Vodafone drives connected car strategy with €145M telematics buy

Vodafone said it plans to buy telematics and security specialist Cobra Automotive Technologies through a voluntary offer that values the Italy-based company at around €145 million ($197 million).

The UK-based operator said Cobra's telematics products and expertise would enable it to provide a more comprehensive range of end-to-end services to automotive customers. Cobra is also active in Brazil, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland and the UK, and provides vehicle manufacturers, dealerships, and after-market customers with a range of products and services, including telematics, usage-based insurance, and vehicle tracking.

Like many operators, Vodafone is seeking new opportunities in the M2M field and has highlighted connected cars as a major area of focus. In March, the company announced a new agreement with Volkswagen and Audi in Europe to provide connected car services through embedded global SIM cards, starting with new Audi models from 2015.

"The combination of Vodafone and Cobra will create a new global provider of connected car services. We plan to invest in the business to offer our automotive and insurance customers a full range of telematics services," said Erik Brenneis, director of M2M at Vodafone.

Vodafone said the offer is expected to be launched in the coming weeks and should be completed in the third quarter of 2014.

The company was recently named as the world's number one operator for M2M by Machina Research, which specialises in areas such as M2M and mobile broadband connectivity.

"Vodafone's scale, growth and customer wins are testament to its ongoing lead in the sector. If we just look at the numbers, this year it overtook AT&T and Verizon to become the biggest global M2M provider, in terms of SIMs," commented Machina Research director Matt Hatton.

Hatton noted that simply increasing connections is far from the only thing that will determine future success: "We expect initiatives such as [Vodafone's] SOBE product, its plans for licensing the GDSP platform, and the added bonus of funds from Project Spring to provide further impetus in the next few years," he said.

SOBE is Vodafone's Simple Out-of-Box Experience project that is designed to make it easier for users of smart devices to sign a prepaid data contract on the fly. For example, products such as the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 4G LTE come equipped with Vodafone's SOBE technology.

Vodafone's Global Data Services Platform (GDSP), meanwhile, is an online platform designed to help Vodafone clients manage all M2M connections, and activate, block and disable devices from a long range by one click.

Juniper Research recently forecast that global revenues from consumer and commercial telematics will reach nearly $20 billion (€14.7 billion) by 2018, with additional "soft revenues" being generated from areas such as car servicing, "big data" enabled by telematics, and enhanced customer service.

For more:
- see this Vodafone release
- see this Machina Research release

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