There will soon be another option for low-power, wide-area (LPWA) Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity in the US as On-Ramp Wireless announced Wednesday it is building its own Machine Network under its new name, Ingenu.
The company, led by former Raco Wireless CEO John Horn, is building what it's billing as the world's largest IoT network dedicated to connectivity for machines. If that sounds familiar, it's because others like Sigfox have also made similar claims to much fanfare. In fact, LPWA is already emerging as a dominant theme at this week's CTIA show in Las Vegas.
But Ingenu is approaching the market with a unique technology and an impressive pedigree. It is using a proprietary protocol called RPMA, or Random Phase Multiple Access (RPMA), and 2.4GHz spectrum to build out a nationwide public IoT network in the US.
The company already has 50,000 square miles built out in the US today, primarily in Phoenix and Dallas, and plans to complete the network by the end of 2017. Horn says it should have major chunks of Arizona and Texas, where it already operates private networks, built on RPMA by the end of the year.
Ingenu, formerly On-Ramp, already has 35 private networks up and running across the world, powering machine-to-machine (M2M) communications for verticals like municipalities, utilities, oil and gas.
It also has the brainpower: Horn was formerly the CEO of IoT MVNO Raco Wireless, which powered M2M devices for operators such as T-Mobile US Inc. and industries across the globe. He joined On-Ramp when Raco was acquired by KORE Wireless Group Inc. at the end of last year. (See KORE, RacoWireless Become IoT Powerhouse.)
With the relaunch today, Ingenu also announced that Tom Gregor has joined as president and general manager, Landon Garner as chief marketing officer and James Seines as vice president of finance. The company's board of directors includes Richard Lynch, former CTO of Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) as chairman of the board, as well as Ivan Seidenberg, former CEO of Verizon Communications, and Dr. Andrew Viterbi, former Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) CTO and one of the inventors of the CDMA chipset, as board advisors.
The recent rise of dedicated M2M networks, such as those Ingenu and SigFox are building, comes as the industry anticipates an explosion in the number of IoT devices connecting to the network, with wireless operators planning to sunset their 2G networks in order to refarm the spectrum for LTE. While some apps like connected cars require 4G LTE connectivity, the majority of M2M and IoT connections need only low-latency, low data rate 2G networks.
What's more, these devices require long battery lives, low costs to handle the volume of connections and guarantees of ten to 20 years of service. These are requirements wireless operators can't necessarily promise to meet.
"We bring technology that we own, the IP, everything in the communications layer and device layer," Horn says. "No one can sunset us out or end of life us out. We can give ten to 20 year network guarantees that this network will be there."
Horn claims Ingenu can cover 100 square miles with only one cell tower while a typical operator would have ten to 30 towers in the same footprint. Ingenu cannot support high-speed data or voice, but that's the point. "The vast majority of machines that use sub-1 Mbit of data will live well in this network and with what we do," he says.
Horn refers to Ingenu as T-Mobile/Raco 2.0, although he might find his new company in competition for some of the same customers that Raco served. Ingenu is targeting all verticals, and Horn says it could support all but a handful of Raco's 1,600 or so customers. Those like Audi, Raco's biggest customer, wouldn't make sense for Ingenu, although Horn says it might want to opt for a dual-module that includes Ingenu RPMA alongside the LTE to future proof it.
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