Sunday, 21 November 2010

Wrote an article for Gigaom on Apple and SIMs

Gigaom just published an article by me called: "How to bypass carriers Apple style", on what Apple could do with the SIM-idea I developed for M2M. Apple is only in there because of the marketing value, Samsung, Sony, Philips, LG, Asus, all of them could be doing this. It works best for laptops and other data devices. These devices often don't have data roaming enabled, even if you use a dongle.

Have fun reading it!

GIGAOM Readers: please have a look at some of the other articles I wrote on the topic:

Other things I wrote:

Thursday, 18 November 2010

The GSMA changes opinion on programmable SIM-cards

In a surprise move, the GSMA today announced that it will standardize a new form of embedded SIM. This will allow remote activation and updates.  The spec will be ready in January 2011. No word yet on whether or not the IMSI will be changeable after initial activation. This is however a complete reversal from the GSMA's position from the past:

Appendix A of 3GPP TR 33.812 V9.2.0 lists the opinion of the GSMA as
[…]Furthermore, one of the major concerns of MNOs is the potential weakening of the well-established and trusted SIM-based GSM/3G security architecture. Extended OTA (any kind and via any bearer of over the air data download to the USIM) capability to facilitate download of new subscriber keys and possibly authentication algorithms represents such a potential weakening of security.[...] not allowing MNOs to fulfil their obligations towards regulatory and other governmental authorities to guarantee secure authentication and billing.

[…]The only proposal in the TR that was acceptable to GSMA SG representatives was the Alternative 2 where operator change was performed by physical replacement of the UICC in the device.[…]

This would allow the likes of Apple to release mobile phones without removable SIM-cards. The biggest question is of course, why the GSMA changed its position and how much control they are willing to relinquish to the end-user, be they Apple or a smart metering company.

Though this will alleviate the problems I identified in my work on Machine to Machine communication, it's only 1 out of the 4 problems that I identified that now could be fixed (seeing is believing). Customers may be able to switch operators in the future, but roaming, national roaming and innovation, will probably still be limited.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

My presentation on M2M at Telco2.0 and my impression of the conference

Tuesday and Wednesday I was at the Telco 2.0 conference in London organised by STL. I was an invited speaker on the M2M track on Wednesday morning. Like many of you, I know the Telco 2.0 blog and knew of the conferences. Good friends in this community, like James Enck were on stage there before me. Other friends in this community stood at the basis of the Telco 2.0 ideas. So I was quite happy to be invited to the event.

Telco 2.0 on M2M
My presentation was part of the dedicated M2M track. Not all the attendants were there, but only those interested in M2M. The crowd was treated with a series of presentation from carriers and various forms of system integrators and suppliers.

What I found interesting in the telco presentations was, what they were and weren't about. What they weren't about is what their customers were doing and the problems that these customers were facing. What they were about is, potential use cases, the organisation of the telco's M2M unit and how it was embedded in the organisation and the design of the M2M platform. The whole reasoning was supply driven. Build it and they will have to come. As someone had warned a while ago, most telco diagrams of a problem start with their network in the upper left part of the page and the customer in the lower right part of the page. This is true. It also shows where their focus is; themselves, not their customer.

The difference between the telco's wasn't too great. Orange seems to go for a more fully integrated solution, where they will deliver the network, the platform and all sorts of other devices. Telenor has a dedicated group for M2M networking solutions, called Connexion and another group Objects that focus on service enablement, regardless of the network. So Connexion can sell to the whole market without involving Objects and vice versa.

Most of the presentations were at least of a decent quality and sometimes quite better. It deserves metntioning, because often this is different. However, the feeling these presentations give me in retrospect, is that of enormous budgets and very little idea of what the customer is looking for. This idea came from a remark by a quite brilliant and quiet Eastern European financial controller of a mobile telco, who remarked privately that his company just didn't have the size and the budgets necessary for such a platform, certainly given the 5 euro max revenue/month per SIM. This remark is so incredibly true. The large behemoths of European Telecoms are still swimming in the free cash flow. Free cash flow that is supposed to do something and might as well be spend on M2M. Running after every hype in the business, including M2M is not so much a necessity as it is a luxury.

The interactive format of Telco2.0 also means there was quite some feedback from the room, through instant polls. What it showed was that the audience was effectively split over the idea whether mobile telcos have a larger role to play  in the M2M ecosystem.

My presentation on how M2M customers becoming MVNO's
 I gave a presentation called "Your M2M customer wants to be MVNO". In generally the audience quite liked it. They thought it was thought provoking. I do think it was the most referenced presentation during the day. Both the facilitator and the speakers quite often referred to Rudolf or Logica. This was of course nice for my ego. I really focussed on the 4 central business problems and why becoming an MVNO was a solution.

What was also quite clear is that the industry really doesn't want to hear what I had to tell. The idea that a large scale M2M user is going to become a wholesale customer of the telco is just not done. There were some interesting comments why not: