi Baxter:
Yeah, I’d say it’s been absolutely a journey. Honestly, the tuition value is immeasurable from the journey that we’ve been on. We can say, we maybe hopefully have paved the way for others that are going to go on this journey for both parties, for Eseye and for TELUS, in some of the learnings. The first learning is that we were perhaps a little bit overconfident in the number of customers that we’re going to flock onto our platform. So, one of the things that I think we learned is unlike your simple, smaller domestic business, the sales cycle, the implementation cycle, and the amount of time it takes for the devices to actually become live on your network and billing, generating revenue, is significantly longer. So thankfully, we have patience and we learned because we are seeing that traction now. I think both Eseye and TELUS are benefiting from some really significant wins that we’ve made in the market, and we’re able to address client needs, but I think that was the first learning.

The second learning is as much as I say how difficult the device onboarding is in this conversation right now, I think at the beginning, we didn’t really understand as a carrier just how complex putting a global EU eSIM is into a device and just the complexity of that device onboarding. I know there’s been a lot of learnings on the Eseye side and you guys have … We can talk about the capabilities that Eseye has built in to simplify that device onboarding capability, but I think that culminates into frustration on both party sides that we had to get through, and that was probably the second learning.

Then the third learning I would say is, and I don’t think we did this wrong, it’s just a learning is we built processes that were meant for a small number of deals, so we could support a small number of deals between both organizations. Then it took longer to win those small number of deals, and so we became complacent in the current processes as they stood. Now, we’re seeing success, and so we need to amplify, right? We need to amplify on our processes. We need to generate more automation. We need to get better skill sets in-house. All of which we’re working on, but I would say those are the three learnings that I have come out of this.

Then I think it’s not a learning, but it’s an opportunity. How do we take what we’ve done, these two organizations, and make it bigger so that we have more carriers collaborating on a global scale? I think that can lead us into some conversations around just the importance of localization.

Nick Earle:
Yeah. So let’s go there because I think that is, as you say, it has been a journey, but it’s been a journey. It’s climbing Everest. Actually, it’s been a journey to base camp. So you finally get there, which is great, and then you realize, “I’m only at base camp.” It might’ve taken eight days to walk to base camp, but then you look up and go, “Oh, my god.” The point is that, as you say, the real issue here, and I’ve talked about this in other podcasts, is that the mobile network operator landscape, which I think is 820 something like that companies, it has been for 40 years the dominant model, but based on the proprietary SIM, so not the eSIM, the eUICC agnostic approach, but a proprietary SIM with a lock-in model, which has worked for consumer data, consumer voice, consumer video, works just fine, but it doesn’t work for IoT for various reasons.

Therefore, the moment you enable interoperability, agnostic interoperability and the virtualized switching from the cloud down to the device or even from the device out to the cloud, then disruption happens because what you really want is everybody, ideally if I’m a customer, I want everybody to offer this, not just one or two. Now, since we’ve done the work with you and done the TELUS deal we announced recently, MTN, we’re the second all of Africa or 18 countries for MTN, which brings its challenges, but that’s probably going to go quicker because we’re taking the joint learnings from TELUS, and then there are some others that are in the hopper and you’re involved in helping us there, which we can’t talk about.

The thing is that those same industry trends that are happening in telecom in general are driving an even bigger need for this than there was four or five years ago, aren’t they? So why don’t we approach it from that direction? Because this idea of, is the federation or the collaboration model actually the ultimate end game for the industry? What’s next for the IoT market? In your role, you’re looking at 5G, you’re looking at IoT, you’re looking at industry solutions. So let’s start again with the strategy and work backwards. What do you think is the big challenges, big things that are coming next, and why does that increase the need for even more collaboration between the operators?

Jodi Baxter:
So let’s start with 5G. So 5G is I would say for the most part in carrier dependent. So the way that the infrastructure is built in each region by the carrier is very localized for that carrier, but the capabilities that 5G enables are things like mass IoT deployments where you can have thousands and thousands of sensors operating off of one cellular tower and transport. What that does is it creates increased capacity on the network.

The second piece though that I think is starting to happen is actually not so much on the carrier’s technology side, it’s actually the evolution of technology in the market. So if we think about intelligent cars, if we think about intelligent intersections, all of those aspects have video attached to them, and video requires high reliability and low latency, and that’s something that 5G can provide in country, but in order to provide that capability outside of the country, roaming is not sufficient because the way that roaming technology, and I’m not going to get into the roaming technology piece, but roaming technology has a greater latency issue than a localized network.

