I chaired a panel in the M2M stream at Informa’s grandly titled Digital Services World Congress, with representatives of four operators – all of them involved in the Global M2M Association. It was a nice session – livelier than I was expecting, with some interesting contributions from the audience.
One thread gave me pause for thought, though; a discussion about how operators could, on the one hand, make cross-border operation seamless and simple for end-users, and on the other hand charge a premium for such operation that would be justified by the high level of support they would provide.
I couldn’t help thinking that if the service did really work well then users wouldn’t see the value of the support. There was some spirited attempt to square this circle, along the line that the support might not be visible to the end-user (say, the driver or the washing-machine user) but it would be visible to the OEM/auto manufacturer that would be the operators’ customer. I can see the point, but was not really convinced. In any case, what is the point of complicated technological solutions aimed at making high-bandwidth services affordable even for roaming machine users? Isn’t it simply a case of the operators solving a problem of their own wholesale business model?
Again, there was an answer – international roaming really does cost more, and the high charges just reflect this. The fact that this didn’t produce any comment – let alone groans of complaint – speaks volumes about who the audience was. I’m not sure whether anyone present really believed it, but they all seemed content that it could be said with a straight face. Does this also suggest that operators have a sneaking suspicion that their M2M services are after headed for the door marked ‘Bit Pipe’? Otherwise, and if you think you will be selling applications and integration, why bother to ensure that the pipe itself remains expensive?