Cloud platform Twilio is getting into the narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT) space by creating a developer platform for T-Mobile’s NB-IoT network. The platform, which Twilio claims is the first NB-IoT developer platform in the U.S., is intended to help developers quickly make IoT products.
The Twilio Narrowband platform includes a NB-IoT software development kit (SDK), NB-IoT modules from u-blox that are certified on T-Mobile’s network, and programmable SIM cards.
The Twilio programmable SIM cards are part of the company’s wireless program it launched two years ago with T-Mobile. That program provides developers with software that can remotely activate SIM cards and control data usage and bandwidth limits. It also includes a command API that provides machine-to-machine connectivity even in areas without data coverage.
The Twilio SDK, which is also called Breakout SDK, handles tasks such as network registration and optimizes communication between the device and cloud services. Twilio’s NB-IoT platform will be available in early 2019.
But Twilio isn’t the only platform intended to support T-Mobile’s NB-IoT network. When the operator launched its NB-IoT network in July it also debuted a partner program called Connect. That program is open to software and hardware developers and will give them the chance to collaborate on products and services and also certify their devices on the NB-IoT network.
Analysys Mason estimates the NB-IoT market could exceed 3 billion connections by 2026, and will be used for applications in consumer electronics, utilities, agriculture, smart cities, and other vertical markets.
T-Mobile launched its NB-IoT network nationwide in July, using equipment from Ericsson, Nokia, and Qualcomm. It’s the first nationwide NB-IoT network in the U.S. Verizon has said it will launch a NB-IoT network this year and AT&T has said it will launch NB-IoT in 2019. Both AT&T and Verizon have nationwide LTE-M IoT networks. Sprint, meanwhile, is in the midst of building a nationwide LTE-M network that it says will be available this year.
LTE-M technology is part of the 3GPP standard and uses licensed spectrum. NB-IoT technology is also a 3GPP standards-based technology, but it coexists with 3G and 4G cellular networks and doesn’t share the spectrum resources. Instead, it operates outside the LTE network. Some analysts believe this gives NB-IoT an advantage because it does not use capacity from the existing LTE network. However, NB-IoT speeds are about one-third of that of LTE-M.
Nearly all operators have some type of support programs in place to encourage collaboration around IoT and provide developers with toolkits to develop products. AT&T has an IoT marketplace where developers can build their own IoT solutions, and Sprint has its IoT Factory, which is an online market where businesses can get ready-made IoT solutions.