Nick Earle:
Yeah, because if you’re back hauling the data-

Jodi Baxter:
Back hauling data.

Nick Earle:
… by definition, you’ve got a latency issue.

Jodi Baxter:
Exactly, and if we think about the fact that … I think I’ve heard that a city the size of Paris actually evolves every year. That’s how big congestion is going to become and urbanization is becoming. So in order to combat that, we need to think about how do we create automation in our city’s ecosystems, and in order to do that, this will be an eUICC or an eSIM capability because the OEM manufacturers are not going to want to operate locally with every carrier. As we evolve that, localization becomes really important, and in order for localization to occur, there needs to be a cooperation amongst the carriers, if that makes sense. It becomes not even coopetition, it’s really a federation or an alliance, if you want to call it, amongst the carriers that allows them to operate their capabilities inside other countries and, of course, reciprocity occurs outside of that.

Nick Earle:
And you’ve said a lot of things there. You unpack a few of them, and we obviously share that vision. In fact, to the point where our federation, which is currently 16 operators, is modeled on, you use the word alliance. It is modeled on the Star Alliance because we’ve seen this movie before. You had the airline industry, very successful, growing hugely, is travel boomed, but massive frustration that as a consumer you couldn’t book one airline ticket that took you on competing carriers or if you did fly into one city, they wouldn’t let the gates be used by competitive airlines, so you couldn’t do your connection, and eventually an entity, it’s not that they all bought each other, but actually what happened is that the new entity emerged.

In fact, there were more than one federation. Star Alliance is one example, United Lufthansa starting that off, but the idea of a collaborative coopetition model with people sharing infrastructure, but having an agreed set of rules between the players. So they still retain their independence and they can each sell their tickets and retain control of the customer, but they can access the resources of the federation as a whole, and that’s what we’ve certainly built with the 16 operators.
You talked about localization. Another aspect of what you said is that because if you’re going to do URL, CISO, ultra reliable, low latency connections, which is one of the key capabilities of 5G or network slicing, quality of service, it’s one thing doing it as one operator, TELUS, to TELUS customers, and then you say, “But what if it’s a multi-operated solution through an aggregation platform?” You then need those capabilities applied to everybody.

So you certainly are going to need for the latency side localization around a single network because you can’t do global deals and back haul the video from a car from Asia to Europe or to the US. It’s not going to work. So when you look at 5G and the use cases and the explosion of sensors, then it’s hard to come to any other conclusion other than collaboration between the operators in some sort of model where they agree the rules, but they stay independent and the rules are executed by an independent third party is the right way.

Now, other people have tried to solve it another way. Here in the UK, Vodafone started buying companies and buying companies and they were going to create a global operator by buying. I don’t know how many they bought at the end of Vodafone subsidiaries, but that puts tremendous strain on the balance sheet. You can’t buy. There’s a hundred and whatever it is, 90 countries. No one’s got enough money to buy 190 operators to create one truly global one. So it’s not going to work.
Vodafone have announced the intent to spin it out for various reasons. One of which is a strain on the balance sheet, but the collaboration model seems to be inevitable. Are there other reasons why it’s inevitable? Because you mentioned, if I go back, you mentioned about skills and the device, device skills, device knowledge, device optimizations, do you think it’s going to get even more important and more critical in a 5G world? I’m thinking-

Jodi Baxter:
I think it absolutely will. It’s not even the device but also multi-RAT. So if we think about the way of the future where all things everywhere are connected, and it’s very likely that’s going to occur, today, there’s different ways of connecting technology. One is a 5G wireless network, which is definitely probably the most prevalent method, but there is WiFi, right? So there’s local fixed access. Then the second one is satellite, which when you think about satellite, there are 5G satellite policies that are coming to light.

If you think about the world, things move from areas of coverage to non-areas of coverage. So when you speak about multi-RAT, I think that it becomes a part of the federation, Nick, but I’m not exactly sure how it operates. I think what it means is that the federation is not just necessarily MNOs or carriers. The federation is a combination of carriers and other providers.
So if we think satellite is generally not a carrier provided service, but I think those are … Not that we have time, but the adoption of that is a bit slower, but it actually brings back the complexity of the device. So today, if we don’t work together, including Eseye, to determine how to make it simple for the manufacturers and the software developers to enable what we would call multi-RAT, it prolongs the real opportunity.

