Wireless technology of many protocols and use-cases – including wi-fi, WiMAX, satellite, cellular and RFID – has become an advantageous alternative for businesses across the globe but particularly in emerging markets. Businesses in every vertical industry are expanding into regions of the world where wireline infrastructure has not been universally established with the ubiquitous footprint that most of the developed world takes for granted.
In North America, on the other hand, emerging government regulations for transportation safety, food safety, air quality, water quality and energy efficiency are creating new pressures for machine-to-machine (M2M) data services including cellular and satellite services. This trend toward regulation and proof of compliance will proliferate internationally. Today, businesses must seek out new ways to save money, reduce inventory spoilage and shrinkage and adhere to regulatory mandates – while at the same time making their people and business processes more efficient and containing costs.
As wireless connectivity marches further up the value chain, we believe that enterprise IT organizations will soon lead a charge to "unbundle" cellular M2M services from current ILEC carriers. Why? Because as good as the carriers are at supporting large, enterprise-wide, user-based mobile devices and data plans, their lack of pure-play M2M market knowledge, with the nuances and intricacies necessary for M2M services delivery and management, stands in the way. Specifically, the ILECs 1) typically lack in granular technical support for specialty M2M device management; 2) typically do not provide a comprehensive business management platform; 3) take a 'one-size fits all' approach to rating and billing; and 4) cannot deliver real-time device usage alerts for times when devices may be using more than their allotted data during a specific time period or interval. All of these factors converge to make a case for enterprise customers to take a hard look at specialty M2M service providers, especially now that M2M is proliferating to more areas of a company's operations.
As this unbundling concept takes hold, let's take a look at the some of the punchlist items that purchase decision makers should be asking of both their ILEC and substitute pure-play M2M network service providers. Specifically, do they have:
- "One-touch" global connectivity and management of wireless resources – Does the operator have a platform included that aggregates access to multiple "native" global networks through a single management interface?
- Specialty rating and billing – Does billing account for highly variable usage, for example seasonality, roaming or extreme low-use?
- Independent redundancy – Does the infrastructure and redundancy of the M2M operator's network meet and, in fact, exceed that of Tier 1 carriers?
- Multi-technology network platform – Does satellite blend with multiple cellular technologies (CDMA and GSM) in a single platform, to ensure ubiquitous connectivity over oceans and terrestrial areas, even where cellular does not reach?
- Pricing model – Does the provider charge based upon the network protocol used, not just the amount of data? Does usage-based pricing adjust according to actual usage patterns, month-to-month?
- Value-added Services – Can the provider allow you to see which devices are physically connected to the network, whether they are active and how much data they transmitted during the last data session? Can you see the physical location of every device using location-based services (LBS)?
- Technical Support – Will you have a dedicated one-call support team with transparent escalation paths and service level timelines?
As the role of M2M continues to expand, M2M wireless connectivity cannot be "business as usual" with incumbent service providers. Notwithstanding the size of an enterprise's pre-existing relationship – based on the number of handsets, smartphones and laptop cards – ILECs cannot be viewed as the default vendor when it comes to M2M. Rather, because M2M requires multiple technologies and an integrated service/device management platform, so that companies can wield a higher level of control themselves over key functions such as inventory and financial accounting, these functions must be tied directly into existing IT software and services.
In short, a person wouldn't rely on his or her Primary Care Physician to treat a heart arrhythmia, nor would that PCP want to lead such specialized treatment. Similarly, ILEC carriers may not be set up to handle the intricacies of enterprise M2M, leaving the door open to pure-play M2M specialty companies.
By Chuck Horne, VP Product and Service Management
Chuck Horne currently serves as Vice President of Product and Service Management for KORE Telematics, an industry leader providing wireless M2M network services for enterprises and solution providers. Chuck is a senior marketing and product executive with over 30 years of strategic product management and business consulting experience in the wireless, internet, and telecommunications industry. In his current capacity, Chuck is responsible for product planning and management of KORE's wireless services portfolio.