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Devil is the details: Dirty little secrets of the Internet of Things

11 Apr

Is harvesting your data and turning it into a new revenue stream the only sustainable business model for Internet of Things device makers?

internet of things control touch userCredit: Thinkstock

Where is IoT going in the long run?… To cash in on the treasure trove of “everything it knows about you,” data collected over the long term, at least it is according to a post on Medium about the “dirty little secret” of the Internet of Things.

A company can only sell so many devices, but still needs to make money, so the article suggests the “sinister” reason why companies “want to internet-connect your entire house” is to collect every little bit of data about you and turn it into profit. Although the post was likely inspired in part by the continued fallout of Nest’s decision to brick Revolv hubs, there could a IoT company eventually looking for a way to monetize on “if you listen to music while having sex.”

The post is by the same guy running the “Internet of Sh*t” Twitter account; he works as a developer for a software company in Europe. You’ve surely seen IoT gadgets that seem like a joke, that make you wonder why in the world anyone thought it was a good enough idea to make it. While not every product tweeted by Internet of Sh*t is a real thing, the tweets are funny and have the scary potential to be real. Here are a couple of my favorites:

A smart device which alerts you to water your plants could also be considered to now give your plants an attack vector. Another would be an IoT gadget in your “smart home” that could lead to in-app purchase blackmail such as the tweeted joke about paying to delete footage of something an app “saw.”

In-app purchase blackmail

On Medium, “Internet of Sh*t” explained that there are indeed plenty of IoT devices that you would use over the very long term such as “household appliances you won’t replace for a decade. We’re talking about a thermostat, fridge, washing machine, kettle, TV or light — long term, there’s just no other way to be sustainable for the creators of these devices.” Those devices present “delicious” opportunities “for bloated internet companies.”

“The problem with the Internet of Things is that the hardware is only one aspect,” he pointed out. “The makers need to keep servers running to support them, keep APIs up to date, keep security up to date and, well, pay employees.” Over time, those costs will be more than what you paid for the device so the “sustainable” model is to keep collecting every little piece of data about you and then finding a way to profit from it.

For example, he quoted Nest CEO Tony Fadell who previously said, “We’ll get more and more services revenue because the hardware sits on the wall for a decade.”

If Nest wanted to increase profits it could sell your home’s environment data to advertisers. Too cold? Amazon ads for blankets. Too hot? A banner ad for an air conditioner. Too humid? Dehumidifiers up in your Facebook.

Nest may not be doing that right now, but “the future of your most intimate data being sold to the highest bidder isn’t dystopian. It’s happening now.” One example included Bud Light’s “Bud-E Fridge” as the makers called real-time data about how much beer is stocked “a wealth of knowledge” that will pay off in a couple years even if the fridge doesn’t make a ton of money. Brands are going to look at the data collected by their IoT devices as a new source of revenue stream.

If you think it is unlikely that your IoT devices will start cashing in on data it collects about you, then you might also believe it is a conspiracy theory that apps which request permission to access your microphone are “listening in” to serve up relevant ads. In some cases, it might be a coincidence if you suddenly start seeing ads about a topic that you recently discussed, but not always.

For example, your phone can be “listening” for what you watch on TV. Last month the FTC sent a warning letter (pdf) to unnamed app developers using Silverpush code that “can monitor a device’s microphone to listen for audio signals that are embedded in television advertisements.” Basically the apps can secretly listen to everything that happens in the background; Forbes explained how Silverpush uses a unique inaudible sound in TV commercials that you might not notice, but an app on your phone could. Once it hears that sound, the app knows what you are watching.

It’s important to note that Silverpush claims ads in the USA are currently not using audio beacons, but the FTC still said app developers need to notify users why their apps ask to use a phone’s mic. The FTC’s letter adds that “nowhere do the apps in question provide notice that the app could monitor television-viewing habits, even if the app is not in use.”

For the curious, here’s a list of Android apps which use SilverPush.

