The Internet of Things (IoT) continues to rise up the agenda for service providers globally. A future in which billions of objects need to be connected clearly represents a huge opportunity for existing telcos and new entrants alike. But which companies appear to be doing something truly groundbreaking in this area?
Our shortlist for Most Innnovative IoT/M2M Strategy comprises four companies targeting the IoT opportunity in markedly different ways. Details of each player and the strategy it is pursuing are provided below. Winners are to be announced at the Leading Lights Awards dinner on Monday, May 23, at the Hotel Ella in Austin, Texas. For more details about that, see this Leading Lights 2016 Awards page. The following day, the Big Communications Event 2016 opens it doors for two days of networking and learning.
In alphabetical order, the finalists for the Most Innovative IoT/M2M Strategy award are as follows:
As one of the two biggest telcos in the US, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) needs little introduction, but its smart cities framework is a very recent innovation aimed at supporting the operator's IoT ambitions. Unveiled in January, the framework seeks to provide a blueprint for the rollout of smart city services, and covers the "four pillars" of secure connectivity, technology, vertically integrated solutions and strategic alliances.
What makes all of this unique, says AT&T, is the support the framework has attracted from big hitters including Cisco Systems, Deloitte Development, Ericsson, General Electric, IBM, Intel and Qualcomm. So-called "spotlight" cities and universities backing the innovation include Atlanta, the Georgia Institute of Technology, Chicago and Dallas.
AT&T has already taken some bold strides in IoT and now hopes to provide a spur in the smart cities area by helping companies from different parts of the value chain to collaborate more effectively. Given the sheer might of AT&T and its partners, and plaudits for the initiative from public-sector figures in some of the biggest US cities, this project deserves some serious attention.
- AT&T to Test 4G Specs for Unwiring IoT
- AT&T: Virtualized Mobile Core Key to 5G
- US Giants Carve Out Role in the Industrial IoT
Starting out its life as On-Ramp Wireless in 2008, Ingenu has undergone something of a transformation since current CEO John Horn joined the business in July last year. Besides the rebranding (to mean "simply genius," says Horn), the company has shifted its focus from private network deployments to much bigger public systems requiring low-power, wide-area (LPWA) capabilities.
Ingenu's random phase multiple access (RPMA) technology uses 2.4GHz spectrum, which (in principle) means the same devices can be used anywhere in the world, and appears to have been attracting a lot of interest from licensees. While the details of most agreements still remain confidential, Ingenu now claims to have partners in more than 50 countries. It is also building a network in the US it will operate itself.
No doubt, Ingenu faces tough competition in this market from other LPWA rivals (and, in future, standards like NB-IoT), but it has become a player worth watching in a relatively short amount of time.
- How IoT Forked the Mobile Roadmap
- Ingenu Races Sigfox for US IoT Network Firsts
- Ingenu Launches the US's Newest IoT Network
Once upon a time, there were three US-based managed services providers targeting opportunities in IoT and M2M: KORE Wireless Group Inc. , Raco Wireless and Wyless. That was before Kore snapped up Raco Wireless, the company formerly run by Ingenu's John Horn, in late 2014, and then followed that move up in March this year with a takeover of Wyless. It is for the latter bit of M&A that Kore makes it on to our shortlist.
At the time, the deal was praised by analysts covering the sector as one that would give Kore far more scale than it previously enjoyed. Together, Kore and Wyless have about 3,000 enterprise customers and serve about 6 million connections. Importantly, the combined company has a range of IoT capabilities besides being able to provide connectivity (which it does through agreements with network operators), including plenty of software expertise and data-center assets in Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America.
- KORE, RacoWireless Become IoT Powerhouse
- Raco Aims to Eliminate Need for IoT Standards
- RACO Uses M&A to Beef Up Its M2M Play
Dark fiber provider ZenFi might not be the most obvious candidate for an IoT award, but the network operator believes its access infrastructure has a crucial role to play in this market.
ZenFi's New York dark fiber network is aimed chiefly at supporting small cell deployments, which look set to be critical for a number of IoT applications. ZenFi claims the network it is building is much denser, in terms of fiber access points, than other infrastructure. Colocation spots in neighborhoods are designed to function like mini data centers, processing data and content. Essentially, by pushing capacity and computing capabilities to the network edge, ZenFi believes it is creating an environment in which many IoT applications can flourish.
The company's four-year plan is to cover about 70% of intersections in Manhattan. That should tickle the interest of IoT players in one of the world's biggest cities, and it's earned ZenFi a place on our shortlist.
— Iain Morris, , News Editor, Light Reading