Jacques Bonifay, CEO and Co-Founder of Transatel, joined Ryan on the IoT For All Podcast to discuss deploying IoT internationally. The podcast opened up with a conversation around important aspects to consider when companies are looking to deploy an IoT solution globally or when looking to scale cellular connectivity abroad. Jacques then discusses regulations and how it plays into European data privacy laws. The episode is concluded with high-level discussions around mistakes companies make when expanding abroad and how to choose the best connectivity partner for your solution.

Jacques Bonifay is the CEO and Co-Founder of Transatel. Jacques is also President of MVNO Europe (the European Association of MVNOs) since 2012 and former President of Alternative Télécom (the association of alternative fixed and mobile operators in France). Before founding Transatel in 2000, Jacques had a solid track record in consulting, strategy, and business development for Matra Marconi Space (now Airbus Space & Defense), McKinsey, and Alcatel. Jacques holds an MBA from INSEAD and an Engineering degree from INPG with a major in data processing.

Interested in connecting with Jacques? Reach out on Linkedin!

About Transatel

Transatel provides global cellular connectivity solutions for Mobile Virtual Network Operators, IoT, and enterprise distributed workforces. As the leading MVNE in Europe and pioneer in machine-to-machine (M2M) wireless communication, Transatel manages over 90 MVNOs and more than 3 million SIM cards and eSIM profiles across 180 destinations worldwide for customers such as Airbus, Stellantis, Worldline, and Jaguar Land Rover.

Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:

(01:25) Introduction to Jacque and Transatel

(04:40) History of Transatel

(06:48) What to consider when looking to go International

(09:56) Important aspects of Scaling Cellular IoT in Europe

(11:45) How regulations play into data privacy laws

(14:13) Mistakes when expanding abroad

(16:46) How to best choose a connectivity partner abroad?

(20:17) How do approaches differ depending on the product?


– [Voice Over] You are listening to the IoT For All Media Network.

– [Ryan] Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of the IoT For All Podcast. I’m your host, Ryan Chacon. And on today’s episode, we have Jacques Bonifay, the CEO of Transatel. Transatel is a company that provides global cellular connectivity solutions for mobile virtual network operators, internet of things, and enterprises distributed workforces. We talk a lot about some interesting topics that we don’t cover a lot on here. We talk about deploying IoT internationally. Talk about how to scale cellular IoT projects in Europe, specifically data privacy in the EU, common mistakes companies make when they’re trying to expand their IoT operations abroad, and just generally industrial versus consumer IoT, as it relates to use cases and the growth and expansion of a potential deployment. So a lot of you out there I know are probably working on a solution or have deployed solution. You’re maybe look expand that solutions presence globally through other regions and so forth. So this is an episode that I really recommend that you listen to, you’ll find a lot of value in it, but before we get into this episode, if any of you out there are looking to enter the fast growing and profitable IoT market, but don’t know where to start, check out our sponsor Leverege. Leverege’s IoT solutions development platform, provides everything you need to create turnkey IoT products that you can white label and resell under your own brand. To learn more, go to iotchangeseverything.com that’s iotchangeseverything.com and without further ado, please enjoy this episode of the IoT For All Podcast. Welcome Jacques to the IoT For All. Thanks for being here this week.

– [Jacques] Thank you. Hello. Hello from Paris.

– [Ryan] Yes. Great to have you. Yeah. Paris, I know. I’ve never been to Paris, but I’ve always wanted to go. So I don’t know when the best time to go is, but at some point I do plan to make it over that way.

– [Jacques] Next may or next June will be great.

– [Ryan] Next May or next June?

– [Jacques] The weather should be nice.

– [Ryan] Okay, fantastic. So I appreciate you taking time to do this today. And what I wanted to do was have you start off by giving a quick introduction about yourself, to our audience.

