MTN has launched a pan-African Internet of Things (IoT) platform that will help companies to control and manage their connected devices and SIM cards.

Alongside the platform, MTN has also launched a global machine to machine (M2M) SIM card, which gives customers the same rate for M2M activity across MTN’s African network.

The IoT market is big and growing, says Mteto Nyati, group chief enterprise officer at MTN. It is expected that IoT connections will reach 360-million by 2018, while the M2M market is already worth about R350-million, growing to R1,2-billion by 2017.

The platform is already live in South Africa and will be launched across MTN’s other territories within the next 12 months.

With its associated dedicated network, the platform lets MTN connect an otherwise fragmented population of devices and systems. The open platform enables networked devices to exchange information and perform actions, responding intelligently to their environments without human intervention.

The new platform enables geographic expansion, allowing companies to reach all African markets with very little additional costs

In the past, MTN’s relationship with its customers was confined to the sale of a SIM, Nyati says. “With this platform, we are now giving the customer control. In that past the customer couldn’t control the SIM, but this gives the control back, so the customer can manage their own environment.”

He adds that customers will now have the ability to expand into additional vertical markets. “This is very easy to do, reducing their time to market.”

The value of having a SIM and a rate that is consistent across all of the countries where MTN operates is significant value, Nyati says. “We are negotiating for a similar arrangement with telco operators in countries where we don’t have a presence.”

Benefits of the platform include the fact that the network is dedicated to M2M and IoT operations, so customers won’t have to compete with voice and data traffic on the regular network. “This helps improve latency,” Nyati says.
“Through this new platform we have addressed this problem and are giving our customers a truly dedicated network.”

Looking ahead, Nyati says the next country to get the platform will be Nigeria and then Kenya, followed by the other African markets where MTN operates.

“We will also be offering new applications to our customers.”

The new applications will rise for the inaugural MTN Mind-2-Machine challenge, where application developers have been invited to create scalable and relevant business solutions to solve real world challenges.

The challenge was announced two weeks ago, addressing four vertical markets.

“We are going to start having solutions that talk to the challenges of our country,” says Nyati. “At the same time we will enable start-ups and entrepreneurs to partners with us.

“When we take the solutions to market – because of our footprint – they will be able to sell their solutions outside of South Africa.

“Giving the unemployment challenge in our country we need to find ways and means of supporting young people with ideas, who want to contribute to society.”