"Sprint Inside" - The Case for Integrated Network Access
A very successful branding campaign was launched years ago by Intel in conjunction with PC manufacturers known as "Intel Inside". There were numerous video and print ads as well as little stickers on the PCs indicating that Intel was actually inside. Intel and other chip manufacturers make bits of silicon that are used in every electronic device manufactured today. Most of us would not have occassion to buy anything directly from Intel, yet we know the company and even some of its "rock star" scientists that are featured in current advertising. As Amazon Kindle devices fly off the shelf, I find it interesting that there's no sticker that says "Sprint Inside". The network connection on a Kindle is as invisible, yet necessary, as the microprocessor on a PC but Sprint isn't getting much mileage out of it. By most accounts, the service works well and Kindle owners have no problems downloading content or connecting with Amazon. The customer experience is seamless and easy - just the way we like it.
That leads me to think about machine-to-machine (M2M) communication which has become a very hot topic of late. The network of things that is envisioned for the energy grid, traffic management, transportation, shippping, public safety and health care relies explicitly on a network. However, it doesn't really matter which network. Most of us have 4-5 networks that we can access from our homes or businesses and, like using the Kindle, it would be nice if we didn't have to think too much about them. It's not realistic to believe that businesses or consumers will buy a service plan for every sensor, traffic light, smart meter, or device that is part of an M2M deployment. I would argue that, like Intel, openly and seamlessly enabling billions of devices rather than limiting consumers and businesses can be a significant differentiator for network operators.
Embedding the network in the device generates revenue for the retailer as well as the network operator and makes the device more user and system friendly. The goal is utilization and if that means that network operators aren't the retailer, it doesn't mean they can't provide additional services. Network operators can offer storage of content, hosting of applications, customer support, billing, and professional services provided their OSS/BSS is up to the task. Specifically, major requirements include:
- Real-time data collection and processing
- Policy management and rules configuration
- Multi-tenant OSS/BSS solutions capable of securely supporting multiple customers
- Interoperability with other systems and other service providers
- End-to-end management of orders, trouble tickets, and customers
- Verifiable support including complex service level agreements
Network operators and communication service providers will continue to offer voice, data, and video services to individual subscribers and businesses but while support of M2M will need to be more subtle, it doesn't have to be any less lucrative.