While some privacy advocates may care, sadly there are a plethora of people who don’t know or care what their apps or IoT devices are monitoring and collecting. How else do you explain the success of major TV brand makers even after smart TVs were labeled the ‘perfect target’ for spying on you? Since then, smart TVs were caught “eavesdropping,” tracking viewing habits, or snarfing up personal files such as those connected via a USB.

The post on Medium advises you to ponder what data you are giving away, where does it go, and if you even own the IoT device at all before you buy smart devices. A differentpost on Medium by Stephanie Rieger advises you to consider similar topics before you rent a house or apartment that comes equipped with “smart” features.

“Rarely does this process currently involve discussions about hardware versions, operating systems, apps, firmware, connection ports (barring cable/TV/phone) and who has the right or indeed responsibility and sufficient access privileges to install updates, pay monthly or annual subscriptions, or introduce new software into the system,” Rieger wrote. Since some of those smart devices can be collecting your data, be vulnerable to attack, or end up costing you a subscription to a service you don’t even want, then those are important answers you should demand.

We should demand answers about our collected data from the makers of our IoT devices as well, but as Internet of Sh*t pointed out, “Nobody really knows the answer because they don’t want to tell you.” The manufacturers probably believe “it’s better if you don’t know.”

Source: http://www.networkworld.com/article/3054011/security/devil-is-the-details-dirty-little-secrets-of-the-internet-of-things.html

Mobile backhaul performance and the challenge of 5G, convergent technologies

25 Jan

InfoVista looks at mobile backhaul performance challenges

Mobile backhaul is already a massive challenge for mobile network operators today, as the demand for coverage and capacity that can handle data has exploded at a breakneck pace over the past several years. Assuring quality is only poised to become even more difficult with the onset of new convergent technologies and the brewing-storm that is widespread “5G” adoption on the horizon.

Mobile traffic trends

According to the June 2015 Ericsson Mobility Traffic Report, LTE mobile subscribers will show a growth of 40% compound annual growth rate from 2014 to 2020. It’s expected 3G networks will still be the dominant access technology by 2020 – and 2G will still be common in many developing regions – but new connectivity networks will also be coming online in the next few years that will put greater pressure on the already pressed global market.

The gap between traffic and revenue

The problem with this proliferation of data usage in relation to backhaul is the financial pressures that are already weighing heavily upon network provider capabilities. Despite accounting for almost 85% of network usage, data accounts for only 40% of network revenue.

An even more startling picture of the gap between traffic capacity and revenue comes to light when considering from 2008 to 2013, data traffic grew 46-times over while revenue from data over the same period only saw a three-fold increase.

The fact LTE networks natively don’t carry voice traffic is a contributing factor to the challenges network operators face when dealing with this traffic explosion. Providers need to find a way to share investments being made into LTE backhaul with voice (circuit-switched) services, while making sure this reallocation can still assure quality of service in a convergent scenario.

The real test for network providers is going to come with the arrival of 5G. The challenge stems from the fact not only will more customers the world over demand data-centric plans, but the bandwidth needs are on track to balloon well beyond current network capabilities. Research has indicated peak bandwidth per device may reach up to 1 gigabit per second on average, which is much greater magnitude than what LTE networks can deliver today.

If that was not enough, new 5G use cases such as “tactile Internet” will require extreme real-time communications, demanding backhaul networks deliver end-to-end latency as low as 5 milliseconds, which is an order of magnitude less than what the best LTE networks can deliver today.

What it means for tomorrow’s backhaul networks

It’s not as if existing “legacy” networks can be simply replaced or deactivated. In fact, mobile operators face a scenario where network complexity will only increase in the long run, as next-generation LTE and 5G access networks are coming down the pipeline. That, in turn, means legacy networks will co-exist with new technologies for the foreseeable future, adding yet another dimension to network operations that engineering teams need to handle when operating and assuring the quality of the network.

In fact, because of all these factors combined, mobile backhaul operations are becoming larger and less predictable to manage with traditional tools. In the past, 2G networks were predominantly voice-oriented and deployed on top of traditional, extremely reliable TDM/SDH backhauls. In 3G, we often see hybrid deployments where TDM/SDH co-exist with IP/MPLS, ATM and even Ethernet-based backhauls.

