Jersey’s JT Global is one of the world’s smaller mobile operators. But it has huge ambitions. It’s using the insights gleaned from its advanced network at home to target IoT and messaging users all over the world. MEF Minute talked to JT’s Tom Noel…
By the end of this year, the most connected place in the world could be Jersey, a small island off the coast of Northern France.
According to Tom Noel, Managing Director of JT Wholesale, Jersey is on its way to becoming the world leader in fibre optics and 4G, making it one of the most advanced regions for connectivity.
“We have 70 per cent fibre connections to homes already and our 4G network is capable of delivering over 150Mb over mobile,” he says.
JT Wholesale is a division of JT, the largest operator in Jersey (and Guernsey – in the Channel Islands). It’s been able to make these strides because Jersey is such a small place. JT serves a pan-island population of around just 160,000 potential subscribers.
But being relatively small has its advantages. It’s agile. And that’s why JT has been able to test ideas and technologies that its counterparts in large countries would struggle to roll out
So, in addition to the fibre and 4G speeds, it’s achieved other notable firsts.
Just weeks ago, for example, it teamed up with the public body Digital Jersey to start building a Long-Range (LoRa) Wide Area Network, which allows IoT devices to access the internet without using 3G/4G or WiFi.
Noel says: “This is a low power wider area tech that can deal small levels of data connectivity. So it’s perfect for sensor networks and so on. To cover the whole of Jersey we needed only a small number of masts, which is when being small is a strategic advantage.”
Thus, islanders are among the first people in the world to experience this form of connected technology.
And so will companies interested in IoT technology. JT is inviting them to use Jersey’s network’s including LoRa as a test bed for their own products and services.
These projects are hugely important to JT because they represent a chance to grow. Clearly, the operator can’t get much bigger at ‘home’. But it can look beyond its own borders.
Noel says: “We suffer the same problems as any relatively small and independent operator: scale. We need to grow so we can re-invest. But the good news is that we are faster than most, we partner a lot and we are innovative.
“And so, in the case of IoT, we are testing new concepts and using our assets to offer compelling solutions to companies that need them all over the world.”
In fact, JT already has over one million JT SIM cards connecting devices worldwide, from heart monitors in Canada to payment systems in West Africa.
Of course, these SIMs are operator-agnostic. They use JT’s roaming agreements to dynamically jump to the best available network connection, which is especially applicable to products that are moving around or are sent to unspecified locations.
But what about local operators? Aren’t they also chasing the M2M market? Noel believes their targets are different. “Local operators are pushing at different opportunities. They want to put SIMs in cars to deliver hi-def video and so on. We’re looking at low-data applications..”
It’s not just the IoT space that JT wants to target in overseas markets.
At the end of the month, the operator will formally launch its global A2P messaging platform.
Here’s another area where JT believes its 600 roaming agreements and technical robustness will come into play. Perhaps even more important, its neutrality.
Noel explains: “We spent last year building our platform and understanding the routes. We now have agreements in place all over the world, so we really feel we can be the operator for the operators.
“Messaging aggregators and specialists can come to us and know that we will connect across hundreds of countries via headache-free direct connections, but we will not go after their clients. I think that’s a common fear – that partners look at where the traffic comes from and steal customers. We’re not interested in that.”
The final plank in JT’s outward-facing strategy is analytics. Many operators around the world are now waking up to the business potential of providing data insights to business (Telefonica, for example, with its Luca division). Again, JT wants to make the running.
According to Noel, it’s been active in this space for three years, providing banks with the ability to tell if a person seeking to open an account is legitimate (by identifying their mobile status).
Noel says: “I think we’re just seeing the start of how useful analytics can be. We’re excited about it.”
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