Sprint: Quietly Advancing IoT

Ivo Rook writes, “178 customers have signed Curiosity IoT contracts, our order book has reached a billion dollars and more than 10 million connections will go to deployment. Our customers are telling us one thing: they want more and they want it across the world…. so here we come to Europe. We are proud to partner with some of the most reputed and innovative European operators. Telia and Swisscom will enable us to deploy Curiosity in their markets and likewise we allow them to serve their customers in the USA. Who says global Telcom is complex? Global IoT with local profiles, it can be done. It should be done, and we are doing it!”

T-Mobile has wisely held on to many excellent Sprint employees, including Rook and CTO John Saw. Sprint’s network was the worst in the U.S. because the company wasn’t investing. The engineering team did a remarkable job with few resources. Saw’s 5G mid-band network was the most capable 5G network in the U.S. and is the heart of what T-Mobile is expanding.

Telco IoT has been lots of talk and remarkably little action. Giant NTT DOCOMO actually ended its NB-IoT effort for lack of customers. Everything’s being connected, even our tree lights. (“Alexa, turn on tree lights.) But unless it needs remote connections, the logical way to connect is local Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.

The only exception to the telco failure so far is China Mobile, which is approaching a billion IoT nodes. That’s something like 40 times more than anyone else.

They have a massive program that developed all the tools and provides strong support. A customer can purchase a complete turnkey package or build its own system taking advantage of a well-documented API. China Mobile prices incredibly low and can support the millions of rented bicycles that clog Chinese sidewalks.

Telus CTO Ibrahim Gedeon told an industry audience they have to be able to make money on IoT even if the price falls to a penny a megabit. The carrier not merely faces competition from other carriers but also from free Wi-Fi, which usually can do a similar job.

Wi-Fi isn’t sufficient for an ambulance in motion, of course, which will want to be able to have a server turn lights green along its path. Many applications, especially automotive, are developing.

There’s a myth prevalent that IoT requires 5G. 5G IoT is almost identical to 4G IoT, which would be sufficient for many years. The head of DT’s IoT program said one of his biggest problems was customers who believed they would have to wait until 5G. He pointed out that 95% or more of IoT applications can be served by 4G.

The only major advantage of 5G IoT is that it can address one million devices in a local area. That may be necessary one day, perhaps as people are tracked with a chip in their shoulders. The military is envisioning an IoT tag on every bullet.

So far, I haven’t seen any application that needs a million local connections.

Improvements welcome