As many mobile operators’ voice and text revenues continue to plummet, they’re keen to expand their share of the growing IoT market. However, their strategies vary significantly and, in some cases, go far beyond offering just connectivity services.
But, before diversifying their portfolios to include a series of richer and more IoT-focused services targeted at different vertical sectors, we believe that they need to first control, enhance and perfect their core offering: the actual M2M connectivity. This involves putting both passive and active network monitoring systems in place as only then will the operators have the best starting point from which to create outstanding services and monetise their M2M connectivity services.
A complex market with diverging needs
The IoT market is far from homogenous as far as both suppliers and users are concerned. Connectivity needs vary significantly from one vertical sector to another, and also from one IoT solution or customer to another. Some solutions will require high speed 24/7, while others will need reliable – but only sporadic – connectivity, maybe just enough to send or receive a data package once a day, week or month. But all of them require reliability if IoT services are to be delivered correctly and guaranteed by SLAs. Operators are not offering just connectivity but IoT service delivery assurance. Access to information on network performance and the ability to control this therefore becomes key.
Commodity connectivity or tailored services?
Customer diversity also means that there is no such thing as a “standard M2M connectivity plan”. Operators should therefore fully exploit the possibilities of designing tailored connectivity, support and service plans for specific groups of IoT customers – or even uniquely individual ones for each customer.
In order to do this however, they first have to understand the verticals’ businesses, have partners that can supply that insight, or gain expertise through acquisitions. Most operators have clear strategies on what vertical sectors to focus on while others, like Tele2, have chosen a horizontal strategy that enables them to serve any vertical. In the case of Tele2, they have a comprehensive offer built around their IoT platform and provide not just global, secure mobile access, but also services for automating, controlling and optimising IoT connectivity.
Today, Blue Telecom Consulting (BlueTC®) works with Tele2 to monitor their cellular networks and also provides its M2M Active Monitoring Solution directly to Tele2’s IoT customers through a partnering agreement. Irrespective though of the market strategy chosen by M2M operators, SLAs must be fulfilled if customers are to be kept satisfied. The loss of a single customer could mean thousands of SIM cards – and the revenues they produce – disappearing. Consequently, trust should be established early on in negotiations, with specific connectivity and other needs met from day one and the best way of doing this is by providing guarantees through customer-specific SLAs. When issues do arise, which inevitably happens, the underlying reasons must be promptly identified and fixed before any vertical customer – or their own end customers – are affected.
Enhanced connectivity services and differentiated plans
One of the additional options available here involves closely controlling the actual quality and specific network parameters delivered to different IoT customer groups. However, in order to achieve this they must first know exactly what is going on in both their own and in their roaming partners’ networks. Not just through the passive monitoring that all operators perform in some way, but instead via active monitoring that permits testing certain use cases, accurately emulating real customer situations and experiences. Additionally, with steered roaming, M2M devices can be forced to connect to certain other networks under certain conditions. When a system that can comprehensively monitor and analyse relevant network parameters is in place, trigger alarms may be programmed to issue alerts, or even automatically fix issues. A well-designed monitoring system allows M2M operators to offer guarantees that specific SLAs will be fully met and provide quantitative proof that that quality was delivered. This again enables them to develop categories of connectivity, with different SLAs at different price levels, and create new revenue streams.
Such monitoring systems already exist and BlueTC’s M2M Active Monitoring Solution can rapidly be deployed in any 2G, 3G or 4G network, independently of its owner, starting locally and small or going for large scale and global monitoring, or a mix of the two. Active monitoring of the quality and performance of M2M networks must be an implicit and complementary part of any M2M operator connectivity offering.