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Operators need to be at the heart of the IoT landscape

However, it notes, car-based spend will mostly be payments for fuel and tolls, but with little increase in spend overall. Conversely, smart speaker voice-enabled commerce transactions are forecast to reach $51 billion annually by 2023.

The report suggests that products and services purchased through such devices will account for just under 12 per cent of connected home transactions by volume over the next 5 years. The majority of purchases will be for digital content, typically made through connected TVs, it adds.

“Full financial service products will be slow to come to voice commerce, as the automated processes need to satisfy compliance requirements. However, with voice assistants already supplying advisory and finance updates, there will be much data to draw on once the regulatory requirements are met,” commented research author James Moar.

The research also found a significant opportunity for players in the IoT-enabled insurance market, which will exceed $334 billion by 2023, primarily through telematics-based motor policies.

Of course, this is all good news for operators, who expect to carry IoT-based traffic, from connected vehicles to financial transactions to smart city data, particularly when 5G comes to fruition. Or is it?

It’s become quickly clear that merely providing the connectivity for IoT data traffic is unlikely to have much impact on operator and carrier revenues. In fact, many are not well-positioned to capitalise on the IoT opportunity in all its guises.

According to a 2017 report from Analysys Mason, although the worldwide mobile telecoms industry is only forecast to grow at a 1 per cent CAGR between 2016 and 2025, revenue from IoT solutions enabled by mobile operators (including devices, applications and connectivity) will exceed $200 billion in 2025 (a CAGR of 18 per cent and equivalent to 22 per cent of the total predicted spend on mobile services worldwide ($888 billion) for the same year.

However, despite this, revenue from IoT connectivity will only reach $28 billion by 2025, representing just 3 per cent of worldwide mobile telecoms revenue, according to the report.

As such, if IoT is to become a new growth area within the telecoms industry, it will need to contribute significantly more revenue to the overall business than connectivity alone, with operators having to embrace new strategies and business models.

These new strategies are likely to include one or a number of the following: Creating an independent business unit to focus on, and target, the IoT opportunity; leverage in-house capabilities to build IoT enablers and applications; foster partnerships to bring IoT propositions to market; and, bold moves in terms of M&A.

Of course, operators have already begun significant IoT deployments. Many of the larger global mobile operators having launched IoT applications during 2018. The opportunity though is huge. For example, in China, 20 per cent of cellular connections are already IoT connections. However, as the report suggests, they need to go beyond connectivity and add real value to capitalise on the opportunity effectively.

Operators need to position themselves at the heart of the IoT ecosystem, and not just provide the pipes and then sit back and expect the revenue simply to roll in.