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Machine-to-Machine (M2M) for Mobile Operators: Lessons from the Market

Machine-to-Machine (M2M) technology and solutions are helping to create an “internet of things” that will drive productivity and improve lives - for consumers and businesses.  At the heart of this internet of things is an intelligent IP network that enables harmonious collaboration of devices in ways that appear seamless to the user.

Mobile operators in particular are looking at the explosively growing M2M market as a major source of new services revenue. ABI research predicts that the mobile M2M market is set for explosive growth, from approximately 71 million connections in 2009 to 225 million connections globally by 2014. This growth in mobile connectivity to machines ranging from vending machines to automobiles is being driven by a number of factors including, according to ABI research:

  • Telematics (i.e., convergence of telecommunications and information processing) and telemetry (i.e., remote measurement and reporting of information) are seen increasingly across many vertical industries as sources of greater operational efficiency and increased incremental revenue.
  • M2M applications are benefiting from the R&D and the scale of the mobile handset industry
  • Technical advances in air interface standards are enabling new 3G M2M market segments.
  • Government mandates are increasingly requiring the use of telematics and telemetry functionality
  • Mobile network operators (MNOs) are seeking to expand their data service offerings into M2M

Challenges for Mobile Operators

The M2M Market presents some unique technical and business requirements for Mobile Operators. The most obvious technical challenge is being able to provide connectivity to potentially many millions of virtually any kind of device. Additionally, while many M2M end devices transmit only limited traffic and thus do not require high throughput or a 3G connection, other devices have the potential to scale up bandwidth requirements significantly, for example, streaming of video from surveillance devices upon detection of a security event. The looming shortage of public IPv4 addresses is also a potential constraint, with some operators postponing commercial M2M service launches because they need to preserve their IP address allocations to satisfy the continued high growth in the number of mobile broadband subscribers.

Operators also need to adopt aggressive new business models to exploit the M2M opportunity. Average Revenue per User (ARPU) for connected M2M devices is much lower compared to mobile broadband subscribers. This can be problematic for operators where an industry indicator of overall financial health is the growth or decline in overall ARPUs. Of course, the number of potentially connected M2M devices is expected to dwarf the number of mobile broadband subscribers. M2M also brings with it specific customer support requirements, often including expertise that operators may not have in key M2M applications such as automatic telematics, transportation fleet management, security and public safety, remote healthcare monitoring, and remote automation for energy and utilities. Lastly, M2M brings with it transnational competitors operators, all seeking to service their enterprise customers with an integrated, global connectivity solution.

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The Mobile Internet is Changing Everything!

A year ago at Mobile World Congress we boldly declared our commitment to Mobility when we stated that 4G=IP=Cisco. And this year has truly been pivotal with the mobile Internet taking off and Cisco’s acquisition of Starent further demonstrating our commitment to this market.

I expect this year’s Mobile World Congress will be the most exciting ever. The mobility industry is going through a truly defining moment in its history.

Though challenged by the combination of increased demand (hear from our friends at Vodafone Spain in the video below) and increased competition from over-the-top providers, I believe now is the time for mobile operators to capitalize on this mobile Internet transformation.

Mobile operators have a great deal of power in their IP-based networks. The mobile operator knows the mobile customer -- their device, their service package, their usage patterns, and even their location. And of course the mobile operator knows their own network -- their available bandwidth, service capabilities, and content and security.

With this intelligence, mobile operators have the unique ability to create and provide rich multimedia services to their customers in a high-quality, secure and reliable manner. Further, operators can enable their subscribers to customize and personalize their own service packages to meet their ever-changing needs.

With this intelligence mobile operators can win a share of these new Internet service revenues, reduce network expenses, and increase customer satisfaction.

As I mentioned in this post, on the introduction of the Cisco ASR 5000, the combination of intelligence and performance in the context of an all-IP mobile network is more important now than ever before.

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Starent Networks is Now a Part of Cisco: Introducing Cisco’s Mobile Internet Technology Group

The holiday season is always a time of excitement, anticipation, and good will. Clearly, mobile is at the heart of all three! I just spent $300 on new smartphones for my family and upgraded our plans to 1200+ minutes, 500+ text messages, and tens of mega bytes per month. That does not even include everything I do with my business phone! If this is any indication, the mobile data traffic will far exceed the projections from the Cisco Visual Networking Index in many markets!

With this backdrop, the Cisco Mobility team is doubly excited because today, as part of our ongoing efforts to enable the mobile Internet transformation, Starent Networks is now a part of Cisco.

As the new Cisco Mobile Internet Technology Group, under the leadership of Ashraf Dahod, former Starent CEO, Starent’s employees will continue their innovative work to develop and support industry-leading mobile broadband solutions.

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Cisco Expands its Mobile Internet Solutions with Starent Acquisition

I am excited that Cisco has announced its intent to acquire Starent Networks! This important addition, occurring at a time when mobile internet is undergoing massive transformation, would help enable Cisco to better meet the unprecedented needs of our mobile operator and service provider customers as they deliver the next wave of multimedia applications and data services.

To our mobile operators and service providers, this intended acquisition is very much in line with our “4G=IP” vision we’ve stated in the past would, if completed, extend Cisco’s world-class offerings in three key areas.

  1. Scaling mobile operator networks towards 4G LTE solutions, while protecting investment in 3G technologies, to meet the exponential growth in data services
  2. Offering personalized applications to deliver integrated user experiences, create differentiation, and increase ARPU.
  3. Developing innovative business models that deliver incremental revenue streams to address the shrinking voice revenues.

For more details on this announcement, our formal corporate forward looking statement disclaimer, and more insight on the trends causing the need the 4G mobile internet, please see the post by Simon Aspinall, another of our regular SP360 contributors, that is highlighted on our corporate sister blog, The Platform: Cisco to Aquire Mobile Internet Leader Starent Networks

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The Mobile Consumer Is Always Right!

One of those cliches that we ought to live by! Especially in the mobile space. You can never go wrong aligning your business strategy on the side of the mobile consumer. That is why Cisco spends copious amount of time, money, and effort in understanding the customer experience even though a lot of our revenue comes from selling infrastructure.

Consumers have taught us how they consume applications. Anytime, anywhere, on any device, with any service. So much so that they don’t even think whether the access network is from their provider or not, or in many instances whether the network is wired or wireless.Then why does the industry get hung up on whether it is HSPA or LTE or WiMAX or Wi-Fi? 3G or 4G? Let us embrace all these technologies as it is more about the apps and the experience; YouTube, Hulu, Flickr, social networking apps, WebEx, you name it. Cisco is projecting a 66 fold increase in mobile data traffic through 2013.

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