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October 10, 2007

Wavecom signs up partners for M2M monitoring and updates

Machine-to-machine wireless technology developer Wavecom has launched the remote device management service it told Computer Business Review about in March, and has announced its first two partners: Jasper Wireless and Numerex.

By CBR Staff Writer

Wavecom, which is headquartered in Issy-les-Moulineaux, France, has been developing wireless for automotive, industrial, and wireless professional applications for several years, but at the beginning of this year it began to add an M2M services dimension to its portfolio.

In March it told Computer Business Review it was trialing what it then referred to as its Remote Device Management Services (RDMS) with a number of prospective customers and planned to go live with the offering this quarter. At the beginning of this month it announced what has now been re-branded as the StarService, comprising both a product and service element.

The product is the Wireless Microprocessor WMP50, a module based on the ARM9 processor and running its Open AT Software Suite that enables customers to develop embedded apps. The service component is called Intelligent Device Services, the plural in the name referring to the fact that customers can get both monitoring and over-the-air updates to firmware and app software on remote machines.

The partners for the StarService offering are Jasper Wireless and Numerex. Sunnyvale, California-based Jasper was founded in 2004. Macario Namie, its senior director of product marketing, said it has licensed spectrum in the US, while in another 24 countries it negotiates data roaming agreements with local operators.

However, in all its operations including the US, it issues international SIM cards, which are numbers allocated by the ITU, primarily to cruise ships and other inherently non-country-specific activities. Namie emphasized that Jasper’s relationship with local operators (which are usually one per country) is not traditional roaming. He said it pays them on a per-use basis and negotiates much lower per-megabyte rates than conventional data-roaming deals, even for business users.

He sought to distinguish what Jasper does from an MVNO. We are not an MVNO, because we do all our own billing, he said. In the US where we have spectrum, we lease access to other operators’ radio access networks to avoid the capex outlay on base stations. For the mobile operators in other countries, he said it drives additional revenue with relatively little administrative overhead, a proposition that he said enables Jasper to sign up for to five new operators around the world each quarter.

Meanwhile, Numerex from Atlanta, Georgia casts itself as a single-source provider of solutions and network services for M2M applications. It started life in the mid-nineties offering M2M services on BellSouth’s cellular network, and expanded into satellite, through their purchase of Orbit One in August this year. Chuck Horne, its senior VP of marketing, said Numerex currently focuses on the US, Canadian and Latin American markets, where it has relationships with 60 operators in GSM and CDMA, but with the Orbit One acquisition we already have a global offering and we’ll be looking to expand our cellular services internationally too.

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In both cases, the companies will be using modules based on the WMP50 in remote devices, as well as using Wavecom to deliver the monitoring and OTA updates on the back end. Horne said Numerex is already the largest distributor of Wavecom hardware modules in North America, so StarService will be an add-on to the existing relationship. It also resells modules from Wavecom’s competitors including Sierra Wireless, Enfora, and Multi-Tech, but in their case it provides the monitoring and OTA update services as a custom offering, whereas Wavecom has now productized them in StarService. They’re a bit ahead of the curve in this respect, he said.

Our View

Harbor Research says the entire M2M market, including fixed and wireless and all forms of radio access on the wireless side, is worth about $32bn a year. That may be so, but the cellular M2M market is still in its infancy relatively speaking not least because it’s only in the last three or four years that the tariffs charged on data usage have dropped far enough to make it a viable space. So it would seem Wavecom has chosen a good moment to move into the services business, provided it chooses its partners judiciously.

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