Be quick or be dead: Telekom Austria and Telefónica aim for M2M growth

Telekom Austria Group launched its M2M subsidiary last September and, having completed its first operating quarter, is aiming for 50 percent year-on-year growth according to its managing director.

With predictions that upwards of 50 billion connected devices will flood the market over the next few years, operators are keen to ensure they get their share.

However, in an interview with European Communications at Mobile World Congress, Bernd Liebscher, TAG’s M2M managing director, admitted while this new space was exciting it was also extremely hard.

So far, the company has signed 19 projects worth €5 million.

“You need to be quick and flexible,” confirmed the MD.

At launch, the company highlighted eight areas it was focusing on; however, Liebscher said this had now been whittled down to four key verticals – logistics and transportation, industrial automation, retail and payments as well as energy and utilities.

Of these, logistics and transportation is the largest and most mature, according to the MD.

The company’s biggest deal to date is in Bulgaria where it has been charged with implementing M2M to the Ministry of Finance’s cash registers.

“For any operator M2M is a super important area. We want to be active on a Europe-wide basis, but aim at mid-market customers,” said Liebscher.

The MD said he viewed his company as being a boutique provider of M2M services.

“In next 12 months we want to grow, grow, grow and are aiming 50 percent year-on-year growth,” he added.

Of all the challenges he faces, Liebscher picked out two as being particularly key.

“Hiring staff is very tough as there is no typical profile yet of an M2M specialist employee,” said the MD.

Equally, there are challenges with data: “We need to understand where the value is – some of the data is not high value,” he concluded.

The Austrian outfit has some way to go to catch rival Telefónica, which first launched its M2M business over 10 years ago.

During MWC, the company made several M2M-based announcements, including an agreement to provide connectivity to General Motors' vehicles outside North America.

The deal will see the operator help GM’s OnStar subsidiary to provide services such as emergency services, collision detection, roadside assistance, navigation and remote tracing and maintenance to its 8.5 million customers.

Telefónica also announced a partnership with M2M technology specialist Telit Wireless that will see the two companies provide a bundled offer to other companies.

The offer will allow companies of any size to leverage Telefónica’s communications and M2M networks and Telit’s hardware and software solutions.

Talking up the deal, Oozi Cats, CEO of Telit, said any M2M service or solution provider could now have the same quality of service, performance, pricing and support as the largest players in the industry”

“Many of the most exciting new M2M applications are being developed by smaller firms, and this offering will accelerate those innovations worldwide,” he added.

The new service will initially launch across EMEA, South America and other selected countries by Q3 2012.

Finally, Telefónica announced that it had successfully developed a solution for remotely managing M2M SIM subscription data in partnership with China Unicom and Giesecke & Devrient.

The two companies said it would provide global services to their customers based on a SIM that was adapted to the local requirements.

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