At CES earlier this month, cellular IoT service provider 1NCE launched 1NCE OS, a software platform that sits on top of its connectivity offer. It also launched a new software business unit.
The 1NCE OS gives customers full access to all the data that 1NCE sees – and it’s free to customers. According to 1NCE President and COO Ivo Rook, it’s intended to disrupt a lot of players, including those in the Software as a Service (SaaS) space.
Rook, who’s held senior IoT roles at Vodafone and Sprint, said there are two relevant data sets in IoT. One is the data that lives on the sensors that measure everything from humidity to air pressure. The other is the collective intelligence that comes from all those millions or billions of devices.
As a company with 10,000 customers managing more than 15 million connections, 1NCE has all that data and – “why should I hold it back to monetize? We said: We’re hungry, but we’re not greedy. We want all these developers to use and see what we see,” he told Fierce.
One of 1NCE’s core principles is that customer data isn’t to be monetized and used to sell additional services. Instead, its mission is to be transparent about turning data into tools that are included in the global lifetime of that data.
1NCE’s claim to fame, so to speak, is its ability to connect a sensor for $1 a year per device, or $10 for 10 years. Before 1NCE came on the scene, the average price for the same service was $2 a month, or $24/year, he said.
One of the ways 1NCE is able to make that kind of offer is the way its business is structured. Rather than negotiate with hundreds of operators all over the world, its approach was to ink deals with operators that have tremendous reach themselves. INCE investors include Deutsche Telekom (DT) and SoftBank.
1NCE gave the operators an equity ownership in the company in exchange for access to their footprints. T-Mobile US has invested through parent company DT and 1NCE has a partnership agreement with them, Rook said, without going into details.
The majority of IoT projects require multinational deployments. “We don’t have any customers that use our service in a single country,” he said.
Cellular operators & IoT
There was a lot of talk about operators’ LTE-M and Narrowband IoT networks a few years ago. Nowadays, they rarely mention those technologies, while organizations like GSMA talk up the “massive IoT” opportunities that are part of the 5G standard.
According to Rook, who splits his time between Cologne, Germany, and Miami, part of the problem for operators is their networks are built first and foremost for phones. IoT devices are more of an afterthought; they’re tiny and contribute pennies to ARPU. Operators have roaming deals, but their home territory advantage is meaningless when more than 70% of IoT deployments are international.
1NCE went operational in 2018, and it’s growing exponentially. It uses Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud technology to provide connectivity to its customers worldwide. In the U.S., 1NCE’s biggest rivals are Verizon and AT&T; elsewhere, it’s Vodafone.
Whereas the tech industry is seeing a lot of layoffs, 1NCE is on the receiving end of people looking for new gigs. “We’ve picked up a lot of very good talent,” Rook said, growing to 300 employees, up from fewer than 100 about 14 months ago.
Bits and bytes
Rook shared some thoughts on a few other things, including Dish’s disruptive behavior in the U.S. and similarity to 1NCE’s strategy, rivals such as the Danish firm Onomondo and the role of non-cellular IoT technologies like LoraWAN.
- “I like Dish,” he said. “I have a lot of professional respect for what Dish is doing and I hope they succeed in a grand way because what they’re trying to show the world … is that operators are overemphasizing the complexity of running networks,” he said.
- 1NCE’s approach is different than that of Onomondo, which last year announced a new kind of SIM aimed at the IoT space and tied to the cloud. “I want them to succeed because we, too, are trying to remove the physical SIM out of the equation,” he said.
- The reaction of the cellular industry to IoT was to launch separate networks for IoT, such as Narrowband IoT and LTE-M. They did this in large part to fend off the non-cellular competitors like LoRaWAN, which they saw as a threat to their own IoT businesses. He said LoRaWAN deserves a lot of respect. “LoRaWAN is to IoT what Wi-Fi is to a phone and I don’t think a phone would be very efficient without Wi-Fi,” he said. “I don’t think operators would be selling as many smartphones if there weren’t any Wi-Fi.” Going forward, IoT is basically embedded as a sub-protocol in 5G. Anybody with a 5G network will support IoT, so it won’t be a separate function in quite the same way anymore.
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