Vodacom sees 'limitless' opportunities with M2M

CAPE TOWN--Vodacom considers machine-to-machine (M2M) to be a major growth area for the future, with "limitless" opportunities to deploy the technology across a number of vertical sectors in South Africa and beyond.

However, the commercial challenges are many and varied, noted Tony Smallwood, executive head of the Vodacom Enterprise M2M function, who was speaking to FierceWireless:Europe at AfricaCom here. M2M technology can be deployed to save money as well as to create new revenue streams, for example, and it is important to determine where, and how, the various benefits can be achieved.

As things stand, Vodacom has 1.5 million M2M connections in South Africa and is clearly planning to increase that figure. The company is in the process of setting up M2M operations in East and West Africa, and also benefits from the global M2M network of shareholder Vodafone Group. Around 1,200 Vodacom employees work in the M2M field.

At the same time, Vodacom wants to offer far more than just network services by developing and providing full solutions that include the network elements as well as the applications.

Although the company does not break out M2M revenue figures, Smallwood provided a typical illustration of the M2M value chain where hardware generates 29 per cent of M2M revenue, applications 57 per cent and networks only 14 per cent.

"We want more than the 14 per cent," said Smallwood.

The company targets vertical industries including health, security, energy and water, fleet management and tracking, and stock management.

Vodacom has also invested in South Africa-based M2M specialist XLink, in which it owns a 50.1 per cent share, and has partnered with Mezzanine Ware, which works with Vodacom and Vodafone to develop mobile business solutions in Africa.

In 2013, Vodacom and Mezzanine collaborated on the launch of a range of Mezzanine mHealth services for deployment across Africa.

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