There’s little doubt that mobility, fuelled by ubiquitous technologies and devices that provide seamless connectivity, is redefining how we live our lives both at home and at work. The growth of mobile is unrelenting. Globally, around 4.7 billion people use mobile devices, powering more connections than there are people on the planet.In the UK, 93% of UK adults own a mobile, with 81% of adults and 91% of 18-44 year olds having their own smartphone. Two thirds of adults also have a tablet. It’s no surprise that in 2016, mobile web usage finally outstripped desktop. The trends are only going one way.
But the situation in UK business is quite different. There, the application of mobile technology is hamstrung by poor coverage from the leading mobile network operators (MNOs). A recent survey by the British Chambers of Commerce found that 70% of firms suffer ‘mobile not-spots’ (no signal) or ‘partial not-spots’ (limited coverage via some networks). 91% of those affected are rurally-based, with the majority (96%) being SMEs. Almost a quarter (22%) operate in the manufacturing sector. All of which leads to a bizarre scenario: despite a technological revolution that’s reinventing global communications, patchy mobile coverage across one of the most advanced economies is preventing UK SMEs from unlocking the transformative benefits of mobile connectivity.
As the BCC survey attests, mobile not-spots are highly prevalent in rural areas. This means that production plants, manufacturing sites and remote facilities such as quarries, distilleries, oil platforms and wind farms are among the most affected. The implications are significant. In the era of much-vaunted digital transformation, inadequate mobile coverage means businesses cannot effectively use technology to improve productivity, automate processes or drive efficiencies. Opportunities to bring IOT capability or machine-to-machine connectivity to business processes are being lost. And the chance to use data to inform new business models and strengthen decision-making is slipping through their fingers. Worse still, with many of their employees operating in hazardous environments, these companies cannot maximise simple communications tools to help keep their workers safe.
With MNOs indicating little desire to expand capacity into less populated (and thereby less profitable) parts of the country – and showing no inclination to introduce network sharing capabilities seen in other parts of Europe – there’s no sign of improvement any time soon. Certainly, as better-connected businesses increasingly use mobile technology to differentiate from competitors, the clock is already ticking. Waiting for the government to bolster UK infrastructure is not an option.
From DIY to PMI
There is, however, a solution: do it yourself. Many organisations don’t realise that it’s possible to create their own Private Mobile Infrastructure (PMI) that solves connectivity issues simply and cost-effectively. The approach, which involves connecting on-premise base stations to mobile devices with a dual SIM combination, is quicker and cheaper than asking an MNO to install an onsite mast – and it avoids the high ongoing costs of being tied into one provider.
For businesses that are blighted by insufficient coverage and have no adequate means of communication with their on-premise mobile workforce, a PMI can provide all the scalable benefits of mobile connectivity. The costs are not prohibitive – in fact alternative solutions such as pagers or radio systems are commonly deployed to enhance communications but come at no less cost only to bring a fraction of the benefits.
In reality, the communications needs of every business are different – there are countless examples where more primitive systems are most appropriate. This common variability in business requirements is just one reason why organisations seeking to improve on-premise connectivity should talk to a specialist telecoms partner that can help identify the right approach. The most effective partners will be those that work hard to understand your business and can design a solution that not only meets your needs today but helps you futureproof for tomorrow. As a large MNO once famously said: ‘the future’s bright’. Perhaps a private mobile network could bring you closer to it…
If you want to improve site wide mobile coverage around your plant contact us 01494 833123.