Zest4 raises the IoT bar

It is not beyond the bounds of all resellers to secure a share of the IoT market, argues Anton le Saux, Zest4’s Head of IoT, who says it’s not only doable but straightforward.

Resellers must quickly embrace what they too easily turn their backs on – which is realising the market potential for IoT in their own customer bases and beyond – urges le Saux, especially as game changing adoption catalysts such as narrowband IoT and low power connectivity are poised to go mainstream. UC provider Zest4 first brought IoT into its portfolio two years ago, kicking off with a standard network offering that evolved into a more bespoke approach that aligned better with the requirements of the channel – offered via the company’s IoT Partner Programme. It was a move that redefined the portfolios of more than 25 per cent of its partners. 

The initiative provides training, pre- and post-sales support and end-to-end solutions along with bespoke commercials. “Today, more than 60 per cent of our 200 partners have started selling products and services into the IoT space,” stated le Saux. “Zest4 is now entering the next phase of development by becoming an IoT MVNO.”
This required a big investment into licencing the Arkessa Emport platform as its own, creating Zest4 Connect. “Arkessa has spent over 10 years developing the platform and we have acquired that capability, giving us our own IoT platform that allows our partners, and customers, to manage their entire IoT estate – irrespective of mobile network – all in one place,” added Le Saux. “It’s the right time to push the button on the plan, to keep the momentum growing and take it to the next level.” 

Zest4’s final preparations as an IoT MVNO are nearing completion as the last few pieces of infrastructure fall into place, along with APIs and automation processes. While Zest4’s status as a channel-only provider of IoT services is cementing, the current state of IoT in the UK comms channel is less solid, noted Le Saux, who sees partners falling into three groups: IoT adopters; aspiring adopters who need the help of an IoT specialist; and doubters who believe that IoT will be a struggle to monetise. “These segments are always at the forefront of my thinking,” he said. “Whatever product, solution or service we bring to market we must ensure we cater for the various types of partners. We are offering some simple to sell end-to-end solutions that fit the dealer and fixed line reseller portfolio, where we bill and manage on behalf of the partner and pay a revenue share. Or we give partners the ability to buy wholesale, contract and bill their own customers.” 

The technical and market forces shaping the UK IoT market are also multifaceted, observed Le Saux. “Many initiatives are driven by the impetus for the UK to be more ecological, more efficient and use less energy,” he explained. “Smart cities, smart buildings, smart road networks and smart energy initiatives are under way. These filter down through businesses, large and small, giving owners something to think about, especially where there is a need to measure, monitor or control an asset, person or system. Duty of care is also an influencing factor. Employers are looking at ways to make sure their staff are safe and have the ability to communicate effectively. Retail and healthcare are also big drivers in the consumer marketplace. These solutions are driving B2B opportunities.”
The next big game changer will be narrowband IoT and low power connectivity, observed Le Saux. “We currently have access to a number of low power services with Lora and Sigfix, among others,” he explained. “But all the MNOs are now developing their own narrowband services that will run across the existing network infrastructure. Vodafone and EE have done live tests in several countries across Europe, and in the UK there are development teams and plans in place for 2018 /2019 roll outs. The European standards have been agreed and the launch of this technology will open up the IoT space. The channel needs to be skilled and selling before it hits the mass market, or there will be catching-up to be done. At that point maybe partners will start to take more notice.”

The key factor, says le Saux, is educating and incentivising the sales function to identify opportunities, not least those in the partners’ own back yard. “Every business that sits within a reseller’s base could – and at some point will – benefit from some form of IoT solution,” he added. “It just needs a different type of conversation. If you can start talking about their business efficiencies instead of communications or IT needs, you’re onto a winner. We are seeing traction with our own channels because we are educating, supporting and driving the behaviour.”

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