Hong Kong's Hutchison has announced a multinational deal with Cisco to support enterprise customers expanding into the global Internet of Things (IoT) market.
The tie-up has been led by Hue, the wholesale business that Hutchison launched back in April 2015, and will take advantage of the Jasper software platform that Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) acquired in a $1.4 billion deal last year. (See Cisco Looks to Jasper Acquisition to Transform Enterprises – & Itself.)
It marks a change of tack for Hue -- which has until now been catering to non-network companies launching their own mobile services -- and seems to reflect the growing interest in developing cross-border IoT capabilities. (See Hutchison Courts MVNOs With Global MVNE, Is Google Becoming a European MVNO? and Is Hue an MVNE Trendsetter?)
Hutchison maintains networks across 12 markets in Europe and Asia and is appealing in particular to enterprise customers that want a multinational offering, as opposed to a more localized service.
That makes connected cars, as well as the broader transportation and logistics sectors, key targets for the new venture, but Hutchison is also eyeing opportunities in security and automation, where some of its local operations already play an IoT role.
Jarrod Nink, Hue's CEO, also notes the Hutchison group's involvement in other vertical markets where IoT is sparking interest, including energy, ports, property and retail.
The idea, however, is not just to serve Hutchison's existing enterprise customers but to bring new clients into the fold, and Hue can here draw on some of the experience it has gained as a so-called mobile virtual network enabler.
"One of the things we've learnt in the MVNO [mobile virtual network operator] space is that businesses, particularly in Europe and Asia, find it hard to do a country-by-country and network-by-network due diligence and exploration of potential business partnerships," Nink tells Light Reading. "Having a team that straddles both regions, understands regulatory and commercial issues and can put that together in a single global contract is very valuable."
Hue is certainly not going to have it easy, though. Specialists like KORE Wireless Group Inc. already offer global IoT connectivity services through wholesale arrangements with a multitude of network partners. Finnish equipment vendor Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) is also getting into the game, last month launching a managed services offering for customers that want to support IoT applications across numerous territories. (See Kore Knocks Nokia's 'World-First' IoT Network Claim and Nokia WINGs It With Global IoT Move.)
Nink says that Hue is working with other operator groups to extend its network footprint -- something that will be critical if it is to market a truly global proposition. But the scale and credibility of the Hutchison group -- "a $50 billion company," says Nink -- should certainly help to persuade many businesses that Hue is a worthy IoT partner.
The move also looks timely. As Nink points out, operators in more developed markets are switching off 2G networks and moving traffic onto 3G and 4G systems, which have always been the focus for Hutchison.
"The cost of IoT chipsets is coming down for 3G and 4G modules and we've seen globally the turning off of 2G networks, which plays into our global network strategy quite nicely," says Nink. "We've not done this historically -- we've not entered into legacy contracts and technologies -- and so we can focus on supporting new business models instead of worrying about legacy deals."
So what are the implications of Hue's latest move for Hutchison's future network strategy -- its interest in emerging IoT technologies like NB-IoT, say?
While Nink is certainly not giving away any details on that front just yet, he says the broader group is now doing "a lot of work" on network evolution and technologies that will support IoT applications.
A desire to keep its connectivity options open partly explains why Hue teamed up with Cisco. "We deliberately wanted to partner with someone whose platform straddles the different types of technologies -- both cellular and non-cellular," says Nink. "We can find business models on the networks we have today and networks we'll have in the future."
Hue says the Jasper-enabled IoT offering will become available for enterprise customers from mid-2017.
— Iain Morris, , News Editor, Light Reading