Vodafone IoT: connectivity at core, moving up the value chain where possible

Monday 8 January 2018 | 11:55 CET | Background

Vodafone is building its own range of smart solutions for the consumer market, as well as developing a business portfolio of IoT solutions. This comes as IoT transitions from a niche market to the mainstream, according to the operator's latest annual IoT Barometer. Companies want new technologies to help make their businesses future-proof, said John van Vianen, head of the business market at VodafoneZiggo, in an interview with Telecompaper.

The barometer shows that the share of businesses making use of IoT solutions has more than doubled in the past five years, going from 12 percent to 29 percent. More than eight in ten (84%) of the businesses interviewed said they see adoption of the IoT increasing in the past year. Vodafone Group already counts 62 million IoT connections worldwide, in more than 190 countries. 

From cost savings to revenue generation

In the Netherlands, Vodafone launched commercial services on its NB-IoT network last summer in nine cities, and the network roll-out was completed in September. At the same time, the operator's preparing for the national launch of LTE-M in Q2 this year. 

More and more businesses and organisations are embracing IoT to drive change, said Van Vianen. They want the new technological possibilities to help make them future-proof. The driver is a higher level of service, but there is also still a big focus on cost savings. As this becomes more accepted, they're also focusing more on growing revenues through connectivity, according to the business director. 

An example of the switch in thinking is Vodafone's customer Ploeger, an agricultural company. It started using IoT connectivity to monitor its machines and operate more efficiently. That's largely a cost motivation. Now it's starting to look at how IoT connectivity can be used to improve and maximize harvests. 

Smart bins

Cost savings still remain important for many industrial IoT applications, as shown with Vodafone's recent contract with Mic-O-Data, a Dutch company specialised in wireless solutions for especially the waste management industry. Mic-O-Data is working with 30 Dutch municipalities to secure around 10,000 waste disposal sites and measure the flow of rubbish collected.  

One of its products is the TarDif system, used already in the Netherlands and expected to expand to other countries. The system gives residents an electronic badge for access to the local waste disposal container. To help support its international expansion, Mic-O-Data wanted a partner with national data nertworks. 

Vodafone's IoT network provides the national coverage for TarDif in the Netherlands, and Mic-O-Data has an option to expand this across Europe, at a fixed rate. Vodafone also provides help-desk support for the comapny's customer service. Mic-O-Data's system has helped reduce waste and CO2 emissions; for example, the city of Groningen realised savings of 18 percent on its waste collection. 

2018: LTE-M high priority

IoT will be increasingly part of running a business, for the provider as well as its customers. For Vodafone Group, IoT already generates around EUR 700 million in revenues. Almost all of this is from business customers, but Vodafone also wants a piece of the consumer market. 

For consumers, IoT is more a natural extension of their daily connecitivity, Van Vianen said. The company plans a number of product launches in this segment this year, as the consumer market is expected to catch up with the business segment in the near term. This should also provide a boost to the smart home market, the director said. 

Like most telcos, Vodafone is staying focused on its core business, providing connectivity. While this remains the basis, the offering can vary for each customer due to the wide range of IoT applications. In certain verticals, the operator can move up the value chain, Van Vianen said. A good example is the automotive sector, where Vodafone has traditionally had a strong position. It also sees opportunities in healthcare and creating smart cities. 

First 5G implemetations getting ready

Vodafone Netherlands' focus in 2017 was on the launch of NB-IoT, and Van vianen expects LTE-M to figure high on the agenda in 2018. At the same time, the company is getting ready for the first 5G implementations. The operator expects to have a wide range of networks available, with a dedicated role for each technology. With the networks in place, the focus will shift to delivering the right service conditions and meeting customer security demands. 

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