MWC 2021: Three key Thales innovations at this year’s event

[ This article was originally published here ]

After a year of working from home for many people and, some of our industry’s landmark events being postponed due to the pandemic, it was an absolute pleasure to be back in person at Mobile World Congress (MWC 2021).

While this year’s event has been understandably more limited due to ongoing restrictions designed to keep attendees safe, this certainly hasn’t dampened the level of innovation from the industry. Over the show, we have spoken in a few conferences and made a key announcement with one of our Japanese clients, Rakuten. Here’s a recap of my highlights in case you missed them.

Differentiating your private network offering with data protection

Mobile Private Networks (MPNs) continue to gain popularity amongst enterprises as efficient ways to deploy a single layer of communication for voice and data within a company’s perimeter.

On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to talk about MPNs as part of a wider panel discussion on public cloud services, and in doing so I took a balanced look at both the opportunities they present – as well as their challenges.

Their use cases are compelling, especially for complex production environments where precise and documented protocols are necessary, such as power plants or aeronautical workshops.

The successful deployment of MPNs has to be done in a communications landscape that is going through many changes. The most emblematic of these is 5G with its virtualised network but the wider telecom infrastructure is also becoming cloud-based and enterprises are digitising their production processes and environment.

These three factors have driven a number of entrants into this space – as well as an increased attack surface; so how can operators stand out in this dynamic environment? By focusing on trust.

In the cloud world we need to use a ‘zero trust’ methodology. This allows the person in charge of the private network to discover sensitive and private data, protect it with remediation measures once that sensitive data – both at rest and in motion – has been discovered and then control the environment with master encryption keys to retain data sovereignty.

Three steps for MNOs to fly into the commercial drone space

Commercial drones are one of the fastest growing sectors of the IoT – and with MNOs able to play a key role in enabling this growth, I was pleased to feature in a panel discussion about industrial applications for mobile-enabled drones.

With the commercial drone market set to be worth $43bn and the total number of drones due to reach 86.5m by 2025, this sector is primed to benefit from mobile operators’ expertise in security, connectivity and safety. But for MNOs looking to take a leap into this space, it can seem intimidating with a host of regulatory barriers and security concerns.

That’s why I was pleased to be able to talk about how Thales is helping MNOs to become a key player in the drone market in three steps:

  1. Connect: connecting seamlessly to devices and ensuring continuity of service for drone operators is, obviously, key. We offer a suite of solutions for remote and instant connectivity (eSIMs) as well as IoT modules that enable machine to machine (M2M) interaction, which is key for autonomous flight.
  2. Protect: the ability to protect devices, identity and data (as you can see in this video) is of utmost importance in the operations of drones. On the operations side, we can help MNOs enable biometric registration for pilots, provision fleet management platforms and provide unmanned traffic management. For data, we can provide end-to-end security and provide integrity of sensitive data on the drone.
  3. Predict: what’s more, we can harness this data to feedback valuable insights captured from the drone to the customer. These predictive insights can then be used to benefit multiple industries such as agriculture, energy and infrastructure inspection.

Combining these three tactics, MNOs can climb the value chain to service vertical industries without necessarily the need for intermediate parties, all the while complying with aviation regulations.

Making the most of the boom in eSIM

This year, more than ever before, was the moment of the embedded SIM – or eSIM – at MWC.  eSIM is going mainstream with close to 400 mobile operators having launched or planning to deploy eSIM services, across more than 100 countries. The next challenge is to get more consumer devices eSIM-equipped. Their ability to enable remote connectivity is an even more powerful advancement that could transform the way that consumers and businesses interact with their devices. This will also help industrial players optimise their supply chains and simplify how they connect any object.

As such, we were delighted to announce that we have worked with Rakuten Mobile to enable the world’s first fully virtualised network. By supporting cloud activation of eSIM-capable devices, we’re allowing a fully remote subscription process for users – as well as remote management of subscriptions over the device’s lifetime. This is all enabled by the eSIM, which is especially useful for 5G devices, which require large antennas and batteries – leaving little space for new functionality.

These announcements accompany our overall mission statement of ‘Connect – Protect – Predict’ for a trusted 5G world, which we spoke about in a recent whitepaper entitled ‘Building a 5G world we can all trust’.

Thank you again to the organisers – the GSMA – for putting on such a safe, thoughtful and powerful showcase of the best innovation in the mobile industry, and allowing us to come together after a year of being separated.

Here’s to many more!