Nov 13, 2012

Vodafone and its M2M strategy

In Vodafone's H2-2012 financial results presentation, its CEO outlined Vodafone's 2015 strategy including a reference to its M2M goals. In particular, Vodafone's M2M business unit will be a part of its Group-wide Enterprise unit. This raises important questions about Vodafone's longer term goals especially in the light of a growing consumer M2M market and the reorganisation plans of several of its competitors.

According to Vodafone's strategy announcement, M2M will exist as a business unit within Vodafone Enterprise Services as illustrated below.
According to Vodafone, the intention is to consolidate its lead in M2M building on 8.8m connections and a strong contract pipeline. Vodafone intends to expand out of "traditional" M2M sectors and also to leverage its global service delivery platform.

This arrangement suggests that Vodafone is targeting a B2B type of  business model i.e. Vodafone as a supplier to enterprise customers who then deliver a connected device or service to their customers.

The M2M market, in its broadest sense, is expanding to encompass a wide variety of consumer applications - in-car information and entertainment, assisted living, wellness etc. These service concepts will drive M2M hardware volumes and the economies of scale that will enable even more affordable offerings.

In many cases, Vodafone will have a service relationship with consumers using these services; this relationship may exist via a voice 'subscription' or a Smartphone or tablet service offering. And, it may be the case that consumers use their data devices and subscriptions with Vodafone to interact with an M2M application supplied by one of Vodafone's M2M business customers. The strategic issue for Vodafone is how it will position itself in relation to B2C (go direct to the customer) and B2B2C (serve consumers through some form of partnering with enterprise customers) M2M opportunities. The latter approach is more likely because it carries a lower implementation risk and lower capital outlay if suitably structured.

In terms of its organizational model, Vodafone's strategy stands in stark contrast to the recent trend for mobile operators to establish 'Digital' businesses. These accommodate consumer M2M applications and other mobile-enabled services that address the emerging connected life-style of consumers.


  1. 10 Nov 2016 Update

    PTC’s ThingWorx Application Enablement Platform Chosen by Vodafone for Rapid IoT Application Development

  2. 15 Nov 2016 Update

    Vodafone CEO promises consumer IoT play in 2017, UK TV service delayed again

    Vittorio Colao committed Vodafone to launching a consumer IoT product directly to its customer base next year, as the operator unveiled its latest financials.

    The Chief Executive said Vodafone was looking currently at potential plays and would “definitely” bring a product to market in 2017, but did not expand on what or where such a service would launch.

    The UK-based operator has 45.4 million “enterprise” IoT connections currently, up 39 percent year-on-year, which are largely centred around the automotive sector.

    Vodafone does not count that sector as directly consumer facing as it is the car companies themselves that offer the services to drivers, rather than Vodafone.

  3. 16 June 2016 Update

    Continuing healthy growth at Vodafone and tighter linkage with IoT within VGE.

  4. 7 Nov 2017 update

    Vodafone branches out into IoT things for the consumer segment. 'V by Vodafone' is a range of devices that run on the carrier's network.

  5. 14 Nov 2017 update

    Vodafone ups guidance, offers insight into IoT role

    “Which is why we tend to focus all of our IoT solutions for both the enterprise and consumer on where there is some element of mobility, because that is where typically it’s more consistent with our strategy and less crowded,” he continued. “It’s to do with outdoor, and control, an element of security, tracking.”

    In terms of IoT potential, Colao said that obvious revenue will be dwarfed by the number of devices connected, “it will be interesting growth, important – very important – when 5G comes, but it will take time,” he said.

    “We are planting now the seeds of future growth. It’s patient investment.”

  6. 31 Oct 2019 update

    The narrative at the show went that the IoT market has gone from proof-of-concept to ‘proof-of-value’. Yes, the technology works, but the value — and the business case — are still to be understood by both sides. Importantly, however, this exercise requires less work than before. In another show highlight from the stage — again, told squarely and effectively, with none of the bright-eyed happy-tech bluster that afflicted a number of sessions, as with every show of this sort — Vodafone said that even this concept of ‘co-creation’ was tired.

