Will Family Plan competition in US mobile data market wake up the M2M mHealth market?

Getting the approach right could reduce customer turnover and get more users to embrace data plans, which brought in $62.7 billion industrywide last year, according to trade group CTIA. A wrong move would lower the amount of money that subscribers pay, while increasing network traffic and the cost of maintaining networks

One of the big problems I find with todays M2M mHealth market is that for Mobile operators there’s a stale mate situation and it urgently needs a confident first mover.

Increasingly M2M offerings are entering what many believe is a saturated mobile market and operators in the most part don’t have the imagination to focus on connectivity as they’re consumed in their interest to support the latest free rich content experiences. MVNO’s on the other hand are looking to turn the heads of the dependable customers of the incumbents. Meanwhile apart from a few notable exceptions (eg. Rogers M2M unit) useful devices that should be connected (like Smoke Alarms and Care Monitors) need to make do with Blue Peter style solutions because they don’t appear attractive to either partners because there’s what many regard to be a critically low per-SIM spend.

I’ve tried plenty of Blue Peter style work arounds and found they present lots of unwanted and undesirable customer experiences that are preventing anyone from taking them mainstream eg. even with some contract SIMs I need to take it out of the Smoke Alarm every 6 months and use it in a mobile phone to make a call, I need to take a data plan (and liability) with a SIM even if I only ever want it to be used to send SMS messages, etc, etc.

At times it feels like despite the talks they give to investors the MNO’s don’t want this M2M business to take off at all.

When I first met Tomi Ahonen in 2005 at the 3GSM World Congress (now called the Mobile World Congress) in Cannes I recall the incredible keynote he gave on the “hidden Alpha Customers” that mobile operators were ignoring. These were typically individuals who had small phone bills because they didn’t make many calls but were very profitable because they recieved lots of calls. Tomi’s talk was memorable not for just for his style but because I was shocked at how it took this mobile marketing to make MNO’s wake up to an opportunity of hundreds of millions of $’s that they were totally ignoring. Today systems are in place the world over to ensure these customers are profiled and maintained.

Today I get the feeling someone needs to do the same for the M2M market.

In 2013 every home in America has a smoke alarm. 30% of these don’t work because the battery has been removed or run flat. If the telcos can for a moment stop forecasting what continually-monitored-gamified-quantified-4G-video-headset mHealth possibilities there are in store for us I think they’ll realise that there is a head start on offer to connect this life saving system (eg. giving a free connected Smoke Alarm with every new upgrade this summer).

In 3 years time with a huge installed base of continually connected hardware that’s ultra resistant to threats from competitors isn’t it going to be obvious that the SIM card cost is insignificant if it helps in some way retain your valuable customers and discourages them from even thinking about shopping around?

The M2M market is ideal for incumbents with their retail networks and sales teams but we all know MVNO’s can be more aggressive (look at the rate of change happening in France) and Apple remains a dark horse especially if a MVNO like Free is opening up the marketplace…

About David Doherty

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