“In a world where the value of a device increasingly is measured by its ability to access online content, applications and services, scalable cloud-based services platforms enable new business models for always connected laptops, tablets, e-readers and other consumer electronics devices.” So reads the opening statement on Macheen’s website and they are words that may reverberate throughout the telecoms industry over the next few years because it represents what could be either a major source of income, or a major threat.
Macheen enables device makers to offer mobile broadband access under their own brands much the same way that Amazon has bundled ubiquitous connectivity with the Kindle. Lenovo has just announced a tie up with Macheen that means its users will not need data contracts with operators or extra equipment like modem dongles to access the internet or cloud services.
This new mobile broadband service, Lenovo Mobile Access, is now embedded across the ThinkPad product line in the US and nine European countries the gist being that connectivity is going from ‘one-size-fits-all’ and ‘off-the-rack,’ to constantly connected devices with tailored access for any device, any application and any user.
In order to offer services like this Macheen acts as a service broker or M2M enabler (presumably meaning machine-to-Macheen in this case) by establishing wholesale network agreements across multiple markets then bundling the connectivity with end-to-end solutions built on a cloud-based services platform. This basically means that companies like Lenovo only have to deal with one entity to offer contiguous services to customers rather than having to arrange multiple wholesale agreements with many different operators.
Macheen describes this as device manufacturers, retailers and virtual network operators being left groping on a case-by-case basis with most cobbled-together solutions being too complicated, not scalable, offering limited appeal to consumers, and needing multiple vendor relationships to manage.
Unlike the Kindle, Lenovo customers won’t get this universal connectivity free. Rethink Wireless reports there will be a range of ‘time pass’ options, from a 30-minute, 30Mbytes pass priced at $1.95, to a one-day option with a 200Mbytes limit and a tag of $8.95. There will also be monthly plans capped at 2Gbytes or 6Gbytes, for as-yet undisclosed prices. The tariffs will be available from this month in the US, UK, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Austria, Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands.
For Kindle and Lenovo customers it means they have no exposure to what network they are connected to, nor do they need to know. If they have any issues they can contact their hardware supplier for resolution who, in turn, only have one service provider to deal with. The wholesale network operator simply provides the network access, with little else required. This brings the whole ‘dumb pipe’ equation into the picture.
Initial fears of potential lost revenue may be quickly replaced by the beauty, simplicity and profitability of a pure ‘no-frills’ service offering by operators with none of the usual customer support overheads. That can’t be all bad. Of course, it doesn’t rule out some of the major groups offering the same themselves. We see the emergence of some very strong Global Services teams, such as Vodafone, BT, Telefónica and Verizon, that could leverage existing relationships to offer exactly what Macheen has. This may already be happening but it is not being made that obvious, and fresh-faced startups that don’t carry any legacy may ‘steal the thunder.’ Selling simplicity and agility is their mantra.
Our list of OTT players continues to grow with the addition of hardware suppliers and ‘service brokers’ like Macheen. They are not MVNOs in the true sense, but their growing presence indicates that operators will need to step up efforts to ‘partner with’ rather than ‘battle with’ them moving forward.
First published at TM Forum as The Insider, 12 June 2012