Telecoms & Networks News South Africa

Transnational SIMs enable IoT’s potential in Africa

A report by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) shows that Africa has one of the world's lowest rates of internet access, with only about 28% of the people using the internet. This statistic reveals the huge untapped opportunity for IoT applications to close the digital gap and increase connectivity in the region.
Peter Walsh, MD CommsCloud
Peter Walsh, MD CommsCloud

As IoT applications enable automation across sectors and the demand for fleet management and asset tracking technologies grows across the continent, cross-border SIM cards are becoming a key facilitator for businesses to leverage the power of this technology.

Africa has experienced significant growth in the adoption of IoT technologies, with the market volume projected to reach $47bn by 2028. This is in spite of low internet penetration and high costs, which affected the early adoption of IoT technologies.

However, the growth forecast demonstrates the immense possibilities and potential for IoT applications to transform various industries across the continent.

The role of cross-border SIMs

Seamless cross-border operations have become crucial for businesses relying on IoT devices in an increasingly interconnected world. The cornerstone of these operations is using cross-border SIM cards, robust cloud-based IoT infrastructure, and remote SIM card management capabilities.

These solutions bridge the gap between networks and countries, ensuring consistent communication and data transfer.

Fleet management companies, for example, rely on IoT devices installed in each vehicle to ensure seamless real-time tracking of vehicles, drivers, and even fuel levels. These devices constantly transmit data, requiring connectivity in multiple countries.

Unlike a standard SIM locked to a single network in a specific country, a cross-border SIM can automatically switch between networks and providers, ensuring uninterrupted connectivity.

As an example of this in practice, a vehicle tracking company in Zambia could slash downtime of their devices from 22% to just 1.23% by simply switching to cross-border SIMS. It also streamlined operational overhead, freed up valuable resources, and reduced costs by 30% across 16 Southern African countries.

This impacts their business profitability and positively impacts the businesses using their services across those 16 countries.

Driving efficiency and reliability

The transformative impact of cross-border SIM cards extends beyond connectivity. In industries like logistics and transportation, healthcare, energy, and agriculture, where cross-border trade is common, these SIMs are essential for maintaining connectivity.

They enable businesses to manage costs, improve reliability, and ensure uninterrupted communication, ultimately driving operational efficiency and enhancing overall business performance.

The biggest advantage for businesses lies in managing costs and improving reliability. Managing multiple SIMs for different countries can become expensive due to roaming charges and cellular provider costs. In addition, because they work in tandem with device modems, cross-border SIMs allow network switching based on price.

Still, they can also switch for better signal strength or coverage to guarantee reliable communication.

This reliability is especially key when considering the use of IoT in healthcare. According to a Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA) study, IoT applications in healthcare could save millions of lives in Africa by enabling remote patient monitoring, access to medical data, and improved healthcare delivery, especially in under-served areas.

One common application of IoT in the healthcare sector is remote temperature monitoring of connected medicine and vaccine storage fridges to ensure they remain at constant temperatures.

The constant flow of data and information allows for early detection of temperature changes and for healthcare workers to take action to limit damage to these life-saving medicines. Consider the impact of messages getting delayed due to poor connectivity.

Looking ahead

Africa hasn’t even scratched the surface of the long-term benefits of IoT yet. By making it more affordable to operate and reducing downtime, cross-border SIM cards can help unlock growth and innovation on the continent, improve logistics, enhance customer service, and improve asset management. This ultimately can improve operational efficiencies and cost management and boost overall business performance.

However, to achieve this, collaboration between IoT businesses, connectivity service providers, and mobile network operators is needed to expand the potential of IoT in Africa and truly reap this technology’s benefits for Africa and its people.

This is key to addressing African infrastructure challenges and ensuring inclusive development, especially in the agriculture, healthcare, and energy sectors. The future of IoT in Africa hinges on fostering collaboration and leveraging innovative solutions like cross-border SIM cards to drive connectivity, efficiency, and prosperity across the continent.

About Peter Walsh

Peter Walsh is MD CommsCloud
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