    The industry has gone beyond, said Phil Skipper, the company’s head of IoT development (pictured); the IoT market is no longer so novel or messy that technology experts and domain experts — technology sellers and buyers, IT departments and OT functions — must work through protracted collaborations to create solutions from scratch. There are, it turns out, only three use cases, or ‘use classes’, said Vodafone, and one of those doesn’t even exist yet.

    Asset tracking and remote monitoring are the only ones that matter now; everything else riffs on these. The emergence of URLLC-grade 5G in Release 16 will introduce a third: a means for ultra-reliable industrial control. The old telecoms sector, which stands to deliver this third digital-change service must sell reliability-as-a-service, and be prepared to put its money where its mouth is to guarantee the risk.

  7. 28 July 2020

    Vodafone managing 15m B2B IoT connections (2020)

  8. 25 Nov 2020 update

    Vodafone UK doubles down on IoT

    UK telco Vodafone is seeking to breath life into its IoT strategy with the launch of a new range of services for businesses.

    The new bundle of IoT joy doesn’t seem to have a collective name, but it owes a lot to IoT.nxt, a company Vodafone South African subsidiary bought a 51% stake in last year. It’s designed to provide IoT sensors and devices, create a data management platform, and offer professional services to companies that lack some or all of those capabilities in-house.

    “We’re making it easy for any business to adopt IoT,” said Anne Sheehan, Business Director at Vodafone UK. “We’re taking away complexity, and making it simple to deploy, simple to manage, and simple to see the return on investment. With our colleagues at IoT.nxt we can be unique in the UK market – we’ll grow our leadership position from here, and deliver customers a digital capability that will prove invaluable in meeting the pressures of business today.”

  9. 9 Dec 2020 update

    Vodafone launches platform that promises to play nicely with dusty legacy IoT kit

    Carriers are eagerly eyeing industrial IoT as a way to fatten slender margins, and diversify from their traditional bread and butter of handset sales and subscriptions. The latest foray into this space comes from Vodafone, which plans to sell an end-to-end system to UK biz customers.

    The product is based on technology developed by IoT.nxt, a South African startup partially owned by Vodafone. In 2019, the group's South African subsidiary, Vodacom, acquired a 51 per cent share in the firm, which has developed a range of sensors, gateways, and analytics tools.

    In addition to providing the base IoT.nxt hardware and software, Vodafone will sell ongoing professional services, including a wholesale deployment and management package for those unable to administer the system in-house.

  10. 18 March 2021

    Insights into Vodafone IoT business and strategy including:
    - IOT addressable market of EUR10bn, growing at 16% CAGR
    - FY2020 connections 103 million, connections growing at over 1m per month, reaching 120m at time of March 2021 report
    - FY2020 revenue EUR735 million
    - self-built, secure platform
    - Over 500 IoT developers

    Strategy - "IoT⫶END-TO-END Easy to adopt end-to-end IoT for every business"

  11. 11 June 2022 update

    Before the metaverse, there was the Internet of Things (IoT).

    Not the disappointing affair you know today, but one of 50 billion connected objects where fridges order resupplies when the milk runs low, toilets alert users to vitamin deficiencies, households are cluttered with Internet-enabled gadgetry and telecom operators have a new growth story for their shareholders.

    It has never quite worked out this way, as shown in Vodafone's latest annual report. The UK-headquartered operator, which describes itself as "the largest IoT connectivity provider globally," made only €900 million ($954 million) from its IoT business last year.

    This would look impressive at a smaller company but accounted for just 2% of Vodafone's service revenues in 2021. It connects less than half as many objects as it does people, boasting 150.1 million IoT connections and 323 million mobile customers. IoT is the bit nobody really notices.

    This all looks set to change. Buried in Vodafone's annual report is the revelation that IoT is being prepped for a spinoff. Greater independence from the parent company "will help to accelerate the platform's growth and attractiveness to both new customers and connectivity partners," says Vodafone.

  12. 22 September 2022 update

    It looks as if Vodafone’s V2X platform is finally ready for commercial deployment.

