Chi Onwurah MP called on the Government to do more to ensure the UK benefits from the future trillion pound market in machine to machine communications yesterday (Wednesday 8th June 2011).
The first time that the issue of machine to machine (M2M) communications has been raised in Parliament, Ms Onwurah said:
“I see the internet of things as helping take the dull and the difficult out of our lives so we can get on with what we human beings do best.
But the question for this debate is – is this Government doing all it can to ensure the UK economy benefits from this trillion pound market of the future?
And particularly, why are we not seeing spectrum made available – as was recently done in the US – so UK companies can get on with the job of innovating in this hugely important area and making sure we reap the rewards?
I hope the minister will set out how he will ensure the UK benefits from machine to machine communications because right now we risk being left behind.”
M2M will enable what is called the internet of ‘things’ where machines, as well as people, connect to each other. Ericsson estimates that by 2020 there will be 50 billion ‘things’ connected to the internet. Other analysts put the ultimate figure for connected devices in the trillions.
M2M technology is currently employed in a wide variety of roles, from contactless payment and oyster cards, to smart meters and automatic braking in cars. New applications are constantly being developed but UK businesses need access to spectrum if they are to compete in this market.
Ms Onwurah questioned Ed Vaizey, the Minister responsible for the internet and spectrum, as to why the UK has not made radio spectrum available on a licence-free basis – as was recently done in the US. This could stop UK companies from innovating in a high growth area.
“The minister may claim that neither he nor Ofcom should intervene to support particular technologies.
I would argue that this is not one technology but a vast range of markets and that the purchase of spectrum is a huge barrier to entry by small innovative companies.”
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, responding as the Minister responsible for spectrum, admitted that the government had yet to make an assessment of the potential value of M2M communications to the UK economy. He acknowledged the importance of spectrum for business and innovation but could not say if and when the M2M spectrum would be made available due to the need to harmonise spectrum bands with other countries in Europe, and encouraged businesses to make their needs known to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.