by Allon Marom
Successful IoT deployments hinge on effectively addressing the intricate complexities of connectivity implementation. Ensuring seamless connectivity requires managing large-scale deployments across geographically dispersed locations, where manual intervention is impractical. While cellular connectivity is a good option for IoT projects due to its ubiquity and cost-effectiveness, there are specific technical and business-related needs and network settings that are necessary to consider when connecting each IoT device.
However, some of the most important things in that regard happen long before these devices are deployed, powered up and connected. Every IoT project that relies on cellular connectivity, regardless of locations and types of devices used, should start with onboarding by a connectivity provider. This process includes many aspects from testing and initial technical setup to ensuring that IoT devices will work even in changing environments and training. There are several reasons why it is crucial for successful IoT deployments.
First, it is important to make sure that every device works as it should. There are devices with high data consumption like cameras or connected cars, and there are smart meters that only send small amount of data once a month. Some devices are stationary, others move across the borders. Specific needs and usage scenarios define connectivity requirements in every use case. The more your connectivity provider knows about your devices and objectives, the better the chances that your IoT deployment will be smooth and without technical issues.
Second, it’s essential to make your deployment future proof. There are many challenges you may encounter down the road. It could be a change of standards or network settings – just recently seven million UK smart meters’ users were warned that their devices could become useless once the 2G/3G networks are switched off. It could be new or altered regulations, either related to connectivity and data sovereignty, like restriction on permanent roaming, or industry-specific, like a ban on shared scooters and bikes in Paris. Working with your connectivity provider, you can pinpoint these sensitivities and find a way to protect your deployment from future problems.
Third, it is instrumental in terms of financial feasibility. The “one-size-fits-all” approach doesn’t work in IoT connectivity. Even two perfectly similar use cases may have different environments, and therefore need different connectivity settings and different pricing. To optimize costs and make sure the project is profitable in the long run, your connectivity provider should focus on the context in which you deploy IoT devices and use connectivity, and provide you with support in a technical sense as well as a business sense. It starts with proper onboarding and the team that works on your project.
Every business process is built uniquely, so most connectivity providers will have onboarding procedures tailored to their own needs. However, from the customer’s perspective they may have a lot in common. In this post we’ll look at how the customer onboarding process works at Webbing, explaining the important steps we take to make sure our customers’ IoT deployments are smooth, viable and future proof.
Understanding use cases and project objectives
With each deployment, we start by building a team that will work with the customer and prepare for testing. Initially all customers have a call with a salesperson to help them get more familiar with our services and help us understand their needs and certain use cases. Then, an eSIM (can also be physical SIMs) or a few eSIMs are ordered for testing purposes. Our sales engineer joins the communication with a list of different questions to inquire deeper into the use cases, sensitivities and technical details.
Ensuring seamless connectivity integration and reliable performance
Once the team working on the project understands what the customer would like to achieve and all special requirements, whether they want a VPN set up, unique IPs, various kinds of technical setups etc., the customer receives the eSIMs and the testing begins. Our sales engineers initiate the onboarding of devices at this stage, which is an essential and very important part of the whole onboarding process. Every customer that we work with has different types of equipment that they want to insert Webbing SIMs into, be it physical SIMs or embedded SIMs. These devices should be tested early on to confirm that our SIMs perform as expected.
We also set KPIs for the testing, to understand what is considered a successful test. Many different aspects may be set as criteria, like compatibility, latency, bandwidth, and so on, depending on the customer’s project objectives.
While testing, our engineers go through different options, exploring how devices perform, making sure that IMSIs can change, that devices can receive over-the-air updates, and checking all features to help prevent issues later on. Usually, this is done remotely.
Sometimes, in unique situations, it’s recommended to send the customer’s device to the engineers for onboarding sessions that take place at our premises instead of doing it remotely. While remote sessions can also be done with this equipment, these cases may occur when there’s a need to interact with the device, so the customer is not required to turn it on, manually change some settings, or check anything themselves.
For some customers onboarding devices may be more difficult. In particular for companies that resell connectivity services to their own customers. While usually we know exactly what kind of devices our direct customers will be using, with resellers that’s not always the case. There are companies that may sell Webbing services to tens or even hundreds of their own clients, and it’s much harder for them to monitor which kind of device each specific customer has. When we start with resellers, we onboard the devices that they know of, and later, when they bring additional customers with new equipment, then that process is repeated.
However, such additional onboarding is needed only if there are new devices introduced. In the case of a simple scaling up, for instance, when someone is using 500 GB in the US and next month they’re going to jump to a terabyte, there’s no difference in terms of devices, and there is no need to do any additional onboarding.
Tailoring connectivity solutions
After all tests are done and devices are onboarded, the project goes to the next phase. This is the phase a customer success manager (CSM) is assigned to the customer. The CSM is responsible for this specific deployment, and will conduct a “handover call” with the client and all the team that worked on the project previously. The goal is for the CSM to understand everything about the customer: what they do, where their deployment is, what their expected deployment dates are, forecast, devices-related sensitivities that might have come up, the ways they expect their connectivity product to be set up, and other questions to gain an understanding of the big picture around the deployment.
Then the CSM builds a tailor-made data plan that’s right for the customer’s IoT deployment. These products are made bespoke, according to the agreements and the use case. There can be many different types of data plans: per megabyte or per gigabyte, pooled plans that allow the customers to have a quantity of SIMs share the data together and have a set amount of data that is divided amongst all the SIMs. We also have business unlimited plans for enterprise mobility customers, there’s a whole variety of plans we can customize to ensure that our product suits the customer’s needs.
Once the product is customized and agreed upon, the customer receives the contract for approval and signature.
Fine-tuning connectivity management tools
Once the contract is signed, our CSM sends a welcome kit to the customer, providing them basic information: which APN to use, how to open cases with the support team, and other brief explanations a client may need to know.
In most cases, we also provide additional training for accessing the Webbing Portal, a management tool to manage the customer’s fleet of SIMs. It’s vital for customers to understand how it’s used, and how all the functionalities and features work. The training can be recorded so the customer can later use it for other team members as well. The CSM will help to set up permissions and access to the Webbing Portal for additional users if needed.
From that moment on, the customer can place orders and manage their fleet of devices by themselves. Our CSM always stays in touch with them for any assistance they may require, be it adding more devices, changing locations or data plans, or helping schedule maintenance of existing devices.
At Webbing we believe that providing IoT connectivity is not just selling SIM cards, but a long-term relationship with the customer. The success of any IoT deployment depends on how we adapt to its specific needs, how well we understand both the technological and business aspects of it, and on consistent client support from day one. Onboarding is the first and most important step in building this support. It helps us to ensure that all devices work properly, as well as to tailor our connectivity offering and optimize the total cost of operations for the customer.
Reach out to [email protected] to learn more about our solutions.