Sprint, Orange Ink M2M Deal

Sprint, like Verizon and AT&T, sees big bucks ahead in M2M services. A new deal with Orange will expand Sprint's M2M services to 180 countries.

Sprint and Orange Business Services, the enterprise division of France Telecom-Orange, have inked a new deal that will extend Sprint's machine-to-machine (M2M) services to 180 countries.

The announcement comes on the eve of Sprint€™s fiscal fourth-quarter 2011 earnings release, scheduled for Feb. 8.

€œSprint recognizes that its customers compete in the global economy and they expect their processing, monitoring, diagnostic and distribution applications to work seamlessly wherever their business takes them," Yijing Brentano, Sprint's vice president of international wholesale, said in a statement. "Thanks to Orange€™s extensive and proven global network, we will provide our customers with seamless, global M2M solutions with the highest standard in quality of service.€

Orange will provide Sprint with M2M-specific GSM SIM cards, for deployment with a variety of devices; a Web portal where Sprint customers can order and manage the SIM cards; and end-to-end service from the cards to a customer's application platform.

Additionally, with Orange's capabilities, Sprint M2M customers will be able to extend their solutions beyond the United States; to have a single, dedicated entity managing M2M connectivity requirements; to be able to achieve economies of scale for better cost control and faster project deployments; and to have a more integrated supply chain process.

ABI Research, in a Jan. 17 report, called the M2M market a now "fully mainstream segment of the cellular industry." The research firm expects the M2M connections to grow from 2011's 110 million to 365 million connections by 2016€”roughly a 27 percent growth rate translating to $35 billion in service revenues.

Automotive deployments€”such as on-board help systems and fleet-tracking systems€”are expected to account for more than $15.5 billion in 2016. Smart energy solutions, such as smart meters and data concentrators, will represent $7.5 billion in 2016, according to ABI.

€œAs mobile operators further develop their M2M service offerings, software platforms and M2M application developer support will feature as increasingly larger components of the operators€™ services,€ Sam Lucero, an ABI analyst who studies M2M technology, said in a statement. €œFor example, AT&T announced [Jan. 9] that it would be reselling Axeda€™s M2M application platform in a U.S. carrier exclusive deal. This platform will enable AT&T customers to more easily develop and deploy complex M2M applications.€

Axeda's Dale Calder, in a Jan. 11 blog post on the deal, called M2M "hard," as it involves developing cloud services that listen to products, integrating that cloud service into a business and its processes, enabling a product, and ensuring one's carrier can provide airtime and proper coverage, among other challenges. The Axeda and AT&T deal, he added, was a way of "corralling the disparate parts of M2M" to make it "easy."

During Verizon Wireless' fourth quarter 2011 earnings call, CFO Fran Shammo, answering questions about earnings growth, pointed to machine-to-machine projects being fed by Verizon's Innovation Center in Massachusetts.

"We can't lose sight of the machine-to-machine market," said Shammo. "There is a lot of technology and innovation that's going to come out around [automotive], around health care, around energy conservation that really will be leaps and bounds beyond anything that we see currently in the marketplace today."

Verizon's "leadership position" in the Long-Term Evolution (LTE) space, he added, will be an enormous asset for driving and supporting M2M initiatives.

Orange Business Services has more than 200 experts currently dedicated to M2M, and, in celebrating Sprint's decision to team up, noted that Orange currently supports more than 2.5 million active M2M connections.