Sprint is in the midst of revamping its IoT business. The company is taking advantage of its current 5G network overhaul to deploy a nationwide LTE-M network that it plans to have complete by year-end. In addition, it’s architecting a virtualized core network and building a distributed edge network that will help it handle the millions of IoT devices that could ride on its network.
The majority of Sprint’s IoT customers use the company’s CDMA 3G network, which is challenging because there aren’t a lot of module companies willing to make CDMA modules for Sprint’s 1900 MHz and 800 MHz spectrum bands.
Earlier this year Sprint announced that it was increasing its capex budget to build a nationwide 5G network that it will launch in the first half of 2019 using the company’s 2.5 GHz spectrum. In an interview with Ricky Singh, chief of products and solutions, IoT at Sprint, he said that because the company is touching its towers to prepare for 5G, it is also adding LTE-M. “We were able to capture the synergies of some of the other things that are going on at Sprint,” he said.
A big factor behind Sprint’s renewed IoT push is the leadership of Ivo Rook, who joined Sprint as SVP of IoT in December. Rook is also a strategic advisor to Sprint and its parent company SoftBank. Rook spent seven years at Vodafone where he most recently was CEO of Vodafone’s IoT business. Vodafone’s IoT group generates $1 billion in revenue and connects more than 50 million devices.
Rook’s vision is to create a network-agnostic IoT platform that will incorporate Sprint’s LTE-M network, WiFi, satellite from OneWeb (which like Sprint has a significant investment from SoftBank).
To that end, Sprint is working on an operating system that will allow customers to manage IoT devices across all those various networks. Singh said that the operating system coupled with a global SIM strategy will give Sprint’s IoT customers a global profile. The operating system is supposed to be available in fourth quarter.
A few weeks ago, Sprint debuted its IoT Factory, which it describes as an online marketplace where businesses can get ready-made IoT solutions they can then deploy quickly. Singh said there is nothing currently available for small businesses that want to deploy an IoT solution but don’t have a lot of technical skills. “Small businesses and enterprises haven’t seen this level of simplicity,” Singh said. “Companies don’t want more technology.”
He added that the IoT Factory lets a small business pick its sensors, gateways, and other building blocks. It is packed and sent to them. Sprint’s network provides the data backhaul.
Singh said that more than 500,000 developers have already accessed the IoT Factory, and those developers can then sell their IoT solutions through the factory in case other similar types of businesses want to use it.