The arrival of LTE, LTE-Advanced and newer technologies such as voice over LTE heralded some more drastic changes to the way operators approached backhaul. Many mobile operators decided to migrate the entire backhaul to fully convergent technologies such as IP/MPLS and carrier Ethernet, effectively transporting all voice and data traffic on top of packet-switched networks.

With a larger and less predictable backhaul to manage, “up” or “down” indicators became evidently insufficient. The very fact different backhaul domains (access, aggregation, metro) and even different backhaul network layers could greatly affect each other’s performance – as well as the overall quality of service parameters – meant monitoring and troubleshooting the mobile backhaul with multiple disconnected tools became impractical.

The perspective: if the mobile backhaul already looks complex today – being composed of a litany of vendors, technologies and topologies – it will become even more complex, with both real and virtual networks devices poised to coexist in 5G software-defined networking and network functions virtualization native architectures – not to mention new network architectures will need to co-exist with the legacy for a long time. After all, subscribers by 2020 will still rely on 2G and 3G to access for both data and voice services.

How to deliver on future mobile backhaul expectations

From whatever angle you look at it, mobile backhaul is becoming larger and more complex to manage in the coming years. Yet, as daunting as this forecast for the next few years may seem for mobile operators, there are tools available that will help mobile operators support this increasing complexity while maintaining exceptional QoS.

Real-time, multi-layer troubleshooting – the ability to monitor all layers of the mobile backhaul in real-time – will play a key role in managing voice and data quality of experience in the new mobile landscape, reducing time to repair and increasing network uptime.

Providers will also need to rely on automated network topology discovery. A modern performance management tool must automatically handle these changes, so that the network operations center and software operations center can actually focus on monitoring the network, rather than expending time and energy manually cross checking and correcting grouped KPIs.

Equally important is to have end-to-end cross-domain visibility, where operation teams can see the performance of the radio access network, backhaul and core in one single plane of glass. This is also important to enable different teams (ex: RAN and transport) to work together and accelerate the time to resolution of these more complex cross-domain scenarios.

And with network capacity expectations on pace to boom, providers need to always be ahead of the game and have a plan for future fluxes in capacity. A performance management tool will need to monitor traffic KPIs evolutions and trends, extrapolate historical data and act proactively to adjust (right-size) backhaul links as they see fit.

Ultimately, a unified performance management tool can help operators increase the quality of experience of mobile subscribers, resulting in less churn and revenue protection. It also brings a series of other capital expense and operating expense gains, with a reduction in the number of tools and their associated costs.

In fact, these business benefits can be quantified and measured, and past experience has shown even more complex performance assurance consolidation projects can pay for themselves (return on investment) in 12 to 24 months (depending on the case).

Conclusion

Some mobile operators are reluctant to make the investment, in part thinking traditional assurance practices and tools they have used up until today can handle the job. But as we discussed, the network size and complexity, as well its statistical behavior, will demand the adoption of modern unified performance management tools.

If that was not enough, there are clear business benefits in doing so, resulting in a clear ROI for the investment. Even for those mobile operators with capex restrictions, there are windows of opportunity to make this necessary move, especially in view of new cloud-based performance management solutions that allow operators to switch to an opex-based model and expedite the ROI even further.

Those mobile operators that act decisively will prosper; those that hesitate are likely to find themselves playing catch up.

Editor’s Note: In an attempt to broaden our interaction with our readers we have created this Reader Forum for those with something meaningful to say to the wireless industry. We want to keep this as open as possible, but we maintain some editorial control to keep it free of commercials or attacks. 

