Experience – What is it worth?

Gwenn Larsson, Telenor Connexion The blog author is Gwenn Larsson of Telenor Connexion

(BLOG:) M2M Connected Services. Experience – what is it worth? And when I say “experience”, writes Gwenn Larsson of Telenor Connexion, I don’t mean how many millions of connections a company can claim to have in the market? I mean, real experience, with business- and life-critical applications.

I think experience is definitely worth more than a few cents per Mbyte, but it’s always hard to judge until you understand the implications of working with a connectivity supplier that is inexperienced! Experience with M2M connected services is about understanding that an M2M application and set-up is different for every single enterprise.

Many MNOs across the globe are looking to capitalise on M2M connections, as it’s the hot new way to get more average revenue per user (ARPU) and investor attention for your company. The market is certainly growing and the competition is increasing.

When I joined Telenor Connexion in 2009 there were only a few players that knew what M2M was all about – and we were the only company spun out from a global mobile network operator (MNO) that had a team and service offering dedicated to building the market. Many of my colleagues had been working with M2M since the late ’90s – and the proof is that Volvo was the first car maker in the world to launch an eCall system based on wireless technology, and Securitas Direct was the first to launch wireless home alarms!

Like any industry that is growing, many companies will jump on the bandwagon, until the competition gets too tough. And like any other industry, only a few players will have what it takes to survive long term. I suppose some of the winners will naturally be those operators with the largest footprint.  

It’s hard to deny this to be the case, especially as some national players are taking a ‘market protectionism’ attitude. And I anticipate this will get worse as the M2M companies that really do have differentiating M2M connectivity solutions and services will be blocked by the MNOs that can’t compete very well inside AND outside their own market footprint. But, I believe there is also room for players with smaller footprints, and larger ‘know how’. Quality of the delivered service, based on experience, together with pre-and post sales support, will allow some players to thrive despite a smaller overall footprint.

Many times I am in discussions with potential customers and the subject of experience comes up. I like to talk about the importance of having an experienced  M2M partner when my counterpart is telling me that M2M connectivity is a commodity – “and, please, just tell me your price”. Assuming that counterpart will open the door for a discussion beyond the data pipe and price per Mbyte, it doesn’t take long to discover that many aspects of the performance of their solution have been overlooked.

Unlike most MNOs we help our customers to optimise their data usage. We have clever technology for making future development more flexible, and also bearer service-agnostic. How about security? Have you considered all the options for ensuring an end-to-end transmission cannot be hacked? How about the VPN and APN set-up, and variations when storing data in the cloud? A half day or longer workshop with an experienced implementation engineer can suddenly expose dozens of ideas for consideration.

Another thing in addition to the technical set-up and product design that causes some of the biggest complications with an M2M solution is the billing set-up. Experienced players know that the flexibility of that set up can make thousands of dollars worth of difference per month. Many MNOs or MVNOs promoting and selling solutions punish their customers for not being able to predict the usage of their M2M solution on a monthly basis. I find this strange, unless, of course, you are selling a commodity.

I can only recommend strongly that any enterprise looking for an M2M connectivity solution should look for a partner, not purely a commodity supplier. It’s the experience in working with M2M enterprises over a decade or more that can give you that reassurance. This is what sets the players with experience apart from competitors who have decided that all they need to do is purchase M2M platform capacity and resell it in a growing market. Those are the connectivity suppliers that I believe won’t be around in the next decade to compete.

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