Etisalat and Telefonica have announced a partnership for "broad-based cooperation". This partnership will cover collaboration in a number of strategic areas including "technological standardization, new global technology initiatives, R&D, and new emerging products and services". With regard to the latter they specifically identify M2M, financial services and cloud services. Clearly for me the area of particular interest is how they might collaborate with regard to M2M.
This comes on the back of an announcement in July that French MNO Bouygues would be joining the newly established Telefonica Partners Program. This appears to be a similar set-up to Vodafone's partner program (which includes the likes of Mobilkom Austria) to extend the reach of their international services into out-of-footprint markets. I was speaking with Vodafone last week about exactly this issue. There are evident benefits of a tight integration of partner operators to ensure quality of service, trouble-shooting, SLAs etc for the provision of M2M services. The old arms-length relationships as we've seen with roaming just aren't good enough for M2M. Obviously for some sectors it's less important than for others, e.g. smart metering tends to be country-specific, but automotive or transport & logistics demand cross-border deals.
This requirement for deeper integration is further evinced by the agreement between Orange, DTAG and TeliaSonera that I discussed a few weeks ago on this blog.
The logical conclusion is that MNOs will form into several blocs with a tighter integration between operators within those groupings. Thus far three are evident in the form of Vodafone (with Verizon and partners), Orange/DTAG/TS and the emerging grouping of Telefonica, Etisalat + partners. In the case of the latter it's perhaps likely that KPN will join grouping as they've long-term strategic cooperation deals with Telefonica, particularly in the business sector.
What'll be interesting to watch is whether the formation of these groupings is influenced by the use of shared technology platforms. One obvious examples is that of Jasper Wireless whose platform is used by AT&T, KPN, Telefonica/O2, America Movil, Rogers Wireless, Vimpelcom, SingTel and Telstra. Perhaps this indicates the likely trajectory for the Telefonica partnership programme, to include these other global operators. There are benefits to clients of having a single platform across multiple network operators. The other obvious example is the Ericsson Device Connection Platform. Currently it has only one operator, in the form of Telenor, running on it but with potential for many more.