– [Jacques] So I am Jacques Bonifay, I’m the CEO, and one of a Co-Founder of Transatel. By background, I’m an engineer, but I’ve been doing an MBA and working in consulting in the past. And I founded it Transatel in 2000, so 21 years ago. I’m also president of MVNO Europe, which is the European association for mobile virtual network portals in Europe, I do quite lots of lobbying to the European commissions to push the concept of IoT and MVNO and also the classical MVNO for voice and mobile telephony services. Regarding Transatel, as I said, the company is 21 years old. We are basically in two businesses. The first one, the historical businesses is in the MVNO business where we are an MVNO enabler. Meaning we provide a turnkey solution for people who want to launch MVNO. So an MVNO is a mobile network virtual operator. So it’s mobile operators who don’t have a network and buy capacity from mobile network operators. We manage more than 100 mobile operators across France, UK, Belgium and we are the leader on the Western markets. In addition to that, eight years ago, we have launched worldwide data MVNO focused on the IoT market segment. And we have developed our business around thee market segment. The first one is automotive, and we got a couple of customers such as Jaguar Land Rover, where we provide connectivity for Europe, but also Fiat Chrysler Automotive for Europe, which is now part of a Stellantis group. But we are also providing connectivity for customers, such as… Sorry. Such as DAF the car manufacturer. In addition to that, the second market segment is industrial IoT, where one of our biggest customer is Airbus, the aircraft manufacturer. We provide connectivity for the aircraft for the productive maintenance of Airbus service that is providing to the airlines. Airbus has chosen Amazon Web Service for cloud computing and Palantir for artificial intelligence and Transatel for cellular connectivity. The third market segment is for consumer device or the workplace. So basically we provide cellular connectivity, for laptop, tablet or smartphone using leveraging on eSIM with a retail service and the Ubiji brand, which is just a great service for you. If you come to Paris, please use Ubiji. You download the Ubiji app, and you will enjoy local connectivity in all Europe, which will be much cheaper for you.

– [Ryan] That’s awesome. So tell me a little bit about the history of the company. So you’ve been around for a while, you have two different main focuses. What was the opportunity you saw when you started the company and decided to venture down this path?

– [Jacques] So, 21 years ago, we had a good, wrong idea or wrong, good ideas, I would say. We wanted to bypass roaming by putting multiple phone number from different countries on the same SIM cards. So we started that. So that allow us to provide local connectivity at local rate in each countries. So from a theoretical stand point, it was a great idea, practically, it has been very difficult for us to get agreement with operators across Europe. So we developed a service, we launched a service, we did some revenues, but not so much. So we quickly changed our business model to become an MVNO enabler, providing turnkey solution for people who want to launch MVNOs. And was a second strategy. Then the third strategy, that was in 2013, 2014. We saw that we were a regional player, the company was growing well, that was profitable, but that was not the great thing. So we wanted to do something much bigger, and to do something bigger, you need to be worldwide. So how to be worldwide. And the was to launch a worldwide MVL, but to make it more simple, we wanted to focus on data MVNO and at this time we are talking about machine to machine, or we were talking about cellular connectivity. The the wording IoT was not existing at this time, but very quickly IoT came and now we call ourself an IoT worldwide MVNO. Where we serve all Europe, we serve Asia, we are also in United States. We got many customers in the US, consumers and enterprise. We are truly worldwide IoT MVNO. And that was the third aspect of our strategy, the third level, I would say.

– {Ryan] Fantastic. I appreciate you sharing those insights. So I wanted to use the opportunity of speaking with you today to talk a lot about IoT from an international standpoint. So I’ve had a lot of guests on that are very focused on different markets around the world. Also, a lot of guests who are focused much on the North American market, but I think there’s an interesting perspective to talk about deploying IoT internationally. So I wanted to just to start off, is from your perspective, what are the main things that need to be thought about when a company’s looking to expand internationally with an IoT solution?

– [Jacques] So IoT is a quite broad term, and it’s much broader than what machine to machine. If I talk about connectivity for a car, you’ve got different type of connectivity for car. You have a telematic aspect, which is a machine to machine services. Then you have a software update, which is another kind of machine to machine, but kind of different. Then we have what we call for infotainments. By, infotainments, first is you want the car to be connected, to know the traffic information, when you want to go from point A to point B, but then it’s a service, which is for the end user for the consumers. You may want to have internet radio services, and you might want to buy more connectivity to have more internet radio. You also may want to have Wi-Fi on board, and this is really an internet access services. Then when you are dealing with consumers, you basically have to, in Europe but also in the US, to comply with regulations for mobile operators. And you have regulation and constraint, which is not only imposed by the telecom regulator, but also from ministry of interior, in terms of identification of who is the driver. Which mean that from a regulatory standpoint, it’s much more complex. Machine to machine is straight forward, but when you go into the IoT, when you start to mix B2B IoT and B2C IoT, where consumers are involved and the regulatory weight is much bigger. And if you consider Europe as a continent with all the countries we have, with all the language we have to manage, then it’s much more complex to deploy internationally. So Transatel has developed over time, the capacity to deploy the services in every countries of Eastern Europe, but also in the US, but also in Japan, in India, and in many other countries in the world where we made the effort and we made the investment to comply with the local regulations from the telecom regulators, but also with a constraint imposed by the ministry of interior or of each of the countries. So that’s why you see that connectivity for IoT is just more complex than just to provide connectivity. There is the local marketing, compliance with local regulations aspect and also security rules by the countries.

