Many South African companies had a knee-jerk reaction during COVID and started using whatever connectivity was available to ensure operations could continue while employees worked from home. But what was initially only going to be a 21-day hard lockdown period got extended with varying levels of restrictions, which only ended recently, more than two years later.
This extended lockdown, and subsequent work from home (or from anywhere) model, contributed to a mobile data explosion as SIM cards were purchased in bulk from retailers and distributed to staff.
Between December 2019 and March 2020 (when the lockdown began), Saicom saw a threefold increase in mobile data usage. Since March 2020, until the end of lockdown a few weeks ago, there has been an elevenfold increase in demand for mobile data.
Managing this expanding SIM real estate over the long term has become a challenge for business decision-makers, who are turning to Access Point Name (APN) as a potential solution.
Access point name, or APN for short, is the name of the gateway that connects a mobile network with the internet. Or put another way, the identity of the mobile carrier so that the device knows which carrier network it should connect to. AN APN is like a virtual network overlaid over the Mobile Network Operator (MNO), giving service providers and corporate customers the use of the MNO’s network as an extension of their own.
Despite things returning to a semblance of normality, many organisations are still using APN as a risk mitigation solution and because of its centralised SIM management functionality, businesses have started tapping into numerous other use cases for the technology within their organisations.
Beyond work from home
So, while APN does provide benefits under certain conditions to work from home, such as white and blacklisting applications which employees can and cannot use to reduce mobile data abuse, its potential is so much bigger.
Every industry can benefit from APN. For instance, using telemetry data to improve fleet management for logistics companies. SIMs connected to IoT sensors can proactively monitor truck performance and flag the need for maintenance.
On the mobile workforce side, APN is about more than simply monitoring mobile workers and salespeople. For companies reliant on deliveries, APN technology is the key to securely connecting and monitoring tablets for delivery drivers to optimise their routes while tracking packages and keeping customers informed throughout the process.
In fact, the location-tracking functionality available through APN enables companies to monitor the whereabouts of any connected equipment, vehicles, products, and even team members. Not only can the security of these assets be improved, but organisations can better manage supply chains to ensure stores maintain stock levels of products that are the most popular. Additionally, APN can facilitate effective machine to machine (M2M) communications to track temperatures of sensitive goods and send alerts when something goes wrong.
The next level
From a consumer perspective, APN makes sense for the spate of connected wearables (think smartwatches) and even connected cars (for insurance purposes).
While APN is still used today to optimise costs in work from home situations, the technology can also deliver improved security, control, and manageability through a single portal that provides companies with the scalability they need to take care of a mobile workforce.
Ultimately, APN delivers value across a variety of use cases that extends far beyond what many decision-makers thought. And COVID was the catalyst to introduce APN into the workplace with new business cases beyond just connectivity.
Greg de Chasteauneuf, Chief Technology Officer of Saicom