M2M communications is once again a hot topic for mobile network operators, who have returned to this application area with refreshed strategies and increased appetites.
The increased interest in M2M has two origins: first, many operators are positioning themselves to provide infrastructure, connectivity, and service as enterprises seek to connect their major assets to their networks. M2M in a B2B environment is all about asset optimization and process efficiency.
A classic example is smart metering, which has been sparked in part by regulation. But we also see opportunities in vending/point-of-sale and logistics.
Second, and potentially an order of magnitude more important, is the network-enablement of an increasing number of consumer devices. Consumer electronics companies expect their products to be always connected, and therefore are increasingly interested in M2M. This raises the possibility of major customer deals, some of which will be global in scale.
The launch of eReaders such as the Kindle has provided a new impetus for M2M. While not all operators see the value in such a deal, and believe a more telco-advantageous revenue model is needed, they recognize that it is a major opportunity in terms of numbers of connected devices.
And to top it off new delivery and commercial models are emerging (including the use of a partner, such as Jasper Wireless, for its M2M service delivery platform). Such developments make M2M services simpler for operators to build and faster to launch, as well as less risky for potential customers.
Ovum expects almost all of the major global operators to have cemented their strategies by the first half of 2011. The challenge will be for operators with ambition to go beyond simple network provision and add value by working with module and hardware suppliers to ensure all devices are network-ready, and to partner with SIs to map the service to their clients’ business requirements.
On the other hand, some operators will choose a wholesale route whereby they provide the connectivity and relevant partner relationships, but devise revenue models centered on volume. The two approaches are not mutually exclusive.
The M2M value chain
Evan Kircheimer is leader of Ovum's Enterprise Telecom practice