Source: http://www.rcrwireless.com/20160125/opinion/reader-forum-mobile-backhaul-performance-and-the-challenge-of-5g-convergent-technologies-tag10

Dutch virtual mobile market drops to 7.5 mln Sims

24 Dec
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The number of mobile customers with virtual brands in the Netherlands fell by 15 percent in the six months to September 2015, after KPN’s brand Hi exited the market. The remaining 7.5 million customers at virtual operators still accounted for around 37 percent of the total Dutch mobile market, according to Telecompaper’s latest Dutch Mobile Virtual Operators Market report. Of the total, around 3.3 million were customers at operator-owned virtual brands, such as hollandsnieuwe or Ben, while the independent MVNOs counted 4.2 million Sims, or about 20 percent of the total Dutch mobile market.With the exit of Hi, KPN’s other brand Telfort became the biggest VO in the Dutch market. In terms of number of customers, the next four places were taken by Lebara, Tele2, Lycamobile and Vodafone’s hollandsnieuwe. These top five brands together accounted for 60 percent of the total virtual mobile market, an increase compared to six months earlier due to growth at all the players except Telfort.

While Tele2 has launched its own mobile network, it still relies to a certain extent on its MVNO agreement to serve customers, so it is included in Telecompaper’s VO figures for Q3 2015. With the next Virtual Operators Market report in Q1 2016, Tele2 will be excluded, as it is expected to have completed its nationwide network roll-out by then.

The ‘no-frills’ segment, offering basic services at relatively low prices, remains the largest segment in the VO market, accounting for more than 40 percent of customers. It grew by 3 percent compared to Q1 2015. All of the players in this segment, except Telfort and Simyo, managed to increase their customer numbers in the latest period, with Simpel and Youfone gaining the most. The next largest segment, taking about a third of the total VO market, remains the ethnic/international players, with Lebara taking the lead. The fixed operators, the third-largest segment, are also expanding in the mobile market, mainly due to growth at Tele2 and Ziggo.

Telecompaper’s latest 2015-Q3 report on Dutch VOs show that the total number of active virtual brands increased to 87 at the end of September 2015. Compared to Q1 2015, the total includes eight new entrants and three exits, while we also added two previously unknown players, which have been active a while. The market remains quite crowded, and several, particularly business providers continue to launch new initiatives, including mobile services as an add-on to their existing services. The number of launches as a standalone mobile-only solution was limited to one, the family-focused MVNO OpenMobile in May 2015. Other entrants included business fixed fibre player Fieber and six other business service providers.

Telecompaper expects more new entrants in the VO market, but also several exits, particularly amongst the independent MVNOs that only offer basic mobile services and depend on mobile as their main source of income. They will need to differentiate themselves better, as offering just a ‘me-too’ service is not a sustainable strategy, according to the researchers. The intense competition in the telecom market and changing interests among consumers are also driving MVNOs to launch value-added and OTT services, in order to limit churn and boost revenues, as recently seen at Lebara.

Much of the success of MVNOs depends on their wholesale agreement for network access. With Tele2 becoming the fourth mobile network operator, Telecompaper expects new opportunities to emerge for VOs. Tele2 is expected to actively seek wholesale customers on its network, as it works to raise capacity utilisation and recoup some of its network investment and operating costs. This may present a new chance for virtual players looking to gain access to 4G data services.

Source: http://mvnoblog.com/dutch-virtual-mobile-market-drops-to-7-5-mln-sims/

Could mobile operators become the prime real estate landlords for the digital economy?

27 Jan

Finally it is here: The mobile data equivalent of toll-free numbers. Last week AT&T unveiled a “Sponsored Data service”, meaning that their customers are able to use participating services without eating in to their data allowance. AT&T will treat Sponsored Data traffic no differently to regular data traffic, thus providing digital retailers and OTT service providers with an efficient way to communicate and trade with their customers.

Coleago has long argued that with the growth in the digital economy, sellers of physical and digital goods and services are looking for the mobile data equivalent of a toll-free number. In the past many businesses encouraged consumers to trade with them over the phone by publishing toll-free numbers. The growth of online shopping with mobile devices provides impetus for extending the concept to mobile data. The message from retailers to consumers is “it does not cost you anything to visit our digital store”.

The good news for mobile operators is that this provides an additional revenue stream. But the concept could be taken further. In Europe, North America and other markets where most people purchase their smartphone from mobile operators, these operators can control what consumers see on the screen of their new smartphone when they take it out of the box and switch it on. A smartphone screen provides the digital real estate for sponsored apps.  Apps placed on the home screen would be the most valuable, and the giants of ecommerce such as Amazon may have the scale to pay to have their app on the home screen. EBay, travel and financial sites and many other e-tailers may also be interested in sponsoring apps placed on subsequent screens.

