Orange's M2M strategy will focus on utilities and intelligent environment

I had a call this morning with the M2M folks over at Orange. Very edifying with lots of talking points. They've not been doing that well with M2M recently. They've picked up some good wins (e.g. the ERDF trial) that gave them a pretty good growth rate in 2010, but they're decidedly tier-2. So it seems they're sensibly focusing on those sectors/markets where they have a competitive differentiator. They can't compete with the scale of Vodafone (despite the deal with T-Mobile announced at MWC) so they're adopting the strategy in M2M that has permeated the rest of the Orange group: go deep in a few territories. It has been the policy of the wider group for a few years to focus on cross-selling in the UK, France, Poland and Spain where they have fixed and mobile assets (although obviously the UK has now been hived off to Everything Everywhere).

Their approach (and it's a logical one) is to say:
  • Orange has a potential competitive differentiator in a few countries where it has both fixed and mobile operations.
  • There are some M2M segments that benefit from the use of fixed and mobile connections. Let's not be blinded that M2M has to be mobile. M2M is nothing more than (to quote the Machina Research definition): "Connections to remote sensing, monitoring and actuating devices, together with associated aggregation devices." Nothing in there that says it has to be mobile. In fact businesses were using fixed lines for SCADA for years before "M2M" arrived or anyone realised that was what SCADA was.
  • There are some sectors and applications that require national level connectivity only. Orange announced a win with Coyote, a national radar detection and alerting system, in France. This is national as most of the relevant motoring is national (plus it's banned in a number of neighbouring countries). As an aside, it's now fraught with problems mentioning Orange alongside anything animal-related. What with Dolphin, Canary etc. it'd be easy to assume they had a Coyote tariff now.

All of this puts Orange in a strong position to win contracts with utilities. Their requirements are national and, since meters and network infrastructure don't move much there is a strong argument for using a fixed connection (in fact that's what's been happening for decades). So we can expect FT/Orange to bring in some utilities deals in France, Spain and Poland where it has that strength as an integrated operator. There's something in the works at the moment and I'll let you know about that once it's not embargoed.

There are a bunch of other sectors where local or national contracts will dominate: intelligent buildings, smart cities (see Orange's trial in Cagne-sur-mer) and emergency services to name a few.

I'm currently working on the Machina Research report on embedded connectivity in the Utilities sector, which will be published next month. Lots of lovely opinions and forecasts on smart meters, smart grids etc. Drop me a line if you want more information or would like me to let you know when it's available.