Carrier expertise, Tier-One connections and tools deployed by new M2M service provider

Datatrade was only established in December 2011, yet it already offers machine-to-machine (M2M) application developers and users connectivity solutions that address the challenges of cross-border and international applications. Both here and in the wholesale industry, Datatrade works with renowned telecoms providers globally. Datatrade Managed Services AG is a subsidiary of the Switzerland-based provider of international telecommunications services Calltrade Carrier Services AG, which has Tier-One telecom infrastructure around the globe. Here, Jeremy Cowan talks to Datatrade’s CEO, Andrea Giacomini about the challenges and opportunities ahead.

M2M Now: For any of our readers not familiar with Datatrade, Andrea, can you give a bit of background on how the company came to be?

Andrea Giacomini: Sure, Datatrade AG is a newly born company less than one year old, created as a spin-off from a well-established international telecom carrier based in Switzerland, Calltrade Carrier Services AG. Calltrade is a successful entrepreneurial story started in 2001 with its main business focus on wholesale voice transit, and which has quickly become one of the world’s recognised top players in carrier services. It has business relationships with all the main telco groups worldwide.

Aiming to find alternative successful areas of business, we decided last year to invest in ideas that may benefit from our main assets, our deep telecommunication knowledge (particularly in massive data transaction handling), the consolidated business relationships with Tier-One operators, and the streamlined company structure custom-made to address business flexibility. We saw a good fit in the fast-growing M2M industry and we believe we have a lot to offer to meet M2M’s connectivity demands.

M2M Now: Can you describe Datatrade’s services? What is new in your proposition?

AG: We created an ecosystem of services offering our customers mobile connectivity and flexible tools to perform its management – all tailored to address the challenges of M2M communications.

Our offering covers all the M2M connectivity needs including SIM cards in different formats and their online management, global coverage provided thanks to cutting-edge roaming technologies, flexible pricing structures achieved with our experience with real-time rating engines, device inventory management applications, and monitoring/reporting capabilities either made-to-stock or customisable from the customer self-care web-based portal. All of this is bundled with Tier-One support and available to you from a single point of contact.

Is this something new in the M2M industry? I wouldn’t say so, however, I believe we are very innovative in the way the service is created. Instead of tackling the connectivity needs of M2M applications from a ratingonly point of view, we built an infrastructure starting from a Service Control Point, connected to our dedicated HLR, Roaming Platform, GGSN and SMSC.

The SCP is a charging engine that controls the mobile communications made by our SIM cards sharply at every session, both for data traffic and SMS. Such control takes into account not only the customer credit online, but all the customer profile including service availability, roaming network access and customer defined limits set either on volume or credit. This I believe is a great advantage for our customers with the need for real-time action, particularly when it comes to connectivity cost control.

On top of that, we provide BSS tools to properly manage the service provisioning and to perform advanced billing operations, both for our end customers buying the service directly from us, and for our resellers supplied with a native multi-level admin concept.

M2M Now: Which markets do you focus on, geographically and by industry sector?

Additionally, one of our service platform’s main advantages is the capability to address customer needs even with limited numbers of SIM cards, and keep serving them as their business scale grows.

We are currently working in partnership with some resellers, to mention one, a German company with a specialised division in M2M services, Materna, and the business model we adopted is being the aggregator (therefore I can’t disclose who our final users are). However, we are moving more to retail now, to direct sales

Next we’re going to provide value added services, again in the connectivity layer of the M2M value chain, but going even further deep in the SIM card and in the software of the SIM card together with SIM card manufacturers. We’re working with several of them, aiming to find value added services with respect to M2M connectivity that can be pulled out of the SIM card itself.

Andrea Giacomini has extensive telecom industry experience, having worked previously at Calltrade Carrier Services AG, with responsibility for new business strategy and development. Before that he was involved in the launch of a new GSM operator in Europe as CTO, after having spent several years in consulting. Andrea holds a Master in Telecommunications, and an MBA from Columbia University (NY) and London Business School (UK).

M2M Now: And what might those value added services be?

AG: It could be roaming optimisation for example, applied to multi-IMSI scenario. We are very keen to walk that path with SIM manufacturers as well as in the area of security.

If mobile network operators haven’t come out with such a solution yet, it’s just because they didn’t find a partner to do it, or just because they have business any how…

M2M Now: So, you think they don’t need to fight that hard.

AG: Yes, exactly. This is pretty much the reason why not all the MNOs are interested in M2M connectivity and also why none of them are trying to do a lot in terms of SLAs or quality of service in roaming. Because at the end of the day they get revenues from the network anyway, and the main way they push the margin up is by up-selling machine-to-machine on top of the brand they’ve created already.

M2M Now: Should M2M customers be focusing on radio network SLAs or is it better to ensure their service providers have adequate redundancy in case a service goes down – redundancy in devices, servers, HLRs and gateways?

AG: SLA is a key element of the M2M service and the connectivity itself plays a great role. I must confess I consider the operators’ community not ready to establish relationships aiming to achieve SLAs from the radio network, or not in the roaming paradigm where global services are more and more deployed. We closely follow all the GSMA initiatives defining those SLAs both from a commercial and technical perspective and I think the industry is still far from sensible results, mainly due to the divergence in operators’ incentives and the complexity that QoS may bring into standard roaming wholesale billing.

QoS should be managed for M2M customers by three factors: core network elements control and a ‘nobottlenecks’ approach to international mobile data peering; fast-acting customer support services; and, particularly for global services, strong relationships with the roaming teams of operators serving the SIM cards’ network connectivity

It is fundamental for Datatrade to offer better SLAs, the partnerships built over years of wholesale operations by our mother company with international telecoms, and knowledge of the roaming business and operational procedures. We know what the roaming challenges are and how to get quick replies from the networks hosting our customers worldwide – all this managed by a dedicated roaming team provided by one of our main business partners.

M2M Now: End-to-end managed services are proving increasingly popular with end users and for M2M service providers. What are their strengths and weaknesses?

AG: I am not a big fan of end-to-end managed services. There are advantages in dealing with a sole point of contact for the whole service chain, but I think end-to-end services are mainly attempts by big mobile operators to achieve extra return on the brand capitalised on their balance sheets. This is quite natural considering the M2M service from a product marketing perspective, since for years MNOs playing the role of bare transport layers have missed all the added value margin taken by the M2M application providers.

I don’t see such a proposition working better for the customer when it comes to achieving QoS and quick responses for issues that may arise due to the different product components. Offering a robust and flexible connectivity layer with superior SLAs is our role, and this – bundled together with the co-operation of one additional supplier, expert in providing the M2M application level – is enough and not a fragmented proposition.

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