RacoWireless and Inmarsat crossed their paths in the M2M market by establishing a formal partnership. Through its cloud-based Omega Management Suite (OMS), RacoWireless gives customers total control over its connected solutions independently from the types of connectivity. Inmarsat is a very well known satellite communications provider with a strong presence in the satellite M2M market. At the time of the launch, the partnership between the two companies caught the attention of the specialised media because it highlighted the increasing importance of satellite for the M2M market. We have met John Horn, president of RacoWireless and Joel Schroeder, director of strategic developments, M2M and New L-Band at Inmarsat, in order to understand the reasons for that partnership and the impact that satellite will have on the M2M market.
Saverio Romeo: Since February 2014, RacoWireless and Inmarsat have joined forces in the global M2M market. What are the reasons of this collaboration? And how has it been so far?
John Horn: RacoWireless wants to give the possibility to our customers to access our platform wherever they are. This enables the customers to manage their global connectivity from anywhere. In order to do that, we have agreements with mobile network operators and fixed telecoms providers. However, those agreements are not enough because there are locations with no coverage at all. Therefore, if we want to pursue our mission and give accessibility to our customers anywhere and anytime, satellite has to be part of our strategy. This is the reason for our collaboration with Inmarsat. Since the launch, the relationship has been extraordinarily positive. Inmarsat is a very efficient corporation dealing with multinational customers in different sectors and in every part of the world.
Joel Schroeder: For Inmarsat, we are looking to grow our business beyond the boundaries of the existing satellite M2M market. A partnership with a company like RacoWireless allow us to reach a much wider customer base, many of whom have requirements that can’t be met by terrestrial networks alone, but have not yet considered satellite. Through RacoWireless’s multi-network platform, access to a satellite solution becomes simple – just another network option that happens to reach where others don’t. So far, it’s been a great experience for Inmarsat. RacoWireless came to the partnership with a pipeline of opportunities looking for a creative solution. We have been working together to get their satellite business up and running, and providing support as necessary to capture some of this new opportunity.
Saverio Romeo: What is your view on the current status of the global M2M market?
Joel Schroeder: As the market continues to grow into new segments and new geographies. It’s become clear to many that alternatives to cellular are needed to meet a wider range of requirements. Not as a replacement for cellular, but as an extension – whether it’s satellite, white space or other technologies that are starting to get traction in the market. I’ve noticed that more people are talking about this. A few years ago, M2M conferences were dominated by the mobile operators. Today, you see Inmarsat and its competitors not only speaking at these conferences, but you hear the M2M service providers and even the mobile operators acknowledging the need for satellite as part of an M2M ecosystem – a major shift in perspective.
John Horn: The M2M market has reached a turning point. We are moving from the use of M2M for solving specific operational problems in specific sectors to a ubiquitous and strategic phenomenon. We see the use of M2M in several verticals, almost in all domains of our societies and economies. Probably, automotive and fleet management are developing faster than others. But, also asset tracking, digital signage, telemedicine and consumer electronics arerapidly growing.
From a geographic perspective, every region has its own pace, but Israel is leading the way. I would say that it is the most advanced M2M market on the planet. Certainly, Europe and North America are very important markets, but we see growth in different segments in different parts of the world. For example, M2M applications in agriculture and remote medical monitoring are getting momentum in Africa.
Saverio Romeo: The attention being given to the M2M market is growing rapidly. This momentum is bringing new opportunities, but also new levels of complexity. For example, data reliability is critical for M2M development, but also global connectivity is needed as M2M applications are becoming increasingly international. How does the RacoWireless-Inmarsat partnership respond to these challenges?
John Horn: In the M2M market, it is very difficult to create a global strategy. Among other things, a global strategy implies different relationships with several carriers. This could be resource intensive. RacoWireless solves that problem with our platform which provides our customers with one solution and one interface to several telecoms platforms.
Joel Schroeder: Satellite networks like Inmarsat’s, generally offer a higher level of service availability than cellular networks, so in addition to providing extension to more remote and hostile locations, satellite can also topup cellular network availability to get customers as close as possible to 100% coverage, particularly for critical infrastructure and applications. For RacoWireless customers deploying on a global basis – particularly to very remote locations – the opportunity to simplify management of these sites can be realized by standardising on a single connectivity device, a single global network, a single SIM and one airtime rate.
Saverio Romeo: In terms of verticals and applications, in which ones do you see satellite M2M being more reliable and effective?
Joel Schroeder: Satellite is used across a number of vertical markets and applications, but particularly in the transportation, heavy equipment, and oil and gas markets today. It’s well suited to industrial applications that require a robust service that works well in a rugged environment. However, we see opportunities in a number of new markets, including utilities, financial services, environmental monitoring – and automotive. As Inmarsat invests in reducing the size and cost of its hardware, moving to chipsets and core modules that are as easy to embed as those offered by mobile operators, the reach of satellite will increase as it becomes more cost effective and less complex.
John Horn: There are three application areas in which satellite M2M can have a strong role. The first one is oil and gas. The oil and gas industry is modernising the entire process from prospecting to distribution. Most of those activities happen in remote areas where satellite is the only available form of connectivity. The second one is asset tracking and management. Tracking very expensive assets moving around the world can be done only with the presence of satellite connectivity. The third one will be fleet management, particularly, for specialised fleets
moving in remote areas.
Saverio Romeo: Looking at the market place, how doyou see the coexistence between satellite and other types of connectivity, primarily cellular connectivity? Can we talk about co-opetition – collaboration and cooperation – between satellite and cellular technologies?
John Horn: As cost of hardware decreases, satellite M2M can become more competitive. But, at the moment, cellular M2M has two main advantages. It is cheaper and faster than M2M satellite. The disadvantage of cellular M2M is footprint and coverage. Those are not issues for M2M satellite.
Saverio Romeo: In terms of future developments, which is the next frontier for satellite M2M in technological terms, but also in terms of applications and business models?
John Horn: As satellite M2M technology evolves and cost decreases, satellite M2M can have a strong impact in telemedicine solutions for remote areas. In those areas, there is a strong need to have healthcare provisions through telemedicine solutions. Satellite M2M can support those solutions, considering the absence of other forms of connectivity. I also believe that fleet management will continue be a strong market segment for satellite M2M.
Saverio Romeo: What are the next steps of the RacoWireless-Inmarsat partnership?
Joel Schroeder: Of course, we want to continue to develop the market for IsatData Pro services together, growing Raco’s subscriber base. But we also want to do more, using RacoWireless’s M2M expertise and Inmarsat’s network. We want to reach opportunities that go beyond the traditional scope of satellite M2M, to bring an exciting and innovative development to the market that is something unexpected of a satellite network.
John Horn: At the moment, RacoWireless has business activities in 70 countries. We want to expand this footprint to all the countries in the world. Inmarsat is a key partner for doing that. Therefore, I see that the collaboration between the two companies will become stronger over the coming years.