There seems to be a general consensus that cellular networks will be the dominant solution to connect M2M devices in the long−very long−run, but alternative technologies to provide connectivity are still on the rise. Mainly for two reasons: connections fee for M2M devices on cellular networks are many times unaffordable and M2M users (car manufacturers, energy companies, hospitals, etc.) are not willing to be locked-in for years with a single mobile operator, and changing the SIM cards of millions of devices is just unfeasible.
The OECD published a report already in 2011 (Machine-to-Machine Communications Connecting Billions of Devices) that includes a proposal to give the M2M user control of the SIM-card, i.e., to provide Mobile Network Codes to M2M users and make them an equivalent of MVNOs. This will allow M2M users to switch among different networks, lowering the entry barriers for new services. Jasper Wireless is an established example that offers a “Global SIM” for services that cannot depend on a single mobile operator.
But another interesting view was shared during the IoT panel at the ICT conference 2014, where it was discussed how EDP (Energias de Portugal, electricity operator) managed to acquire a Mobile Network Code and this way equip their smart meters with their very own SIM cards, overcoming the dependency on a single mobile operator.
The open note was on the potential use and additional services they could offer once those SIM cards are installed inside each household along the country, which will give them direct reach to end consumers. The possibilities to make it happen in this specific case are still to be seen but it definitively opens the debate on the impact that large industries will have on the price for data at a wholesale level.
An added complication is that Europe in general only allow 2 digit MNC codes. This limits the numer of “operators” to 99 per country. It is, no doubt, possible to use 3 digits but this is firmly held back in Europe by the current players. Sweden has taken an interest step to support local networks (including M2M) in allocating open MNC’s for anyone to use without beeing licensed.
No, sorry Europe is not to blame. Countries are allowed to use 3 digit codes. However recent CEPT work shows that 3 digit codes might lead to some problems if they are used mixed with two digit codes under the same MCC. This is now sent to the ITU to deal with.