When machines took over

17 July 2011 | Guy Matthews


Or how old business models are old hat...

The era of machine-to-machine (M2M) communications appears to be entering a new phase. And it’s perhaps not overstating the case to point out that European network operators are, if not leading the world in the M2M field, certainly keeping up with the global pace.

Nordic telco TeliaSonera has just signed a co-operation agreement with France Telecom-Orange and Deutsche Telekom over the interoperability of M2M communications, meaning that devices of all sorts will now be able to communicate directly and seamlessly with each other over the combined mobile network reach of the three parties.

The French and German incumbents already have a deal, dating back to February of this year, which means their pooled M2M services cover not only their home territories but also Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and of course the UK through the Everything Everywhere joint venture. The arrival of TeliaSonera at the party brings on board Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Estonia and Lithuania.

Enterprise customers have every reason to be excited by the prospects that this globalisation offers. They gain not only operability across multiple borders, but the promise of enhanced M2M service quality. To date, the roaming agreements between M2M players have been managed bilaterally only, based around single markets. A more multilateral approach will provide roaming services of superior service quality across many countries, almost certainly enhancing customer experience, claim the parties involved.

Network operators will be able, for example, to ensure logistics and freight companies of continuous connectivity for the M2M-enabled machines and goods they have on the move. Other vertical sectors, such as the automotive industry and Europe’s growing community of eHealth providers, will also potentially gain from all this easy and hopefully cost-effective interoperability.

This tripartite deal between the three operators offers clear evidence that the old business model of multiple operators competing with discrete services is old hat. ‘Co-opetition’ between operators does not lead to a dilution of competitive edge but, conversely, to a much stronger commercial proposition, incrementally profitable for all. Corporate customers love all this rationalisation and are not a bit sorry to see the back of five different proprietary services all competing for their spend.