Marc Overton: Large companies can deal with us and we can
deliver the whole of the US and Europe on one
Everything Everywhere is the bizarre name for the joint venture
of France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom’s UK mobile
joint venture, but the company is already looking out beyond
It’s the emerging market for machine-to-machine
communications that is making Marc Overton, wholesale chief at
EE, excited. Machine-to-machine — or M2M as it is
unfortunately abbreviated — is being touted as a
potentially vast new market for the mobile industry, and
Everything Everywhere wants a part of it.
And, while vending machines, electricity meters and car parks
are inherently static, much of the M2M industry will be built
on the need to track or communicate with movable items, from
containers on board ship and hire cars being driven around
Germany to valuable packages that are being couriered from Los
Angeles to London.
But Everything Everywhere, set up in July 2010, is surely
limited to selling mobile services in the UK. What is it doing
in the global machine-to-machine business?
"We’re a one-stop shop," says Overton, who is vice
president of M2M as well as wholesale at the company.
EE’s joint ownership means it has close
relationships will all the members of the France Telecom Orange
empire — from the Caribbean to the Middle East via
Africa — and all the members of the Deutsche Telekom
empire, from T-Mobile USA to eastern Europe.
"We are a credible international player and a credible
alternative to Vodafone," he says. "We can leverage our
Overton is particularly looking at US companies that are
looking for a single international partner to deal with in
order to handle global roaming of M2M services. "Large
companies want to break into Europe, but they
don’t want to have to negotiate contracts in 23
countries. They can deal with us and we can deliver the whole
of the US and Europe on one contract."
EE has already announced the first alliances to take it into
the market. In October it announced a partnership with a US
group, Raco Wireless, aimed at allowing Raco’s
customers to have access to European networks through its
owners’ networks for M2M applications.
EE formalised a service alliance with France Telecom and
Deutsche Telekom for the deal, to guarantee its M2M customers
— including Raco Wireless customers — network
access and high standards of service right across Europe.
"Our ambition to become the partner of choice in the M2M space
is underlined by our international partnership with Raco
Wireless and the addition of T-Mobile and France
Telecom’s service alliance," says Overton. "By
working in partnership we are able to provide businesses with a
one stop shop for international M2M capabilities."
The partnership builds on an existing long-term relationship
between T-Mobile USA and Raco Wireless, and will allow Raco and
EE to offer their customers a one-stop shop for connectivity
solutions in the US, UK and continental European markets.
Raco’s business focuses on energy and utilities,
says Overton. "We’re looking for similar
agreements in South America and Asia, building into an
international partnership network. Everything Everywhere has
this international opportunity because of our shareholders and
our international position."
But there is also an opportunity at domestic level, he notes,
in smart metering. "Energy utilities will deliver the big
numbers, driven by the green agenda." Overton notes that the
first requests for proposals are already coming into
EE’s offices, "and there are a lot more out
What, though, is the attraction of a company such as EE in what
appears to be a static solution? The answer is coverage. If the
SIM inside a smart module in an electricity meter is locked to
one local carrier, then coverage may be patchy.
International agreements from the earliest days of the GSM
industry come to the rescue here. Any traveller knows that
their mobile phone will lock on to the preferred partner of
choice in a new country: so a Vodafone UK customer will find
their phone preferentially selecting SFR once across the French
But dip out of SFR’s coverage, even in a hotel
lift for a few seconds, and the phone will look for the
strongest alternative — so when the lift doors open
the coverage may be provided through Orange France or Bouygues.
Utility companies have spotted this feature of the GSM industry
in trying to get as close to 100% coverage as possible. "A lot
of utilities are looking for international SIMs that roam,"
says Overton. The idea is that the M2M module will not be
locked to one national carrier, but will find the best
available signal. So EE, through its international
partnerships, could provide a SIM from a foreign network, able
to use the strongest available signal for its data.