So if you think about agronomy, if you think about agronomy and you have a farmer in Brazil that is shipping an avocado to London, they want to be able to trace that avocado from the farm in Brazil to the store in London, and that will require multiple tips of access technology to do that.

Nick Earle:
Absolutely, and one area that you didn’t refer to, which I know is big for you guys in Canada because you got the mining companies is I would add to that list of multi RAT multi-RATnk about private networks. Although a lot of the operators will offer both public and private networks under their brand, there are a lot of … It’s very easy. You can walk into a store and buy a private network and turn it on. There’s a lot of private companies buying spectrum for private networks and implementing private networks. So now, you’ve got this switch.

The way it all makes sense to me is that when you’re in the cellular business, you think it’s the center of the world, but actually even today, cellular is only 13% of all connections. Actually, a lot of the growth, particularly at the low end is obviously non-cellular. There’s a lot of other ones that we haven’t even talked about, LoRa and others, but is that the device, in the ideal world, the device chooses the right connectivity for the use case and the conditions in which it finds itself at that time.
So there’s device resident intelligence in other words or does the switch, which is in the case of TGC, we should have said your solution white labeling, our solution is called TGC, TELUS Global Connect, but the switch is in the cloud, it’s in our connectivity management platform, it’s in the cloud, but the vision we see is the switch is going down to the device, which is our smart connect offering, which you’re fully aware of.

When the device starts, ultimately, the device should choose its own connectivity and just handle everything, and that then could be one of the ways in which you can enable 5G based on the use case, the data, the signal strength, the cost, the latency. A lot of network state information will determine the right type of connectivity, the right RAT, radio access type. Ultimately, it’s really hard to do that in a world of billions of sensors if you’re trying to do it in a abstracted cloud-based system because you don’t have access to that data, and you’ll probably be wrong if you try and make a generic choice. So you almost need a long tail personalization device by device network switch capability, which works across 5G and all of the others. So that’s actually many years worth of collaboration and technical problem solving to get to that point.

So I think that the thing, as you were saying, it’s my base camp analogy, that’s the mountain. We don’t exactly know how we’re going to get there, but it’s coming because the proliferation of proprietary technologies and proprietary approaches could get even. We may have solved the SIM lock, but all these other proprietary communication protocols could be coming out as implemented by different companies. So if I’m a user, the world could look worse rather better going forward if I take a totally multi-RAT view.

Jodi Baxter:
If we try to conquer this very large opportunity and problem and challenge device by device, we will be in base camp for a very long time. I think that’s where, when you speak of SMARTconnect, which I’m very familiar with, I think there’s a bit of a secret sauce there that needs to be explored in how can you use software to push intelligence into a device that allows for those capabilities versus trying to do firmware, right?

Nick Earle:
Firmware, which is not scalable.

Jodi Baxter:
Yeah, so I think that’s the next challenge, Nick, that we need to figure out, but in order to do that successfully, you still require that collaboration amongst the carriers and the radio access technology providers, so whether it’s satellite or wireline, WiFi and LoRa, whatever it is.

Nick Earle:
Yeah, and that’s where we were about 10 minutes ago, is that if you look at what’s coming, we just had a good conversation about what’s coming, lots of things we don’t know coming that we will. In a year from now we say, “We didn’t see that coming,” so there’ll be more stuff. You mentioned about trusts. I’ve done podcasts based on trusts and carbon credits, auditability of data, public, private key encryption of data. There’s a lot of things coming which we’re going to have to deal with, but all of them seem to point in … Climbing the mountain, you might not know which way you’re going, but the general direction is up. I think in this case, we might not know what’s coming at us because the standards in many cases aren’t defined, and the standards of 5G is still not defined.

The standards for flight release 17 that you talked about is somewhat defined, but what we generally know is that it’s coming and it will get defined, but every one of these market developments, including areas we haven’t talked about, the use cases, which today we have business use cases and we have consumer, but they’re going to blend. They’re going to be in the home. You’re going to want your home security system to be a combination of consumer devices and a business monitoring service and energy management in the home.

The consumer devices is going to blend very much into with new technologies like Halo, where WiFi gets extended and goes through bricks much easier than the current standard. So all this massive amounts of change is going to come to us. In every single one of them, whichever way we look at them, they seem to be reinforcing your point that the only way of doing this is collaboration between, and I like the point you made, not just the operators, but the operators and all the players.

