October 13, 2021

The Importance of a Dedicated Service Desk in the IoT World

I’m often asked why it is important to have a dedicated INOC (IoT Network Operations Center), as opposed to many other operators, who send their IoT customers to their regular NOC. If we’re talking about technical knowledge there isn’t a huge difference. But we’re not a network operations center in the traditional sense, as we don’t manage the network itself. Tele2 manages the network and gives us support in that area. At INOC, we are more a hybrid of technical support, network operations, and service operations. This means we have taken all aspects of these functions and created this department to meet the particular needs of our IoT customers. Why? Because their needs are often unique and out of the scope of regular NOC support, which focuses mostly on the home network. But because 90% of our customers are roaming outside of the home network, we need to be following how they’re doing in the roaming network and address challenges they may have.

The thing is, IoT is still a relatively new industry. When you call the regular service desk they will check the network, see that it is up and running, and that technically your devices should be working. We, on the other hand, will not stop there. In fact, checking the network is just the first step for us. Once we check that, we will investigate and even if it’s one device, we may reach out to our roaming partners or anyone else who can assist. We do this because many of our customers have mission-critical solutions and that one device may be a matter of life or death, so it needs to be up and running. And while healthcare or utilities are important, we know that for all our customers, their solution is mission critical, because the longer there is a problem, the more loss of time and money, so we see them all as vital.

Let’s break it down: we are technical support for our customers for incidents they report, such as something not working as they expect. More importantly, though, is that we are specifically monitoring our customers and their solutions – and we’re not just monitoring the network, but also how our customer’s solutions are behaving. This allows us to be proactive and address challenges right away, often before the customer even knows there is a problem. We have had many instances where we have sent an email alerting them to a problem hours before any calls came into the desk.

I like to say that we are the finger on the pulse of your service. We are always there and always looking 24/7 at how things are behaving. As soon as something is out of the ordinary you will hear from us. Basically, with everything that we do we want to be a part of the reason why our customers’ IoT solutions work, not why they fail.

Matiss Gaidulis Head of Technical Operations Tele2 IoT

This is important, because as we know too many companies continue to fail in their IoT development. I think having a dedicated IoT business unit at Tele2 with a dedicated INOC is essential, because we are building the future and our customers need to have the support of a team that has IoT top of mind at all times.

I like to tell the story about the janitor at NASA. He may not have built the rockets or launched people into space, but his part was also important in reaching the end goal, so you can look at the Tele2 IoT Unit as made of up many different functions, but every function is focused on making sure our customers succeed with their IoT solutions and that all of us do everything we can to support our customers in their IoT journey.

This could mean something as simple as why a device is behaving in a certain way to why the device isn’t connecting to the network, why it isn’t sending the data it’s supposed to be sending, or why devices are down in Germany.  We get questions on nearly everything and it’s our job to make sure those questions are answered, those challenges are solved by investigating the issue, and that we do what need to be done to resolve them – and to resolve them quickly.

Basically, we have an overview of everything that is happening, which allows us to troubleshoot, although it’s often not a matter of fixing things. In many cases the problem is due to device failure or changes that were made by either the customer or someone else that others haven’t been made aware of.

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The network is not usually the primary fail point, so a big part of our work is understanding how our customers’ devices are actually behaving in the real world, not just in the test environment.

For some of our larger customers, we check how their devices are doing, then aggregate the data for six weeks and calculate average activity compared with current activity. As soon as it goes above or beyond the threshold we have set and the patterns we have previously identified, we notify the customer immediately, let them know where something is happening, and address it right away.

In the future, especially when LTE-M and NB-IoT devices are more widely used, you’re going to see the battery drained really fast when the device goes crazy and starts signally all the time. This is exactly what you don’t want, because the whole point of having them is to have long battery life. Because we work solely with IoT we can see that behavior, look at the set criteria, and monitor them for the customer to see what the problem is.

Ultimately, when it comes to INOC, it’s important that the team knows and understands the technology, such as LTE-M, which is IoT specific, it is new, and it is opening up a lot of new use cases. In combination with 5G, a lot of things are happening and we’re in a fast-moving phase of IoT, so having that dedicated knowledge on the team is crucial. This means that if a customer has a challenge with a certain technology or solution for their devices, we can not only help them, but also apply that knowledge to the next customer facing challenges.

Matiss Gaidulis
Head of Technical Operations
Tele2 IoT

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