The machine-to-machine market is highly diverse, with many
different characteristics, he points out. Even static
applications vary hugely, from an electricity meter that may
send bursts of data a few times a day to a water meter beside a
reservoir that may need to transmit only twice a year.
"But there are also closed-circuit TV cameras," says Overton.
They need to be transmitting almost continuously.
The market includes critical applications, where M2M modules
are needed to warn of life-threatening events. "These have
different resilience requirements," he says.
And then there are tracking systems, used for high value goods
— or even organs for transplant — or, for
example, to keep an eye on people with
Alzheimer’s. "We can geo-tag their shoes. The
modules are charged up overnight."
Expensive construction equipment is an obvious target market,
he adds. They are worth hundreds of thousands, and yet are
mobile — and may be left overnight on roadsides or
construction sites. Their owners need to track them when they
go out on a job, and need to know where they are.
"We’re looking at a solution with one SIM card,"
But there are less obvious markets for M2M systems:
photocopiers, suggests Overton: not just to track them if they
are stolen, but to send back useful information, such as the
fact that they’re about to run out of toner. "A
real-time connection with the customer means quite a
Supply chain inefficiencies
And there are real opportunities, says Overton, in "making
money from the inefficiencies of the supply chain".
He’s thinking of containers, equipment, food and
other goods sitting on docksides and in airports waiting for a
haulage company to come and collect them. "People make money
from renting out space" so goods can be stored, he notes.
Delays lead to oversupply and other waste, he notes. "Who
benefits?" Smooth out the inefficiencies with the aid of
tracking systems and the cost of transport and storage can be
reduced, is his argument.
Overton’s aim is to create new markets for the
mobile industry in the new era when voice revenues have
flattened out. "I’m looking for new money in these
new vertical markets," he says.
The market is being eased by the introduction of such
innovations as the VQFN8 standard for SIMs — just two
millimetres square. Such SIMS will be fitted almost routinely
to consumer electronics items. "Connecting will become
standard," he says.
In preparation for this day, Everything Everywhere has launched
a new M2M management platform, developed in association with
Transatel, a French mobile virtual network aggregator.
"Transatel has taken the capability of the phone platform and
built onto it a bespoke M2M capability to enable an
international proposition for the connected market," says
The new platform has been designed to allow business customers
to manage their accounts and connections securely wherever they
are, he adds. "The launch of the M2M management platform is a
key step in our ambition to become the number one partner of
choice for M2M services. Companies of all sizes are asking for
solutions that are easy to deploy, with a self service platform
that puts the control back into their hands."
James Bond modules
Such innovations mean that the cost of tracking modules is
coming down, he says. The company is using a box that has the
new tiny SIMs "with battery, GSM, 3G, beacon and GPS in
something the size of a matchbox". It has a magnet so that it
can be stuck on the side of containers, and the battery has
enough energy to power four polls a day for five years, "but
you can change the number of polls remotely". The cost?
"We’re quoting $100," says Overton. "It sounds
James Bondish but it’s mainstream."
Such modules will be "part of the standard for consumer
electronics", he adds, "even TV sets". The modules will feed
back information on "where it is and how it is used".
But there are other applications that will emerge from the M2M
market, he adds. "You’ll be able to defrost your
car, while sitting in bed on a cold morning, using your iPhone.
And warm the seats. That’s quite neat on a cold
morning," says Overton. "This is all about changing the way
people live. It is going to be all around you."
Some of these projects will be going into pilot phase in the
first half of 2012, says Overton. "We will be seeing some broad
industry deployments. We are focusing on some key strategic
areas, such as multinational container freight.
It’s real business now." GTB
Further reading from Global Telecoms Business:
Everything Everywhere £1.5bn
network spend 09 Dec
Everything Everywhere to cut 550
staff 03 Nov
UK networks to use Virgin
backhaul 06 Sep
FT and DT will miss benefits unless
they merge entirely 22 Jun
BT and Everything Everywhere to trial
4G LTE 26 May
FT and DT to expand
cooperation 14 Feb