T-Mobile's Back in the M2M Business

ST. CHARLES, Ill. -- This time last year, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s takeover of T-Mobile US Inc. looked like a sure thing, and the carrier saw the majority of its machine-to-machine (M2M) team move to longtime partner and aggregator RacoWireless . (See T-Mobile Outsources Its M2M Strategy.)

Fast-forward a year, and the merger is dead, while connected devices continue to boom. Now, T-Mobile wants its customers and competitors to know it's back in the game. The carrier's new VP of wholesale, Jeremy Korst, has been leading the M2M and MVNO business since the end of April. LR Mobile caught up with him at Connected World's conference outside of Chicago Tuesday to hear what the carrier is up to in the space.

His message was that T-Mobile never left the M2M space; it just lost its voice. Now the carrier plans to up its game, but it's still focused on driving growth through partnerships with Raco, Wyless PLC , Jazz and others. Even while it refarms much of its 2G network, as its competitors are doing, T-Mobile is aggressively pursuing new customers to use what's left of it.

Korst said he's heard from partners and potential customers that the other wireless operators are pushing unnecessary upgrades and trying to migrate their customers to LTE even though the 4G network may be overkill. It, instead, sees 2G as suitable for most of its customers' needs and wants to get them up and running on the network as quick as possible. (See Does 4G Have a Role in M2M?)

"Looking at the radio costs in switching from 2G to 3G, costs are four to 10 times that [for 4G modules]," Korst said. "It's a real cost. If the use case doesn’t demand it, why force those costs on the ecosystem?"

Perhaps the biggest difference between T-Mobile and its competitors, however, is that T-Mobile only wants to be the network provider, the dumb pipe that powers the partner-branded application. So, don't expect to see a branded T-Mobile connected home offering akin to AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s recently launched service anytime soon, Korst said. (See Photos: AT&T's Digital Housewarming, Verizon Spends $612M for a Future in Cars and Wireless Chiefs Talk up M2M.)

"We'll amplify and support the partner's business," he added. "Raco is providing the end-to-end solution like logistics and customer support and the physical product."

Put another way, Korst said that T-Mobile is interested in the large, capital-intensive deployments -- companies, whatever size they may be, doing huge deployments that require "one throat to choke." Its partners -- Raco, Wyless and others -- would handle the smaller deployments.

For example, Audi is a direct customer of T-Mobile, but Raco supports the deployment. Others, like OnAsset Intelligence, are direct with Raco, but on the T-Mobile network. It can be a confusing dynamic, but T-Mobile is also planning to hire 1,000 business sales professionals to help explain and simplify the various roles. (See M2M Goes Cross-Border.)

"Quick time to market and low cost will help us propel the space versus a carrier controlling the market," he said. "We're focused on the network."

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

joanengebretson 12/5/2012 | 5:30:10 PM
re: T-Mobile's Back in the M2M Business

2G-based m2m could be a smart strategy for T-Mobile. They're right on target in saying most m2m applications don't need 3G or faster -- and there's a lot of m2m equipment on the market that uses 2G.

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