T-Mobile’s IoT strategy gets clearer with Twilio’s ‘Programmable Wireless’ launch

Cisco has launched a line of IoT access control, security and management tools (Image chombosan / iStockPhoto)
T-Mobile is one of a number of carriers pursuing the IoT. (chombosan/iStockPhoto)

Last week, Twilio announced the official launch of its “Programmable Wireless” service for developers targeting the internet of things. T-Mobile’s wireless network is powering the SIM-based IoT offering in the United States.

“Despite the hype surrounding the internet of things (IoT) over the last several years, IoT has been largely out of reach to developers because there has not been a developer-friendly connectivity provider,” Chetan Chaudhary, general manager of IoT at Twilio, said in a release. “Twilio Programmable Wireless makes connectivity accessible to millions of developers via Twilio’s platform, empowering them to begin experimenting with IoT. We can’t wait to see what they build.”

Founded in 2008 (and a winner of the FierceWireless Fierce 15 in 2014), Twilio’s platform for developers essentially provides one API (application programming interface) that mobile service and application developers can use to send messages and make calls across the globe. Today, more than 2 million developers around the world have used Twilio to access global carriers’ voice, text, chat and video services; companies including Netflix, Airbnb and eBay use the company’s services.

In 2016, Twilio announced it would expand its services into the IoT with its planned “Programmable Wireless” service, which the company at the time explained would pave the way for simple, straightforward IoT deployments by creating APIs and SIM cards, and usage-based pricing, that developers could deploy globally. Twilio said it would work with T-Mobile in the United States for the offering, and a variety of carriers across the world for global services.

The company said in 2016 that it would launch its IoT service by the end of that year; however, Twilio just last week announced the general availability of its “Programmable Wireless” service powered by T-Mobile in the United States. The company acknowledged that the offering has been in beta for a while now, but added that “there have been many customers experimenting and building, including iBeat, LimeBike and System One.”

Nonetheless, the launch of Twilio’s Programmable Wireless represents another element in T-Mobile’s IoT go-to-market strategy. The carrier has been refining its existing machine-to-machine, 2G business for years and in recent months has taken steps to bolster its IoT efforts with the launch of NB-IoT and, after that, LTE Cat-M network technologies. Both technologies are essentially derivatives of the LTE network standard designed to support slower-speed IoT services with better device battery life and better coverage than standard LTE services that are designed for smartphones.

Indeed, earlier this year T-Mobile launched what it said is the nation’s first narrowband-IoT service plan, offering users access to its NB-IoT offering for $6 a year for up to 12 MB per connected device. (However, Twilio doesn’t list NB-IoT among its network options.)

As for Twilio’s new Programmable Wireless service, the company is offering a pay-as-you go model, streamlined SIM purchasing and virtual private network services, among other offerings. The company bills per SIM starting at $3 and per MB on a quota plan; for example, the company wrote on its site that on its $10 Quota plan, U.S. data is 2¢ per MB and Mexico data is 5¢ per MB.

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