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Reflecting on the 5th Cambridge Wireless Future of Wireless International Conference

Reflecting on the 5th Cambridge Wireless Future of Wireless International Conference
Dr John Naylon, Chief Technology Officer, CBNL

I recently attended the fifth edition of the Cambridge Wireless Future of Wireless International Conference, where the theme was the ‘Internet of Things’ and the technologies required to network 50 billion devices.

The highlight of the programme for me was the closing debate, in which the motion was “This House believes that mobile network operators will not be winners in the Internet of Things”, with James Collier of Neul speaking for the motion and Alex Sinclair of the GSMA speaking against. 

You can watch a video of the debate, courtesy of the IET, here.

Naturally, a good deal of the debate was centred on the need for very cost effective, wide-area networking to support machine-to-machine type applications. 

The contentious question was, how cost effective can operators’ networks be, designed as they are for voice and data transport, compared to hypothetical, purpose-built M2M communication systems?

Here at CBNL, we’ve been supplying our market-leading multipoint microwave systems to operators around the world for over ten years now, and we’ve enjoyed particular success with operators in emerging markets in Africa, the Middle East and the CIS. 

In these markets, the ARPUs are typically dramatically lower than the $200 annual ARPU figure mentioned in the debate – far less than 50% of this figure. For example, if you take a look at MTN group's annual results ending December 2012, you can see plenty of opcos running modern 3G networks with ARPUs between $1 and $2 per month (see p. 82 of the booklet).

These lowers ARPUs mean that, for the overall network’s business case still to work, every single bit of voice or data must be delivered at the lowest possible cost, and it’s this imperative that makes operators turn to innovative solutions like ours.

The rate of innovation in architecture and technology in all parts of the mobile network is truly phenomenal at the moment, and is delivering both higher capacities and lower TCO to operators. 

In combination with these advances there is the unprecedented scale of the 3GPP ecosystem. 

For all of these reasons, I’m confident that forward-looking mobile operators absolutely will be “winners in the Internet of Things”.

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