Blog skyhook logo Why Location Matters to Network Operators

Apr 29, 2021 4:09:33 PM

Why Location Matters to Network Operators

Posted by Oleg Kamenetsky

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Connected devices are everywhere around us and serve a wide variety of functions. Each is built and designed differently, and works on a variety of network types, with one of the most common being cellular. Run by dedicated operators, customers subscribe to cellular networks to power services on their connected devices. Given the number of features cellular devices can enable, it’s important for network operators to offer the best features and ease of experience, otherwise, customers will be able to shop around for third-party or competing solutions that better fit their needs.
Location-based value-added services are at the core of many features offered on cellular devices. These services enable the ability to monitor loved ones’ whereabouts through dedicated trackers, seeing where company vehicles are throughout the world, resolve the location of body-worn cameras, and much more. Oftentimes these location-based services are taken for granted, and users only notice them if the devices’ services aren’t working properly.
Recently, many network operators have grappled with competing third-party services looking to provide location in areas where devices roam beyond the cellular network coverage area. To date, customers have been able to use non-network based solutions to resolve location over the top without needing their home network. This poses a challenge to network operators that wish to be able to resolve location on the network side, have control over the quality of services offered to their devices, and push updates remotely so that users can enjoy the latest network features.
In order for any connected device to communicate with a cellular network, it needs a SIM card. Traditionally, when devices using cellular services move from one network to another, their users must swap SIM cards otherwise they’ll experience either a gap in service, roaming charges, or both. Pain points like these are some of the reasons many network operators and RAN vendors are moving to eSIM integrations on their connected devices, helping to create more positive user experiences for their subscribers, since eSIM allows for those services to be enabled through network providers over the air, even as devices roam.

Skyhook’s Solution for All SIMs

SIM cards can come in a few form factors including the traditional standalone card that many of us are used to seeing over the years. Their use requires users to physically insert cards into the devices needing cellular connectivity. If those devices then roam outside of home network coverage areas, a new SIM card specific to that region would need to replace the original card in order to enable network services. Otherwise, the user would face roaming charges and potentially unreliable coverage.
An alternative to this is a more modern approach using an embedded SIM card, known as an eSIM. As their name suggests, these cards are embedded within the device and eliminate the need for physical cards to be used and swapped, greatly reducing friction from the device user side. In addition to improving user experiences, network operators also benefit from having a consistent line of communication with devices on their network, wherever in the world those devices travel. Operators are able to push network updates over the air to devices in real-time, thereby improving device experiences for the end-user and offering features that would otherwise be outsourced to third parties by device users, such as value-added location services.
Solutions like the SIM applet offered by Skyhook offer benefits to both network operators and device users. This applet enables device access to Skyhook’s vast global location network, which includes more than 200 million cellular towers, that can help resolve location on devices even as they roam. After an easy integration, whether on a traditional SIM, an eSIM, or otherwise, users can experience uninterrupted location-based value-added services on their devices. As a result network operators can rest assured that they are providing a best-in-class location solution to their customers, which will not only delight them but reduce their need to use third-party services as an alternative. Additionally, SIM manufacturers can streamline the process of customizing carrier-specific features, which has traditionally been a challenge.
While mobile phones operating on GSM or LTE networks are the most popular examples of devices that use cellular connectivity, other devices such as smart watches, computers, asset trackers, and cameras also often rely on these networks for location. The number of connected devices using cellular networks is only expected to rise with the growth of new network types, most notably 5G. Operators worldwide are already upgrading their infrastructure to support 5G to deliver higher-bandwidth, lower-latency solutions to their users. Additionally, a projected increase in spending on wireless communication infrastructure using cloud technology is expected to help fuel demand and growth for devices using cellular connectivity, with a greater need for value-added location services.
Skyhook’s location reference database is constantly growing to include new network types, such as 5G, and can help cellular providers offer accurate and precise location for devices operating on their networks. With over two decades of experience in mobile device positioning, we’ve pioneered several modern-day standards for location, and we’d be happy to discuss your specific use case. Get in touch below if you’d like to learn more. 
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