– [Ryan] Absolutely. It’s interesting, when we talk about the connectivity space, because in IoT, especially in the commercial and enterprise side, there’s a lot of different types of connectivity that fits potential use cases. So trying to optimize that, and then once you start moving outside of the borders of a local market, you have other challenges that you have to deal with. So one thing I wanted to ask is, when we’re talking about, let’s focus for a second, like on cellular IoT projects for instance, when you’re trying to scale those in Europe and even then outside of Europe, what are the things that people really need to be thinking about or need to take into consideration and what advice do you have for people approaching that?

– [Jacques] I would say two things. The first thing is what I just said about how to comply with regulation in Europe, in US, in Japan and on, that’s what I was talking about. But certainly you could say that, “If I want to comply then fine, I can deal with AT&T in the US with Vodafone for Europe, then with AT&T for Japan and with Telefónica for Latin America.” What you will see is that if you do that, first you have to face multiple and integration. You have to integrate with AT&T for the US with Vodafone for Europe, with AT&T for Japan, with another operator for Latin America. So that’s the first challenge where you basically multiply your cost of integration. You multiply them by four or by five, but also you will see that even Vodafone in Europe will not comply with with the local regulation in every country. Why that? Because by nature, mobile network operators do comply with the local regulations where it has footprint. Ask Vodafone to provide an offer in France. That’s more difficult for them because we are not in France. We are using SFR and then SFR is a different operators than Vodafone. So this is why Transatel is one of our key differentiator, because we have an MVNO by our DNA. We are nowhere… I mean we are everywhere. And where we did invest is not so much in having a network because we buy connectivity from the network. But we did invest in complying with the local recognitions and offering to our customer a single interface for world connectivity, with compliance with the local regulations.

– [Ryan] So when we’re talking about regulations, how does that also play into the data privacy side of things? with like GDPR and associated challenges across that?

– [Jacques] It does. That is technical. So GDPR is really for the name of the individuals and what are the data you use for individuals? So usually Transatel as we provide connectivity, depends of a case, but in most cases, we don’t have a name of the end user except for connected car. Where connected car, Jaguar Land Rover or Fiat Chrysler decided that they didn’t want to deal with consumers to provide additional connectivity. So they were asking Transatel to deal with the consumer. So someone is buying a Jaguar in Europe, or Land Rover or Fiat or an Alpha Romeo, they buy the car with three years connectivity, typically. Then for our first three years, the connectivity is included in the car. In some cases, the guy arrive at the end of his data allowance and then you need to buy additional connectivity for the rest of the month. And then is getting a contract with Transatel. Transatel as an MVNO, because we started as an MVNO, we do comply with GDPR in all Europe. And so we take the responsibility of complying with GDPR. And by the way, because I think Europe is the most strict status, in terms of compliance with data privacy. We use exactly the same level of data privacy for the US, because it is the same system we are using worldwide. So we take the most demanding requirement and we apply worldwide because in a way it’s easier for us.

– [Ryan] Gotcha. That makes sense. I figure it probably saves a lot of headache if you can optimize for that. And then you go somewhere else and maybe it’s not as difficult or as strict. And then you obviously are going to fit into there with no problem, most likely.

– [Jacques] Now, typically for a US player, who want to provide IoT services in Europe, where you have a relationship with the consumers, we will take care of his compliance with the local European regulations. And remember, I am the president of MVNO in Europe, which is a lobbying entity. So I am very well aware of local regulations and we can also influence to change regulations if it doesn’t make sense. From a European standpoint. So we are a player, a body in Europe, which does influence our regulations and especially for connected car, we are influencing quite a lot.

