In Business Model, Internet Access, Mobile

One of the biggest debates that has not yet happened surrounds the internet of things revenue potential for mobile and other service providers.

While most observers seem to believe IoT will be the key new revenue source for 5G networks, others think the upside is going to be “bleak.” That matters for two major reasons. If the IoT revenue streams do not emerge, the payback from 5G networks might be minimal to negative.

Also, if IoT does not emerge as a major new revenue stream, mobile operator business models are going to be quite stressed, as IoT revenue is needed to balance lost voice and messaging revenues.

IoT services can contribute up to 15 percent to 20 percent of total revenue for Indian mobile operators, according to Rishi Mohan Bhatnagar, President, Aeris Communications.

Siddharth Thakkar, Analysys Mason consultant, believes IoT could contribute as little as five percent of revenues, up to perhaps 10 percent for a very successful operator. “Currently, most telecoms operators earn less than one percent of revenues from IoT.  Vodafone is an exception in that it earns around 1.4 percent of revenues from IoT,” he said.

Which forecast proves correct will be crucial. At about five percent new revenues from IoT, most mobile operators will find the 5G business case quite challenging. At 20 percent, 5G will likely have proven to be a successful gamble.

In two distinct large markets–India and the United States–competition is “not helping,” in terms of service provider profitability. Not that profits have been robust.

But market entry by Reliance Jio, with a disruptive pricing attack–is destroying industry profitability.

The U.S. market is in what some have called a “race to the bottom” as well. Except for T-Mobile US, which is largely responsible for the latest price war, revenues are flat or dropping for the other three major service providers.

That is why internet of things revenues and 5G fixed wireless are likely to matter so much. Absent creation of big new revenue streams, mobile service providers are going to face severe stress in their core access businesses.

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