Cisco Jasper wins African contract with MTN, continues storming barns

Cisco’s Jasper has signed up MTN Group as its latest Control Center customer, rounding out what looks to have been a stellar year for Cisco’s $1.4bn acquisition. Promising to use Jasper’s connectivity management platform to provide IoT services across its footprint, MTN’s greenfield opportunities should add a large volume of devices to Cisco’s IoT portfolio.

The announcement comes two weeks after Cisco announced a $1bn fund to help drive smart city projects, where Cisco would provide initial financing to get projects off the ground, with Cisco expanding its Kinetic for Cities platform to suit. While MTN isn’t initially targeting cities, it is a customer with a broad network footprint that encompasses millions of potential additions to Cisco’s Jasper books, and while ARPU might initially be lower in these emerging markets, the pace of adoption might prove much more agile.

MTN Group, previously called M-Cell, is headquartered in South Africa. With a footprint of 22 countries, accounting for around 232m subscribers, its core business is in Nigeria, which generates about a third of its revenue but also fined it $3.2bn for improperly deactivating SIM cards. Currently in four Middle Eastern markets (Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, and Yemen), the rest of MTN’s operations are in Africa – apart from Cyprus.

MTN will first deploy the Control Center in its South African footprint, before expanding it to its 22 points of data center presence across Africa. GM for ICT Solutions at MTN Business, Mariana Kruger, said the deal will help entrench MTN’s position in the IoT and connected vehicles spaces, and give IoT developers access to its expansive network.

Emerging markets might find themselves more agile, when it comes to adopting IoT technologies, as they may not suffer from the same technological debt as developed markets – which are often saddled with supporting legacy infrastructure. There might be more greenfield opportunities to be found in newer markets, where IoT services and networks can be put to use in tackling under-served applications.

Transport infrastructure and utility metering or asset monitoring are two areas that come to mind in the MTN footprint, as well as weather and water sensing to deal with some of the more extreme weather that it suffers from. MTN says it will initially target Logistics, Building Security and Automation, Vehicle Tracking, and Vehicle Telematics and Diagnostics.

“Over the past three years, we have invested substantially in our network and have forged strategic partnerships with leading global players in the IoT space. These interventions have put us in a better position to provide our customers with a distinct customer experience. The partnership between Cisco Jasper and MTN has several synergies – both companies have the unrivaled capacity and expertise to provide IoT services to enterprise customers. In addition, the technologies that we have invested in give MTN the ability to provide cutting-edge and tailored propositions to our clients, while delivering a secure and fool-proof connection,” concludes Kruger.

Elsewhere, Cisco Jasper has been busy post-acquisition. It’s most recent deal saw it provide its Control Center to KaR-Tel (part of Veon) in Kazakhstan, where the MNO plans to deploy Smart Meter, Retail, Connected Car, and Agriculture services. Jasper also signed Telenor Norway up as a customer in April, following a deal in March to provide Control Center to Three Group.

Part of the KaR-Tel launch will include the new Automated Mobility Management Platform that was unveiled in April, which Jasper developed to help enterprise IT teams deal with the clunky UIs that MNOs were providing for managing business devices. With the new features, a customer can automate enabling and disabling devices, as well as automatically adding roaming packages if that phone goes abroad. Jasper essentially ported its IoT know-how into the enterprise world, and we’re sure parent Cisco will have appreciated the move.

It seems to have been a very good year for Cisco Jasper, which now has partnerships with over 50 service providers and 550 mobile networks – which allows it to offer those connectivity services to its customers. At Cisco’s Live! event in June, the company said that its customer base had grown from 3.500 to over 11,000 enterprises in the past year, and was launching v7.0 of Control Center to try and better meet that ‘exponential’ demand.

We don’t know how many IoT devices Jasper currently manages, but the figure stood at around 40m back in March – having grown from 17m in the previous year. In June, the figure was 43m, with Cisco GM of IoT Jahangir Mohammed saying it was adding 1.5m devices per month. That would put the figure at around 50m now, but based on the sharp growth in enterprise customers, it could be much closer to the triple-digit range now, if that 1.5m-per-month rate has increased.