– [Ryan] Gotcha. Okay. Fantastic. So let me ask then, we talked about the challenge and things going on, as we’re talking about moving or scaling solutions abroad, what are some of the more common mistakes that you see companies make when they’re trying to move and expand their IoT operations outside of their home country?

– [Jacques] Typically the first reaction of an IoT player is to get a country track with a mobile operators. Mobile operators is going to provide in SIM cards and the device might have a lifetime, which is more than a couple of years. So if you take a car, the lifetime for car is 20 years, or maybe 10 years at the smallest level. But problem is that when you are with a mobile operators, you are stuck with these mobile operators and you cannot switch easily. And of course the mobile operators will tell you that there is a standout called EYCC, which allow to a program the SIM cards to change mobile operators. Actually, if you check, it doesn’t really work. You take connected car, and there is a famous example in Europe where you have one European car manufacturer or moved from another operators to another operators. He has never been capable, to switch all the vehicles from one operators to another operators because the capacity to switch over theirs, is working on the lab, but it’s not working on the field and it’s not working for 100% of a car. So if you really want to be independent from the mobile operators, if you want to choose which operators you’re going to work in which country either, because you want the best price, or because you want the best coverage or the best service or whatever, then you need to rely on an MVNO or be a MVNO yourself. And we think that car manufacturer are going to become mobile operators. Or are they going to rely on people like us, who have technical capacity to change network overnight without changing the SIM cards without doing this complex over the air re-programmation of the SIM cards. And that’s kind of things people forget. Players typically in the us will ask AT&T please provide me connectivity in Europe, or maybe would ask Vodafone but they don’t see that smaller player such as Transatel will be much more giant, much more- But also will provide the freedom to be independent from mobile operators. Which is the key to keep the best services on many years. So you have to look after the first two, three years.

– [Ryan] Makes sense. Okay. And then, so how do you, from your experience, your interactions with customers and just view of the market, how do you advise people on how they can best choose their connectivity partner when they’re working in Europe and then obviously going outside of Europe?

– [Jacques] So first we like to give them a couple of SIM cards so that they can test our end to end services, not only the connectivity, but also the platform we are providing them to manage the SIM cards. And we go on the use case and we check the compliance of their services with the local regulations. And then we try to think strategically with them, how it’s going to be their service in one year, three years or five or 10 years from now. And discuss with them from a strategic standpoint, which is the best strategy for them to maintain long-term value. And we believe that long term value is the best manage, if you keep control on the core network. If you have a supplier such as an now IoT MVNO, which can adapt the core platform to the need of a customer all the time. If you take a big mobile operators, there is no way they can be flexible. Those guys are providing their services, maybe in the short term, the price is good, but which is clearly if when you deal with a big mobile operators, you know, the price you’re going to pay the first year, you have no idea how this price is going to decrease over time. When with an IoT MVNO, you can put some contract in place. So you have some power on reducing the price over time. For example, and this is one of the reason that Airbus, the European aircraft manufacturer choose Transatel, in their contract, the capacity to negotiate themselves with any mobile operators in the world. And whenever they negotiate a contract with better terms than what we are providing to them, then we take this contract and we provide them with a pricing they have negotiated and we just ask them for an enabling fee, which is 10 times smarter than the airtime fee. And we actually leverage on our customer on the power of our customer to negotiate better rate. For example, if I take Fiat Chrysler in Italy, I did not do the negotiations myself with the Italian operators, we used Fiat Chrysler to negotiate. And hey, with Fiat Chrysler, with their power we did get much better price than we were capable to get by ourself. So this is also the flexibility we bring over time and security on the price on the long term, because today, you know the price you can get today for the next two years, but you have no idea with the development of 5G what is going to be a price per megabyte in five years from now. And by the way, if a business model is changing and that if mobile operators are not anymore invoicing per megabyte but are selling bandwidth the market is going to be completely different. And if you’re an end user dealing with a big mobile operators then you are stuck, you cannot change it. If you’re on IoT MVNO, it’s easy. We can renegotiate the deal and we can switch network overnight if we are not happy with a current provider.

