Internet of Things specialist Kore Wireless has slammed Nokia's claim to be first to market this month with a multinational connectivity service for enterprises in the Internet of Things business.
The Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) service, conveniently branded WING for "worldwide IoT network grid," brings together many of Nokia's managed service capabilities as well as an IoT software platform (called IMPACT) it launched last year. But the big selling point, according to Nokia, is the current lack of a global IoT operator. (See Nokia WINGs It With Global IoT Move.)
"There are US and European solutions but no one has put something in place that federates all this together as a service," said Phil Twist, the vice president of portfolio marketing at Nokia Networks , during a recent briefing with reporters in London.
That is simply not true, according to Alex Brisbourne, the CEO of KORE Wireless Group Inc. , who says that a number of alternative suppliers and options are available in the market today.
In comments emailed to Light Reading, Brisbourne says that both Tier 1 operators and dedicated IoT specialists such as Kore have been able to build alliances between different carriers to ensure they can provide "single point purchases."
The comments clearly raise a number of doubts about Nokia's WING service, which is arguably the most important of the various announcements the company has made in the run-up to this year's Mobile World Congress.
That's because WING is perhaps the best illustration of the way Nokia sees its business developing over the next few years.
Under a new strategy announced at its capital markets day last November, the company is to focus much of its effort on expansion into the enterprise sector. While this currently accounts for a tiny share of revenues, Nokia in future expects certain "adjacent" vertical markets to grow much more rapidly than its main addressable one of serving telcos. (See Nokia to Create Standalone Software Biz, Target New Verticals and Nokia: A Global Network Operator for the Enterprise?.)
It is also plotting much bigger things in the software business and increasingly talking about itself as a "service provider" in its own right -- a role it obviously wants to play in catering to new vertical market customers.
WING clearly ties all of these various elements together but may also highlight some of the risks inherent in Nokia's new strategy -- especially in light of Brisbourne's remarks.
The obvious concern is that, in trying to be a service provider for the enterprise, Nokia finds itself competing against some of its own telco customers also eyeing expansion in the enterprise market.
Nokia has so far played down any likelihood of conflict, arguing that WING offers a "worldwide extension" to what an operator might do in a particular country, and even represents an opportunity for operators "to extend outside their geographic remit."
Given Brisbourne's comments, though, it seems likely that some alliance-building operators providing "single point purchases" would see the WING service as a major rival -- an attempt by Nokia to fill the same kind of role they want to play.
This is clearly not the situation in which Nokia wants to find itself. Asked during its London briefing whether Nokia could end up in direct competition with telcos, Twist said: "I'd be surprised if we put ourselves in that position given that our bread and butter business of working with operators is not something we want to jeopardize."
Whatever the risks for Nokia, Brisbourne is not fazed by the Finnish vendor's move, believing it could fuel awareness of IoT, much like the arrival of Tier 1 carriers in the market did several years ago.
"They finally realized that it was something customers were looking for and they arrived in this relatively small pond with a big splash but in reality found it notably more difficult, complicated and quite frankly challenging from a technology and customer integration perspective than they first thought," he says. "Arguably companies like Kore have grown faster from the time that they came in."
As privately owned company, Kore does not break out details of sales performance but has expanded quickly through deals with operators and takeover activity.
Based in Alpharetta, Ga., Kore currently employs around 350 staff members and claims to serve enterprise customers in 110 countries. Its network partners include AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), T-Mobile US Inc. , Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), EE (part of the UK's BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA)), Telefónica , Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) and Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. (SingTel) (OTC: SGTJY), among others.
— Iain Morris, , News Editor, Light Reading