Friday, 4 March 2011

Vodafone network outage this week should moderate M2M ambitions

In my last post I looked at how Vodafone had signed a bunch of strategic agreements with Bosch, Hyundai and Intel covering M2M. However, it's interesting that two of the announcements (Bosch and Hyundai) came in the same week that a break-in at a Vodafone UK data centre crippled the network for almost a day.

There is a massive trust issue associated with M2M. Customers could be putting business critical (and indeed life critical) connectivity into the hands of its trusted communications partner. Can they afford for that network to go down in its entirety. Now there's no doubt that the network issue Vodafone experienced this week was unusual. It rarely happens, but it does go to show that MNOs still have a long way to go to provide anything other than best effort services. Fine for reading your gas meter, alerting you when your car needs servicing or letting your toaster know what time you'll be home. Not so good for health applications or critical business functions such as transport and logistics.

So what's the answer? Greater network robustness? Maybe although M2M revenue is unlikely to justify that. Some sort of fall-back option in the event of macro network failure? Probably. Setting your sights a little lower in the short-to-medium-term and focusing on M2M applications that only really need best effort? Yes.


By the way, it's not my intention here to criticise Vodafone specifically. Every operator has the same issues. The networks were built for best-effort service. That's how they brought cheap communications to billions of people.

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