An annual benchmark of IoT capabilities has shown that Vodafone has maintained its position as the leading operator in the field, but that strategies are starting to diversify.

Machina Research ranks operators for their ability to take advantage of the global IoT market opportunity, which last month it forecast to hit $3 trillion in 2025.

Vodafone leads the field ahead of AT&T, Verizon, Deutsche Telekom, Sprint/Softbank, Telefonica, Orange and Telenor.

The research firm said all of the operators continue to look at ways to move up the value chain and sell more than just connectivity.

This requires them to offer solutions that are "end-to-end" and come up with services such as security, analytics, data storage and brokerage, business consulting and systems integration.

As operators invest heavily in their IoT businesses to achieve this goal and chase revenues, three distinct strategies are emerging.

Some, like Verizon, are focusing on offerings through verticals, while others, such as Tele2, major on horizontal connectivity and associated services.

Some smaller operators, meanwhile, are "surrendering" control over their IoT roadmaps to a third party, such as another operator or an MVNO.

Machina Research's Godfrey Chua said: "[Operators] are investing billions into technology and capabilities that enable them to take sales conversations beyond connectivity into discussions that focus on solutions that solve customer business problems.

"Global leaders like Vodafone, AT&T and other top tier global players are doing this and as a consequence starting to capture a greater portion of the IoT opportunity.

"They are certainly early in this journey, however the potential is huge and can mean as much as ten-times greater revenue capture in IoT than what connectivity alone would deliver.

"What will be critical for operators to consider is finding that right balance between vertical and horizontal approaches, as well as the key areas, be it a specific vertical or service segment, to focus their finite resources on.

"At the end of the day, one-size does not fit all when it comes to [operator] strategy in IoT.

"Market conditions, geographic scope and scale of operations, and investment and risk appetite are among the key factors CSPs should take into consideration."

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