Ready for take-off

14 Feb 2006

The mobile device management sector is poised for robust growth as operators start to invest in advanced MDM solutions that help reduce customer-care costs and boost revenue by to increasing usage of applications. Growth, however, is being slowed by the lack of a consensus between operators and vendors on the real benefits of MDM

Operators wake up to MDM

  • Global sales to grow tenfold to $435 million through 2009
  • Operator-centric MDM deployment still in infancy with silo-based approach
  • Focus shifting to advanced features like FOTA updates, remote diagnostics, data backup and recall

The mobile device management sector is rapidly moving to the forefront as it emerges as a vital tool for cellcos to cut customer-care costs related to diagnosing and resolving issues related to incorrect network settings on handsets.

Signs of growth are strong as MDM solutions providers, such as Innopath, Smarttrust and Bitfone, all claim they have been inundated with RFPs from operators. Although not all of the RFPs will convert into contracts, research firm Ovum suggests this indicates an excellent growth prospect for the future.

Ovum predicts that global sales of MDM solutions will surge by 140% to $105 million this year. The global market is expected to hit $434 million by 2009, nearly a tenfold increase from $44 million in 2005, as operators increasingly invest in new and advanced MDM solutions and upgrade existing systems. Meanwhile, the Asia-Pacific market is forecast to grow from 13.4 million in 2005 to $138 million by 2009.

Jessica Figueras, Ovum's practice leader for the service infrastructure group, says the growth of MDM sector in the past few years was largely driven by a wider adoption of mainstream, basic client provisioning solutions around bootstrapping and over-the-air (OTA) configuration, which are mostly geared toward setting up devices to access communication services, such as GPRS, WAP, MMS and email services.

The growth over the coming years, she says, will be driven by operators' need for more advanced and value-added MDM solutions, including firmware over the air (FOTA), as the focus shifts to such applications for bug fixing, remote diagnostics, data backup and recall, and customizing the user experience.

At present, mobile operators are deploying MDM solutions on a couple of fronts. There is a great deal of interest in FOTA, with solutions put in place to support the launch of 3G handsets and reduce the risk of 3G service deployment. Others are using MDM solutions in their customer-care departments to reduce costs. At the same, some operators like Vodafone, Sprint and Verizon are deploying enterprise MDM solutions.

Lack of understanding

MDM is mostly below the radar and isn't yet a high-level strategic issue across the industry. Although this has started to change, one of the major barriers to the adoption is that most operators haven't yet developed a thorough understanding of MDM.

'It is not clear that operators truly understand the benefits of an MDM solution,' Yoshiaki Matsuda, Innopath's president in Japan, told Wireless Asia. 'Some MDM functionality is definitely understood - configuration and remote settings, application downloads. But there is a poor understanding of how other applications map to particular benefits.'

Ovum's Figuera concurs, saying there are a lot of complaints from vendors that operators just ask for everything, and they really don't understand that MDM is a broad area.

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