Companies around the world are rapidly discovering the benefits of deploying machine-to-machine (M2M) solutions in order to create new revenue streams, lower cost and to stay in compliance. Before deploying a M2M solution for your company it’s important to vet wireless service providers to in order understand the total cost of ownership and ensure a successful ROI for the long term.
Here are eight questions to ask any M2M service provider you’re considering.
1) How is data usage billed? This is perhaps the most difficult part of a M2M services agreement — gauging how much data your organization will use over the life of the solution. Overages are all-too-common in M2M, and charges for using more data than anticipated can quickly get out of hand. Before moving forward with any provider, ask how they handle overage charges and if they offer proactive alerts and thresholds so you can take corrective action with features such as mid-cycle rate plan changes. Understand how the provider handles unexplained usages like spam and unexpected roaming charges. If your solution uses devices for seasonal applications such as agriculture or school buses, ask about the ability to suspend services, along with any applicable fees for doing so.
2) What features does the provider offer? Ask the provider about features such as a management portal for provisioning, monitoring usage and reporting. Do they offer advanced capabilities you may require as you scale your solution, such as Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and Static IP? You’ll also need to decide whether or not to use an off-the-shelf modem, which can accelerate time to market vs. utilizing an embedded module which may be subject to certification requirements which can add time and cost to your project but offer potential cost savings for the longer term.
3) Can rate plans be tailored to your specific business and supply chain requirements? M2M service plans aren’t like wireless consumer plans. Plans offered by a M2M services provider should be able to be tailored for your specific business and supply chain requirements. Look for a provider that allows you to provision and activate devices for testing without incurring any costs for up to 12 months while they are waiting to be installed & deployed in your supply and distribution chain so that the devices work right out of the box upon being installed. Additionally, you should also be able to pool devices across rate plans, which can offer significant savings by minimizing your risk and exposure to overage.
4) Does the provider offer flexible pricing models? Look for flexible rate plans that allow you to make changes in the middle of a billing cycle in the event that your usage requirements change abruptly. This can help you avoid charges for overages or for service usage not covered by a fixed, per device rate plan.
5) What support services and troubleshooting tools are available? Ask the provider about its support services and whether any extra charges are involved. A provider that provides a portal that provides deep network visibility and tools for remote troubleshooting capabilities can eliminate costly “truck rolls.”
6) Does the provider operate with its own network? A provider with a network designed and built to support the unique requirements for M2M traffic will have lower latency then a carrier that also transports consumer traffic. Also understand your specific coverage requirements and compare that with provider’s coverage and reliability statistics to ensure its services will satisfy your business needs.
7) What does the provider know about your specific industry? Is the provider exclusively focused on the M2M market so that they can better understand your requirements or are they more focused on supporting consumer handset customers?
8) Does the provider have global capabilities? If your company has current or future global requirements you may be happier with a M2M services provider that also operates on multiple continents rather than employing the services of separate regional service providers. Look for a provider that delivers a global solution with a single SIM capable of working in over 180 countries on over 500 carriers.
Deploying an M2M solution is often highly complex and involves many components to ensure your business needs are met at an affordable cost. By asking the right questions up front, you’ll be able to find the right provider to serve as a single resource for your M2M needs.