    The telco’s German arm on Tuesday announced that its Safer Transport for Europe Platform (STEP) is now available to vehicle manufacturers and transport authorities. Based on the open standards-based Message Queuing Telemetry Transport (MQTT) for machine-to-machine (M2M) communication protocol, it uses a publish/subscribe mechanism to enable the transmission of telemetry data between different devices. When this is coupled with multi-access edge computing (MEC) and 5G, the result is a system that can share safety and traffic information to cars, smartphones and navigation systems in real time.

    Vodafone first revealed it was developing an open V2X platform back in November 2021. It was unveiled in the UK as STEP in March, and the telco said it would be made available to developers later this year. True to its word, Vodafone said on Tuesday that STEP is now accessible via a straightforward registration process. It has also made available a detailed API and software development kit (SDK) for Android and iOS developers.

    According to a research note published last week by ABI Research, it is thought that the inclusion of V2X in the all-important Euro NCAP safety rating scheme for new vehicles will be pushed back from 2025 to 2027. This is due to a lack of sufficient testing protocols, such as new labs that can evaluate new vehicle capabilities, it said. While that doesn’t mean players like Vodafone can’t push on with incorporating V2X-enabled information services into smartphone apps and navigation systems, it will be some time before the really cool stuff – vehicles automatically interacting with other road users and so-called street furniture and so-on – takes off.

  13. 19 Dec 2022 update

    Digital Asset Broker by Vodafone

    Our mission is to create the world's biggest trusted device ecosystem and open it for business

    Machines interact with each other anytime, anywhere: Our platform allows devices across multiple ecosystems to connect and conduct trusted interactions and payments autonomously.

  14. 30 Mar 2023 update

    Vodafone Group currently connects 159 million IoT devices on over 580 networks in 190 countries

    Vodafone ended 2022 with over 5 million active IoT lines in Spain in the IoT segment, after adding nearly 1 million during the year. In a statement, the company noted that the net addition of IoT lines last year accounted for 39% of the net additions in the Spanish IoT market.

    This trend accelerated in the third quarter of 2022, with Vodafone adding 483,000 new lines in the IoT segment, which represented 69% of the net additions in the market during that period, Vodafone said.

    The telco said it currently manages over 40% of all IoT connections in the Spanish market.

  15. 5 May 2023 update

    Vodafone forms blockchain-based Economy of Things JV with Sumitomo

    UK-headquartered telecoms group Vodafone and Japanese trading and electric services company Sumitomo Corporation have announced an 80/20 standalone joint-venture to drive the development of automated machine-to-machine IoT transactions, under the banner of the ‘economy of things’. Vodafone will contribute its blockchain-based Digital Asset Broker (DAB) IoT trading platform to the venture; Sumitomo will invest in the business and also draw-in additional investors, partners, and customers.

    Vodafone is also contributing intellectual property, contracts, technology and software. Its DAB platform was unveiled at MWC last year, as an engine to support a new ‘economy of things’, enabling verified IoT devices to securely transact without human intervention, but with human (‘owner’) control. It has been pitching the platform for usage in the automotive, energy, manufacturing, and supply chain sectors. With new backing from Sumitomo, the venture will continue as a standalone business focused particularly IoT devices, electric vehicles, and smart street furniture.

    Initial ownership of the new Economy of Things project will split 80/20 between Vodafone and Sumitomo, respectively. It is subject to regulatory approval. The two parties will launch the DAB platform in a phased approach, they said, initially targeting the automotive and transport sectors in Germany and the UK, followed by other European countries and North America. They will also look to partner with Sumitomo group company SCSK Corporation to establish a presence in the Asian market, including Japan, with a long-term vision of entering the smart city game.

  16. 16 May 2023 update

    Vodafone has picked advisers to help sell a stake in its 'Internet of Things' (IoT) division as it bets on a rapid global expansion of connected devices amid growing investor interest in the space.

    Sky News has learnt that the FTSE-100 telecoms giant has hired Akira Partners, an independent advisory firm specialising in deals in the telecoms, media and technology sectors, to field offers from outside investors.

    City sources said that Vodafone was potentially interested in selling up to 49% of its IoT arm, which they said could be valued at somewhere in the region of £1bn.

