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Operators need to fight to retain evolving M2M market

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European operators looking to push forward with their machine-to-machine ambitions seem likely to benefit from recent legislation such as the European Energy Efficiency Directive and eCall emergency service.

These initiatives, together with others that aren't being pressed forward by governments, should have a dramatic effect on the M2M market that will ultimately see the number of modules in operation shift from millions to billions by 2020, according to Strategy Analytics.

The operator community has been working hard to take advantage of this new market as the M2M sector becomes better understood and refined. But long-term success seems to be sliding for some as the larger players, such as Vodafone, Telefónica and the alliance of France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom, bring their considerable marketing clout and global spread to bear.

Of these, Andrew Brown, director of M2M research at Strategy Analytics, believes that Vodafone is currently leading the heavyweight pack in Europe. "Vodafone has been very successful with a number of telematics deals especially in Holland with Volvo, but the big deal was with BMW," he told FierceWireless:Europe.

Brown said he considers Vodafone to be the dynamic operator in Europe with its global data services platform, which provides them with connectivity certification, device management and updating capabilities.

"Vodafone is taking a more packaged approach to M2M today by offering a complete solution," he said. "Plus, the inclusion of Cable & Wireless into its portfolio could add significant additional IP connectivity in the future."

However, Brown warned that other players, in particular the large systems integrators, are seeking a greater segment of the M2M pie by capturing an increased share of the overall revenues, and relegate the operators to being a simple provider of connectivity. He said Logica and IBM are keen to grab market share away from the operators, using their past experience of offering comprehensive SLAs to cover all areas of a complex project to compete against the established players.

Also threatening the wider adoption of M2M is its vulnerability to the same security threats affecting all telecoms: denial of service attacks, man in the middle hacks, illegal interception and covert surveillance,according to a recent study from ABI Research. "More disturbingly, new cyber warfare tactics aimed at causing the failure of critical infrastructure are a very real danger which should not be underestimated," said Michela Menting, senior cyber security analyst for ABI.

Today though, M2M standardisation the key stumbling block, according to Brown. "It hasn't progressed as fast as it should," he said. "The standards bodies involved, of which there are many, must start working together. Presently, we are a long way off from having a simple set of agreed standards for M2M." --Paul