Sprint takes aim at AT&T with new global SIM and M2M management service

Sprint (NYSE: S) is seeking to chip away at AT&T Mobility's (NYSE: T) position as the leading U.S. carrier providing M2M solutions by expanding the reach of its own portal for letting customers manage connected devices.

Sprint is launching "Command Center 2.0," and is bringing the portal to customers in more than 200 countries and territories. Sprint first launched its Command Center solution nearly four years ago to let customers control provisioning, billing, management and solution and application development of their M2M devices.

The new solution will offer Sprint's M2M customers a global SIM card that can support GSM and UMTS (LTE support will be coming later this year). Sprint's M2M solutions also support 1xRTT, EV-DO and CDMA as a separate module not on the SIM but that can also be managed by Command Center 2.0. The carrier also plans to later support devices running other protocols, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Zigbee, but that's not part of the Command Center solution right now. 

Sprint said Command Center 2.0 enables one-touch bulk provisioning of thousands of devices. The platform will also give customers the ability to dynamically change rate plans and data services for M2M devices, alerting customers when certain devices are producing data beyond a certain threshold and letting customers stop the data transmissions. The platform will also have enhanced reporting capabilities so that customers can see how devices are communicating with each other and with local routers. Customers can also manage devices based on the time of day, geography and other factors.

"We have listened to our customers who wanted to enhance the capability set" of Command Center, said Mohamad Nasser, senior director of product, platforms and marketing for Sprint's Emerging Solutions organization.

In an interview with FierceWireless, Nasser said that the platform is designed for a wide array of M2M customers, from fleet and asset management providers to healthcare and transportation companies. "Command Center does not preclude you from entering any of the M2M verticals you would like," he said.

SoftBank, Sprint's parent company, not only supports the Command Center 2.0's global rollout but is also working with Sprint to use certain components of the center for its own customers around the world. "They are a global company," Nasser said, "They're part of a lot of the global alliances."

Other early customers of Command Center 2.0 listed by Sprint include Tollgrade Communications, a smart grid solutions provider; SecureNet, which provides smart home automation services like video monitoring, energy management and interactive alarm control; and Spedshield, an Australia-based forklift and industrial vehicle safety company.

Despite the global expansion, Sprint will need to work hard to catch up to AT&T, which has provided a global SIM for its M2M customers since late 2012. Nasser said Sprint has more than 6.2 million connected devices on its network, though it does not break out M2M revenue as a separate category. AT&T just revealed yesterday that it has more than 20 million connected devices on its network.

Nasser acknowledged that AT&T does have a lead in providing a global SIM for M2M connectivity. However, he noted that AT&T is shutting down is 2G network by 2017, and claimed Sprint's solutions are more comprehensive for M2M management.  "We feel we have a Toyota and they have a Yugo," he said.

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Correction, April 23, 2015: This article incorrectly stated that Sprint's global SIM card for M2M supports 1xRTT and CMDA; it only supports GSM and UMTS connectivity, with support for LTE coming later this year.. 1xRTT, EV-DO and CDMA technologies are supported as a separate module not on the SIM but can also be managed by Command Center 2.0. The article also incorrectly stated that Sprint's Command Center supports Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Zigbee; those protocols will eventually be supported by are not supported right now.