AT&T, Verizon and other US carriers take aim at the IoT opportunity

In late October 2015 a work colleague shared an online article with me. You see, I am born of Over the Top (OTT) ‘stock’ while my colleague is of tradition telecoms parentage. With a sly grin he passed the article on believing it would be hard for me to read, as it represents the big US four as leaders in cellular IoT. What sense did a born disrupter make of it?

To steal a vernacular from Hollywood, the last few years have seen technological and architectural development leading to a ‘Perfect Opportunity Storm’ around the Internet of Things (IoT). This coalesce of opportunity, perhaps the biggest for decades to come, sees the Big Four US Carriers rallying around new architectural paradigms and software enabled networks to harvest ‘economies of data’ which will enable them to move beyond what they are today, being service providers, to become ‘platform as a layer’ providers where they will permeate all industries for everything.

So what can IoT offer the Big Four US Carriers? IoT sees connected devices, for personal and industrial uses, provide information concerning its principle function into the Business System Management Layer, often in the cloud, where the information merges with a plethora of other information, (Big Data) to provide meaningful input into the Enterprise Applications, for the purpose of improving overall business performance and decision making. This resource, and the MNO’s ability to create, manage, mine and value add to this resource places AT&T, Verizon et al. in a prestigious position in respect of understanding the desires, wants and needs of industry, the customer, and other stakeholders, and empowers them to develop and deploy new services, just in time, with the required bandwidth, orchestration and management.

The leader of the big four is AT&T Mobility. Industrial use of connected devices leads the consumer side with AT&T Mobility, at late October 2015, having more than 23 Million connected devices and IoT agreements with 136 companies across many verticals. The potential lead of Industrial IoT over its poorer cousin, consumer IoT, may be due to the natural maturation of M2M connections to that of Industrial IoT. The role out of AT&T’s global SIM card see the company enjoy a true global footprint without a physical network presence around the world.

AT&T’s consumer offering is a little less developed but perhaps has the greatest potential for growth. The carrier has very wisely used carrier bundling to promote early consumer IoT to its customers. Notwithstanding, both segments promise huge potential with AT&T’s interest lying in many verticals around smarter connected cities, logistics and consumer devices.

AT&T have a very inclusive approach to IoT. AT&T realise the IoT opportunity is greater than connectivity services alone. The realisation that value can be glean from IoT transactions not over their propriety network enables AT&T to offer IoT management middleware platform, acting as a Platform as a Service, (PaaS) and abstracted IoT solutions layer via API. Notwithstanding connectivity, both the management layer and solutions layer will offer value for other connected pipes to connect to and glean value from the abstracted software layers.

Following up AT&T is Verizon with over 15 million IoT connected SIMs. Verizon is set to expand its push into all things IoT with the release of its IoT vision on 28 October 2015 in San Francisco. Although Verizon also recognise the opportunity around offering abstracted software management and solutions layer services they appear to be concentrating, in the shorter term, to offering an LTE flavoured connectivity option for connectivity services.

T-Mobile, as third sized carrier in the US, is taking a wait and see approach. Although wanting to learn from other’s mistakes they have put a figurative “toe in the IoT water” and know they will need to get completely wet soon so as not to miss out on new service innovation that IoT promises to bring.

Finally, Sprint as the last of the big Four, have taken the approach of “the early bird catches the worm” focusing both on consumer and Industrial IoT. They have invested in smart logistics and smart city technologies and through partnerships with start-ups have developed new IoT based solutions.

The US big four (4) have learned the lessons from the OTT disrupters. Collaboration, corroboration, and standardisation and now concepts they are interested in exploring, while only a decade ago if something was not developed ‘in house’ it was considered inferior and not worthy of consideration. It is because of maturation and flattening of architectures, technological convergence, ubiquitous connectivity and openness that evolution has occurred. Arguably, this is why the Big 4 US carriers are conscience, cognitive and aware of the great opportunity that’s awaits in the form of IoT for everything. The smart money may be on the most progressive of the Carriers opening their IoT platforms to developers to see developers and other service provider’s speciate new services from the exiting value.

There is no doubt IoT is here to stay and the big Four US carriers plan on being a very integral part of all that IoT promises to be. They have learned they cannot do it alone and just as David conquered Goliath they have lost the arrogance of too big to fail and appear to be engaged in a healthier attitude of contributing and sharing, even with contributing minnow’s. They will not have the market to themselves and seem aware of the dangers an intuitive and nibble “David” poses however they seem to have remained sober, in the light of the considerable opportunity, and perhaps the sheer size of the addressable market in software abstracted services and connectivity is responsible for this wisdom. Only time will tell.

About the Author: I am an experienced Over the Top (OTT) Software as a Service (SaaS) entrepreneur and innovator having co-founded a start-up in voice, messaging and communications in 2006 and operated and established software development offices in China, Serbia and Spain. Building a communications platform I developed expertise over mobile platforms, app development, and web development, both front and back end. Please contact me at: reidpeter@outlook.com if you would like to discuss technical writing or employment, both consulting and full time employment.

Reference made to article by Jeff Hawn written on October 8, 2015 at: http://www.rcrwireless.com/20151008/internet-of-things/iot-for-carriers-att-verizon-lead-the-pack-tag15