Of course users can delete and move smartphone apps. However, judging by how many people do not bother or do not understand how to change their browser home page, it is likely that many of the preloaded apps will stay where they were first placed. This effectively means that mobile operators become landlords in the digital economy.

 

Source: http://coleago.wordpress.com/2014/01/22/could-mobile-operators-become-the-prime-real-estate-landlords-for-the-digital-economy/

IoT will create new economy and markets

12 Nov

Analysts at Gartner say the rapidly evolving Internet of Things (IoT) will create a new economy along with fresh markets. According to Peter Sondergaard, senior vice president at Gartner and global head of Research, the incremental revenue generated by the IoT’s suppliers is estimated to reach $309 billion per year by 2020.

“Half of this activity will be new start-ups and 80 percent will be in services rather than in products,” he confirmed. “[Clearly], the Internet of Things is a strategically important market. It will accelerate fast and drive both revenue and cost efficiencies.”

In 2009, there were 2.5 billion connected devices; most of these were mobile phones, PCs and tablets. In 2020, there will be over 30 billion devices connected, of far greater variety. Simply put, the IoT is projected to create greater economic value for all organizations and the global economy at large.

Indeed, Gartner predicts the total economic value add for the Internet of Things will hit $1.9 trillion dollars in 2020. Verticals leading IoT adoption include manufacturing (15 percent), healthcare (15 percent) and insurance (11 percent).

More specifically, the manufacturing sector will benefit from producing billions of devices and from more efficient tracking of materials and components. In terms of healthcare, smart slippers and other wearable devices for elderly people are expected to contain a growing number of sensors capable of detecting falls and various medical conditions. Another example includes installing sensors in cars to facilitate a “pay as you drive” insurance model – effectively linking a premium to the individual’s risk profile in real-time.

“The Internet of Things enables solutions that are optimized for the customer and enables new innovative business models. This will allow companies to move away from blanket pricing to more tailored solutions which benefit both company and customers,” Sondergaard explained. “The Internet of Everything and the Nexus of Forces, which combine the physical world and the virtual, will drive organizations and their CIOs toward an all-embracing digital future. No matter what business or service organizations deliver today, digitalization is changing it and becoming pervasive inside organizations.”

Nick Jones, research vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, expressed similar sentiments, noting that the IoT will create tens of millions of new objects and sensors, all generating real-time data.

“Data is money. Businesses will need big data and storage technologies to collect, analyze and store the sheer volume of information. Furthermore, to turn data into money business and IT leaders will need decisions,” he explained. “As they won’t have the time or the capacity to make all the decisions themselves they will need processing power. Computers can make sophisticated decisions based on data and knowledge, and they can communicate those decisions in our native language. To succeed at the pace of a digital world, you’ll have to allow them to do so.”

Meanwhile, Dave Aron, research vice president and Gartner Fellow, noted that every business will require its own flavor of digital strategy as digital is embedded in everything we do.

“Vanilla is off the menu. Digital is not an option, not an add-on, and not an afterthought; it is the new reality that requires a comprehensive digital leadership,” he said.

To be sure, business requires digital leadership capable of recognizing the huge opportunities in shifting business models; leadership that can create the freedom and agility to capture business moments, and leadership that extends itself beyond company boundaries to guide and shape the ecosystem.

“Just like with the strategy, the flavor of digital leadership is not vanilla. CIOs must explore, adapt and embrace the new digital realities. They must be fearless digital leaders,” Aron added.

Source: http://atmelcorporation.wordpress.com/2013/11/11/gartner-iot-will-create-new-economy-and-markets/

Tyntec challenges RCS-e by bringing telco-web OTT convergence to P4’s PLAY

13 Apr

Mobile interaction vendor Tyntec has signed a partnership with Polish operator P4 to provide OTT communication services that it claims will generate new revenue streams as well as helping it to gain some control over the OTT market.