Jodi Baxter:
I think that it’s important in order for us to … I think in order for us to tackle this momentous opportunity and problem, and like you said, the strategy is to go to the top of the mountain, but we might have to go around it a couple times before we get there and figure it out, but I think the opportunity is right. We’re seeing every day new use cases that come forward that just amplify the need for collaboration across the different players in the market.

Nick Earle:
And the general awareness, I would say from an Eseye perspective, you and I talk all the time, but we tend to meet face-to-face at Mobile World Congress every year. It’s such a fun show, isn’t it? But anyway, that aside, but certainly, the difference each year is that the conversations, this conversation is reflective certainly of this year’s MWC. We had a lot of conversations with a lot of operators who previously wouldn’t even entertain the conversation about the need for a collaborative model and, of course, the reason is that the users, the end users are defining it. This is where the money is.
Back to the beginning, you did TGC because I talked about the deals that nobody was doing. We may have predicted 50 billion things connected by 2020 and we got to about 10 or 11 billion. We missed 80% of it. Those were deals that nobody got because you couldn’t do a single SKU. You had to ship open devices. You had installation issues. You had all this complexity.

Jodi Baxter:
It all comes down to scalability.

Nick Earle:
And the moment you could have a single product SKU, then that’s when customers start saying, “Oh, I’ll actually do the project for the first time,” and that’s what you’re seeing now with TGC, isn’t it? Because you’re scaling way outside of Canada. Yes, you’re a Canadian operator, but TGC is a truly global offering.

Jodi Baxter:
It is, absolutely, and it’s really exciting what we’re seeing. Like I said, lots of tuition value, but what we’re seeing now is really exciting and validating, I think, to the original strategy that we spoke about four and a half years ago when we first started building out this plan.

Nick Earle:
Validated your MBA thesis, Jodi.

Jodi Baxter:
Yeah, because just to end off with that, my thesis was around should we build a platform, Nick, or should we acquire or partner and it was not to build because network operators, building platforms, brand customers is likely going to be a very long … We’d still be trying to build it, right? But there are players in the market, and so that’s what actually culminated us to go out and look for who are the players in the market that could support the need.

Nick Earle:
That is a great point to finish, and I will not so suddenly point out that a lot of the conversations certainly that we have with operators, and I know you’re aware of a few of them, the default option is we’re an operator, we can build this. There’s a lot of education still. No one’s saying that anyone’s got the perfect solution, but I think the key thing I’m taking away from this is all of the trends in the industry of which there are many in this trillion dollar industry called telecom, all of the trends do point towards the need for increased collaboration, which is fundamentally different to the model the way telecom was built proprietary. It’s arguably one of the last and the biggest segments of industry where it’s still essentially run on a proprietary stovepipe model. In most areas of the world, most areas of tech and standards have already happened at every layer of the OSI stack or whichever way you look at it, and telecom has held out, but I think we can, as we said, we can get-

Jodi Baxter:
We’re seeing some cracks in that. Honestly, some of my favorite conversations are with carriers across the globe just listening to the same problems. So I think that collaboration opportunity is really starting to unfold.

Nick Earle:
Jodi, thanks so much. Thank you for being a visionary. Thank you for taking your MBA course. What a smart move that was. I know from our statistics on the IoT Leaders Podcast that a lot of operators listen to this, so I think this would’ve got a lot of airtime, shall we say, with a lot of operators. So thank you very much for that. Thank you for being my guest on the podcast. Thanks for the collaboration, and it’s good to know that we’ve just got a few little last details to hammer out and then we would’ve solved all the problems in telecom.

Jodi Baxter:
That’s right. No problem. We’ll get that next week. It is always a pleasure. It’s always a pleasure, Nick. Thank you.

Thanks a lot, and thank you to our listeners, and thank you to Jodi, who’s the VP, as I said, of 5G and Industry Solutions at TELUS and is bringing her MBA to life whilst climbing Everest. That’s my summary. Thanks, Jodi, and I’ll talk to you soon.

You’ve been listening to IoT Leaders, featuring digitization leadership on the front lines of IoT. Our vision for this podcast is to be your guide to IoT and digital disruption, helping you to plot the right route to success. We hope today’s lessons, stories, strategies, and insights have changed your vision of IoT. Let us know how we’re doing by subscribing, rating, reviewing, and recommending us. Thanks for listening. Until next time.


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