– [Ryan] Gotcha. Okay. That’s fantastic advising a good way to sum it all up on how to approach it. And the last question I wanted to ask-

– [Jacques] We do it everywhere in the world. Everywhere in the world, we can do it.

– [Ryan] Fantastic. One of the last questions I want to ask you about, because we’ve talked a lot about a couple different applications and use case situations here, but how does a lot of the stuff that we’re talking about now, does it differ the approach you take, depending on if the company’s focused on industrial more kind of enterprise type applications for IoT versus consumer, or is the approach very similar for both sides?

– [Jacques] From a technical standpoint, the approach is very similar. We have developed and deployed a worldwide data MVNO which is the same technical solutions. And this technical solution is addressing very different market segments. As I said, it could be connected car services with very various services such as telematic software update or infotainment including Wi-Fi onboard. But it could be also connectivity for airplane, for operative maintenance, or it could be connectivity for laptop and tablets, or for consumers traveling in Europe under the Ubigi brand. All that is based on the same technical platform. The marketing is very different, but the technical aspect, the technical platform is the same. This is how we bring synergy… We have lots of synergies in all those business because the technical platform is the same. And when we negotiate agreement with mobile operators, most of the time it is the same agreement for all our business cases. It’s only on very, very specific case, such as connected car, where we have specific agreement. But once again, it’s just the negotiation aspect. The technical deployment is the same. So the more we do business on different market segment, the more we generate synergies in all those business and the more we we reach critical mass.

– [Ryan] That’s awesome. Okay. That makes a ton of sense. First of all I appreciate all these insights you’re sharing. I actually, haven’t been enable to have a detailed conversation with a guest that has this much experience around, especially the European market but as well as globally scaling around on the connectivity side. Which is a big area of focus and a topic that we’ve covered in detail in pieces there, but never really had a fully absorbed conversation like we’re having now. So this has been great. And I think our audience is gonna get a ton of value out of this. If our audience has questions wants, learn more, wants to follow up and just get more information about how you all approach this, ask questions about how to approach this for themselves. What’s the best way that they can do that and reach out.

– [Jacques] They can go on our website transatel.com and go and they have enough request process, and we will be very pleased to come back to them quickly. And maybe one note I should have said before that Transatel is now part of the NTT group, the Nippon Telecom and Telegraph company. We are a subsidiary entity, we are still running very much as an independent company, but we are part of the NTT group. Which is maybe a level of operations for some customer if needed.

– [Ryan] Nice. And is there anything happening throughout 2022 that you’re looking forward to, that you’re most excited about? Or we can stay on the lookout for coming out of Transatel?

– [Jacques] What I’m looking is maybe to be able to announce by the end of the year a new deal with a new car manufacturer. Which could be a global deal. So after Jaguar Land Rover, Fiat Chrysler automotive and DAF I hope that I will be able by the end of the year, it’s not going to be in the next couple of months, but by the end of the year, I announce a new deal with a new car manufacturer. That’s what I’m looking for.

– [Ryan] Fantastic.

– [Jacques] And we are also in the process of signing many, many more, IoT deals, industrial IoT deals, they are smaller deals. And altogether that will accompany our growth for next couple of… We basically grow by about 30% every year.

– [Ryan] That’s great. Well congratulations on that potential success and growth that you all have on the horizon. It’s very exciting stuff that’s going on over there. So I really appreciate your time chatting today and learning more about the company, learning more about your approach and really the advice you were able to provide our audience on how to just scale their solutions globally and what to really think about as they’re moving outside of their local regions and areas. So I really appreciate your time and thanks for being here.

– [Jacques] Thank you very much.

– [Ryan] All right, everyone. Thanks again for watching that episode of the IoT for All Podcast. If you enjoyed the episode, please click the thumbs up button, subscribe to our channel and be sure to hit the bell notification, so you get the latest episode as soon as they become available. Other than that, thanks again for watching. And we’ll see you next time.

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IoT For All
IoT For All
IoT For All is creating resources to enable companies of all sizes to leverage IoT. From technical deep-dives, to IoT ecosystem overviews, to evergreen resources, IoT For All is the best place to keep up with what's going on in IoT.
IoT For All is creating resources to enable companies of all sizes to leverage IoT. From technical deep-dives, to IoT ecosystem overviews, to evergreen resources, IoT For All is the best place to keep up with what's going on in IoT.