The deal, which is the first of its kind in Europe, works as a two-way process.

P4’s brand PLAY will provide local SIM-free mobile numbers onto which Tyntec bolts tt.One, its cloud-based, two-way communications system.

Sitting between web-based services and mobile devices, tt.One is targeted at enterprises and app developers on the one hand and operators, including MVNOs, ISPs and MVNEs, on the other.

Tyntec wants operators to give app developers the ability to offer users an OTT communications service that includes free or low cost SMS, extended VoIP, dual SIM cards and anonymous voice chat, whereby the operator controls the data traffic from the app and gains a commission from the use of the virtual mobile numbers.

tt.One also supports a wide range of standards and protocols including MAP, SCCP, SS7 and TDM, making it easy to integrate into existing systems.

As well as requiring no SIM cards, there is no need for additional infrastructure at the core network level.

Tyntec thinks it has found a gap in the market given that OTT messaging services like Skype are not able to offer SMS services. Users can purchase a virtual landline number from Skype to receive calls, but cannot send and receive SMS.

“The question is, where do [operators] get the revenues from? In the OTT market, the operator gets nothing. Our inbound solution enables operators to receive a commission as we provide the billing solution so the operator is in the technical end of the revenue stream,” Tyntec CTO Thorsten Trapp told Mobile Europe.

“Today you cannot get a mobile telephone number which gives you voice and SMS inbound without a SIM card, but as an OTT layer, you don’t need the SIM card,” he said.

Similar solutions like Pinger and Text+ are already popular in the US, where users can turn the iPod Touch and the iPad into a mobile phone, as long as there is Wi-Fi.

“In Europe there are no third-party offerings that give you a SIM-less number with voice and text and not enough networks capable of offering this.”

The vendor confirmed it is in talks with providers of popular OTT apps as well as European operators. Several more operator deals set to be announced in the coming weeks, according to Trapp.

The CTO added that he is sceptical about the future of RCS-e and Joyn.

“We do not believe that RCS-e will go anywhere. If it does, there will be a huge gap between the OTT players and the classic telephony market. We’re trying to bring this to the carriers. They are late and they need to have an answer,” he stressed.

“The only thing you can do is stop the draining and put telephone numbers on those third party apps. Operators would like to do this, it’s absolutely a need for them.

“When you see what happened to the instant messenger community, they didn’t interwork and they all suffered a lot. You can solve that by using a mobile number to expand your reach without peering.”

Source: Mobile Europe – http://mvnoseriesblog.wordpress.com/2013/04/11/tyntec-challenges-rcs-e-by-bringing-telco-web-ott-convergence-to-p4s-play/

2013: The year mobile data revenue will eclipse voice in the US

16 Mar

Gigaom

For all of their emphasis on smartphones and data plans, carriers are still mainly in the business of talk. Ever since the first analog brick phone, operators have made their money and built their profits on voice and later SMS. This year, however, the balance will shift.

According to a new report from Chetan Sharma Consulting, data accounted for 44 percent of all U.S. operators’ service revenue in the 4th quarter, and the rapid transition from dumb phones to smartphones is driving that number upwards. Meanwhile, unlimited talk plans are proliferating even as voice plan pricing is falling. That’s causing average voice revenue per subscriber to drop.

Sharma Q4 2012 data revenues

Eventually the rising data line and falling voice line will intersect on the industry’s revenue graph. Sharma plots that meeting point in the 4th quarter of 2013, at which point operators will start to look more like ISPs than phone…

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TBR Analyst Commentary T-Mobile will continue to lose revenue and postpaid subscribers in 2013 due to a time-to-market disadvantage in LTE deployments

3 Mar

Location-based service revenues in Europe to reach € 825 million by 2017

16 Feb

According to a new research report by Berg Insightmobile location-based service(LBS) revenues in Europe are forecasted to grow from € 325 million in 2012 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20.5 percent to reach € 825 million in 2017.

The North American LBS market is forecasted to grow at a CAGR of 9.2 percent from US$ 835 million in 2012 to reach US$ 1,295 million in 2017. Berg Insight estimates that 40 percent of all mobile subscribers inEurope use some kind of location-enhanced application on a regular basis.

