- We have been talking about Smart Roaming and Multi-IMSI solutions from Gieseke, Devrient and Gemalto for more than a year. At MWC last February, Telefonica demoed a solution that would allow cross-country connectivity at in-country rates for its partners in what is now called the M2M World Alliance, which includes Etisalat, KPN, NTT Docomo, Rogers, SingTel, Telefonica, Telstra and Vimpelcom, all of whom use Jasper Wireless’ Service Delivery Platform.
- Telefonica and KPN both announced commercial availability of this long-awaited service on Dec. 17. How important is this to their alliance, and is it a real threat to its competitors?
At least, in theory, global M2M agreements have had to deal with a number of obstacles when it comes to operationalizing roaming in a non-disruptive way. Not only are data roaming rates often prohibitively expensive, but guaranteeing seamless roaming with no interruptions in service, offering “identical” network performance across operators, and the ability to ensure that problems are solved rapidly are not trivial tasks. In addition, most operators that are providing connectivity, design and other professional services for large global deals have often told us that the “preferential” roaming rates they can offer with their partners are rolled into a total bundled offer price that is not prohibitively expensive. As long as they offer a global SIM that can be pre-installed in the factory and then used regardless of where the device is connecting, the total costs of global deployments are minimized. Conversely, large operators such as Vodafone and Orange, which do not necessarily have to roam across competitive carriers’ networks for pan-European deals, still have to deal with some performance and escalation issues when M2M assets are traversing across their own local operating companies’ footprints as well as when on partners’ networks.
So the question is, can an alliance such as the M2M World Alliance, with technology that allows OTA software automation for in-country pricing to be in effect when M2M devices cross borders, have a significant advantage over other alliances? For instance, the Global M2M Alliance–which includes Deutsche Telekom, Orange, TeliaSonera, Telecom Italia, Bell Mobility and SoftBank–is also dedicated to consistent certification and escalation of M2M deployments across the operator footprints. Large operators such as Vodafone have some built-in advantages due to their own pan-European networks (with increasing presence in Asia Pacific and rest of world). Clearly the answer is it depends: First of all, this technology, if commercially successful, is going to be eventually deployed by other carriers and alliances. The M2M World Alliance may have an advantage due to the fact that all of its members are Jasper users, but it has said from the beginning that using Jasper’s SDP is not a necessary condition to be admitted into the alliance. Secondly, the new service is especially favorable to the smaller operators who would otherwise not even be able to participate in global deals. The larger operators have always had preferential roaming agreements, and their own larger footprints anyway. Lastly, global data roaming surcharges may be mandated away by the EU within a year or two so some of the costs associated with roaming issues may be moot. It is also still not clear what the enterprise customer has to do; does it entrust a single operator to be the operator of record across all the other networks its assets may traverse or does it still have to maintain separate contracts with each one? There is still a lot we will need to learn about this new service over time.