IoT Strategies

T-Mobile Woos IoT Switchers With 4G Discount

In anticipation of a number of 2G networks launching in the US dedicated to the Internet of Things (IoT), T-Mobile is launching a program to help smoothly migrate its last remaining machine-to-machine (M2M) customers to 4G -- and it's offering access to its LTE network at a lower cost than 2G to entice them to stick around.

The carrier announced an "LTE for IoT" technology upgrade program, managed by M2M enabler Numerex, this week at CTIA. The program will help those companies using its 2G network for low-cost, low-power, non-cellular connectivity to migrate to its LTE network before the sun sets on its 2G EDGE network. Numerex says it includes support for modules, devices, platform, network and professional services.

There are a number of M2M devices that will only ever need a 2G network. For those companies that don't want the expense of 4G nor need its speeds and bandwidth, they have the option of waiting for LTE-Machine to be standardized, which will take a few years, or looking for an alternative network. They have several choices on that front as well, as Sigfox is building out a network in the US, and Ingenu, formerly On-Ramp, announced its doing the same this week at CTIA. (See Ingenu Launches the US's Newest IoT Network and Huawei Advances LTE-M for IoT in China.)

For more on the IoT and M2M, visit the dedicated IoT content section here on Light Reading.

In order to entice companies to stick around, T-Mobile US Inc. will be offering them LTE network access for less than they're paying for 2G, according to a Numerex spokesperson. The price of 4G LTE modules is markedly more expensive than 2G modules, however, but Numerex says financing will be available. (See Verizon Pushes 4G LTE for M2M .)

"T-Mobile is working with Numerex to help companies find the optimum migration path to meet a company's specific needs and are committed to offering highly attractive pricing options," a Numerex spokesperson says. "Pricing will be dependent on the module manufacturer, LTE bandwidth options selected and network access."

It is unclear how many 2G IoT customers T-Mobile has left at this point, but it likely isn't many. Numerex CEO Marc Zionts said in the release that "there are still thousands of IoT deployments across the country that rely on 2G network service."

T-Mobile has said in the past that it will completely refarm its 2G EDGE network for LTE by the middle of 2015, but save some spectrum for its M2M customers. Its partnership with Numerex is a last-ditch effort to get them to upgrade rather than be stranded without service as many were when it shut down MetroPCS's CMDA network. (See T-Mobile Sunsets Last of MetroPCS's CDMA and T-Mobile Repurposes 2G to Get an LTE Edge.)

[Update: A T-Mobile spokesman has let us know that T-Mobile's mid-2015 deadline for its 2G EDGE network was referring to adding LTE to 2G sites, not replacing. The carrier plans to continue to keep supporting 2G for now and isn't giving a new deadline for sunsetting 2G. He says T-Mobile has 4.5 million total IoT customers, but doesn't break out what network they are using.]

— Sarah Thomas, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading

mhhf1ve 10/9/2015 | 8:04:16 PM
Re: T-Mobile's EDGE Nice find, there, T-Mo isn't shy about calling out its (former) partners. I kinda wonder, tho, if MSFT just isn't producing its new Lumia at a scale that requires any other carrier beyond AT&T... There's overhead in distribution of the Lumia that MSFT probably wants to minimize.
MikeP688 10/9/2015 | 6:21:42 PM
Re: T-Mobile's EDGE As I was "making the virtual rounds", the comment on "race to the bottom" peaked my interest.  I am not sure whether T-Mobile gunning for MSFT about the Windows Phone is in that vain, but it was an eye catcher nontheless: 


He's pulling no punches...that's for sure


Phil_Britt 9/11/2015 | 10:24:30 PM
Re: T-Mobile's EDGE You're right about a race to the bottom -- that's how many new services start out until the powers that be get a better handle on the actual expense of customer acquisition, retention and service compared to actual (rather than perceived) revenue and profits.
danielcawrey 9/11/2015 | 7:14:53 PM
Re: T-Mobile's EDGE All the carriers are going to be competing in the lucrative IoT market, with the idea of long term scale generating a ton of revenue. 

For the time being, however, I see this race as one of cost. So for now a race to the bottom is what I would envision until IoT really starts to take off. 
Sarah Thomas 9/11/2015 | 3:11:17 PM
Re: T-Mobile's EDGE T-Mobile now says they were never going to refarm 2G, but rather just add LTE to those EDGE sites. I've updated the story with comments from a spokesman.
Sarah Thomas 9/11/2015 | 1:27:33 PM
T-Mobile's EDGE I've checked in with T-Mobile and Numerex about where T-Mobile is at with its 2G network shutdown and how many IoT customers it has left, and I'll report back. It should be nearly done with its refarming, so I see this as a last-ditch effort to retain customers in the face of new competition. 
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