In North America, the larger installed base of GPS-enabled handsets and smartphones has enabled higher uptake of LBS.

Berg Insight estimates that about 50 percent of all mobile subscribers in the region now access LBS at least monthly. Local search, social networking and navigation services are the top application categories in terms of number of active users.

Mobile workforce management services that aim to improve operational efficiency for businesses are also gaining traction in new industry segments.

“Smartphones is the most important enabler for LBS adoption in general. The installed base of smartphones in Europe has now reached 45 percent of total handsets and already surpassed 55 percent in North America”, said André Malm, senior analyst, Berg Insight.

However, the operators’ central role in the LBS ecosystem is now being challenged by the smartphone ecosystems that bundle key LBS and give developers access to location data and distribution channels in the form of on-device app stores.

Mobile operators are therefore showing renewed interest in offering network-based bulk location data for advertising and analytics, as well as new services such as secure authentication and fraud management.

Source: http://www.m2mnow.biz/2013/02/15/10091-location-based-service-revenues-in-europe-to-reach-e-825-million-by-2017/

WiFi Animates the Debate on the Future of Mobile Communications Connectivity is Essential, but Strong Revenues Will Come from Elsewhere

9 Feb

Imagine a free WiFi connected world! You do not need a cellular network. You do not need a mobile data tariff. Wherever you are, you are simply on! And it is free! This is essentially what Julius Genachowsky, President of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), has put on the table of five FCC board members. Connectivity becomes invisible; inevitably necessary, but invisible. Mark Weiser’s “disappearing computer” vision is becoming more real.

This proposal has understandably shocked the North American mobile network operators. The imaginary free WiFi connected world requires a substantial investment, and it will take some time to come. But, in the long run, this scenario is a real threat to mobile network operators.

What will their role be Are all these investments in LTE simply in vain The argument of connectivity as a sort of human right combined with the correlation “connectivity implies economic growth” is a difficult one to counter. Quite possibly, free connectivity for all of us could be a tremendous engine of social and economic improvements.

In all of this, the future of mobile network operators appears terribly fragile. Even the simple consideration of such a scenario can shake mobile network operators’ boardrooms – and these boardrooms are well aware of the threat. They can see that threat over their shoulders. They can see their customers switching to a WiFi free connection when it is possible rather than using mobile networks for data traffic. Therefore, their approach is to invest heavily in LTE, but also looking around intensively – almost obsessively – at other business ideas and other potential revenue streams in several domains of our lives; from entertainment to health.

The argument that software, big data and intelligent and secure networking solutions will be the three key technological dimensions for remaining relevant in the future mobile communications market appears to be embraced by those boardrooms.

And in all this, the WiFi technology is gaining a new momentum. The most recent rumour is Deutsche Telekom eyeing FON.

The debate surrounding the spectrum crunch does not seem to be so dramatically urgent anymore! The industry talks a lot about WiFi, small cells, cognitive radio technologies and other solutions that can help LTE supporting the continuous growing demand of data access for some time. This was very well stated in to the recent “Report to the President: Realising the Full Potential of Government-Held Spectrum to Spur Economic Growth” by the US President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

The world is not a free WiFi connected space yet. However, the evolution of mobile communications is not quite as linear as we thought a couple of years ago when we all pushed for LTE to come out as a natural evolution of the GSM-UMTS-HSPA story.

Many things have changed rapidly, and they have changed despite the mobile network technologies adopted.

Mobile and wireless communications technologies are increasingly perceived as a commodity, a necessity for building the new mobile world on the top layers of the TCP/IP stack. And it is there, on the top, that the main battle will be fought: where mobile network operators meet Internet-based companies, software providers and technology providers to deliver services to their customers. I will switch connectivity on as I switch on the light. It does not matter how the bits are delivered. It matters how you organize those bits to offer me intelligent and high quality services. ” Saverio Romeo is an Industry Manager for Frost & Sullivan ICT group.

Source: http://insurance-technology.tmcnet.com/news/2013/02/08/6911932.htm

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