  17. 25 May 2023

    Vodafone launches dedicated healthcare division

    Operator Vodafone has announced Vodafone in Health – a new division designed to ‘accelerate the use of technology in healthcare.’

    Vodafone in Health is intended to be a ‘trusted advisor to the health sector’ and will work in partnership with it to develop technology products and ‘support the delivery of better patient outcomes.’ Which is a rather robotic turn of phrase which presumably means patients getting better quicker and more often.

    The new division will work with the NHS and other healthcare providers (both private and public) in order to ‘create the building blocks for change’ and accelerate digital transformation in the sector, which it says will free up workforce time and increase efficiency and productivity.

    “I’m really excited to be leading the newly created Vodafone in Health division which will act as a technology advisor and innovation hub for all our healthcare partners and customers,” said Anne-Marie Vine-Lott, Head of Health for Vodafone UK.

  18. 16 January 2024

    Vodafone and Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday announced a new, far-reaching 10-year strategic partnership that leverages their respective strengths in offering scaled digital platforms to more than 300 million businesses, public sector organisations, and consumers across Europe and Africa.

    Through the partnership, the companies will collaborate to transform Vodafone’s customer experience using Microsoft’s generative AI, hyperscale Vodafone’s leading managed IoT connectivity platform, develop new digital and financial services for businesses, particularly SMEs across Europe and Africa, and overhaul its global data centre cloud strategy.

    Vodafone will invest $1.5 billion over the next 10 years in cloud and customer-focused AI services developed in conjunction with Microsoft. Additionally, Microsoft will use Vodafone’s fixed and mobile connectivity services.

    Microsoft also intends to invest in Vodafone’s managed IoT connectivity platform, which will become a separate, standalone business by April 2024. The new company will attract new partners and customers, driving growth in applications and expanding the platform to connect more devices, vehicles, and machines.

    Scaling IoT: Microsoft intends to invest in Vodafone’s new, standalone global Internet of Things (IoT)-managed connectivity platform, which connects 175 million devices and platforms worldwide.Vodafone also plans to become part of the Azure ecosystem making the IoT platform available to a vast developer and third-party community using open APIs.

  19. 17 April 2024 update

    Vodafone’s “big bet” to hive-off and hyper-scale IoT with Microsoft

    Skipper says: “We want a separate IoT business which – although still majority-owned by Vodafone, which is likely how it ends up – has got more freedom to hyper-scale.

    He goes on: “We are saying: that is an IoT business in its own right, which needs to create its own ecosystem of partners and channels and so on – which are dedicated to IoT. And we have a super head start because we’ve got access to Vodafone’s networks, of course, access to Vodafone’s sales channels – and the combination of those has taken us from nothing to 185 million connections over 10 years. So that works. The question is what else can you do to make it bigger, and to hyper-scale faster? But that’s where we’re heading.”

    IoT is like a business of two halves. There’s the device and the connection and then the application and the analytics, and whatever else on top. And traditionally, those things were separate; you normally do one, and then the other. But IoT doesn’t work without both; they are symbiotic. It’s this realisation that every IoT connection generates traffic for AI and all the rest of it.”

    The point about “big bets” is that Vodafone is the biggest (outside of China) in the first group of “bigger IoT companies” (looking to “get bigger”), and that its strategy for new hyper-scale IoT growth in the post-shakeout IoT era is to combine with Microsoft on these complementary “halves” – these twin disciplines of airtime / application, hardware / software, edge / cloud; of IoT sensing and AI sense-making, to force the logic. “The business of IoT is in two parts, and ours is the first part – which is managed IoT connectivity,” he explains.

    “We’re not moving up the value chain to do these other things. We’re delivering the bread-and-butter – to create the most faultless network service anywhere. Which is what IoT providers need to sell their telematics solutions to anyone on the planet – in an ecosystem that is proven to work. Companies now trust IoT at a much bigger scale; not because of what you say but because of how you execute. That ability to execute is the key differentiator. And this combination of parts, and this consolidation of like-minded and like-sized organisations, is a very strong proposition.”