Sprint says it is testing narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) technology and will deploy it if the company sees enough customer demand. According to Ivo Rook, SVP of IoT at Sprint, the operator has the ability to switch to NB-IoT fairly seamlessly if customers want the technology. “We have a project right now that is ongoing where we are trialing NB-IoT inside the Sprint network,” he added.
Sprint’s trial of NB-IoT technology is timely as AT&T announced earlier this week that it had launched NB-IoT throughout its network. T-Mobile also has a nationwide NB-IoT network, and Verizon said last year that it was deploying NB-IoT technology in the guard band, which means NB-IoT will essentially sit alongside the company’s LTE-M network. Dish Networks is also planning to deploy an NB-IoT network and is currently working on deals with vendors.
Last November, Sprint launched its Curiosity IoT platform, which operates a dedicated virtualized core and uses software to route IoT traffic on the network. This allows Sprint to guarantee the performance of the IoT traffic and reduce latency. The company’s underlying IoT network technology is LTE-M, which it has deployed throughout its network.
According to Rook, Sprint’s Curiosity IoT platform is engineered so that it processes customer IoT data and applications using a distributed core network. That is made possible by deploying multiple nodes. These nodes use bare-metal servers at the edge of the network. These nodes can be activated quickly and are deployed in various cities that are close to Sprint IoT customers. Currently, the company has multiple nodes throughout its network.
Rook says Curiosity is a hit with customers. “The distributed core has been a huge success,” Rook said, noting that Sprint has increased its IoT sales by 500% since it launched the new platform. He added that 70% of the company’s IoT customers are new to Sprint.
However, Rook also said that some of Sprint’s existing IoT customers that use the company’s 3G CDMA network, are starting to migrate to Curiosity, particularly if they need to upgrade their existing hardware. “We don’t migrate, but we do coordinate with our customers,” Rook noted, saying that customers often benefit from moving to an LTE-M connectivity module because those modules are less expensive than CDMA.
Another big win for Sprint’s IoT future was the announcement in February that the company is working with Amazon Web Services to bring its storage and IoT services to Curiosity. The AWS deal makes it possible for enterprise customers to process IoT data locally and forward data to the cloud for tasks like running analytics.
Next on the agenda for Sprint’s IoT business is to expand into the international arena. The company currently makes it possible for devices on its Curiosity IoT platform to use local SIM profiles in different countries. Rook said that there are many operators globally that want their IoT customers to have network access in the U.S. And because Curiosity is a virtualized network it will be possible for Sprint to expand its footprint into other countries, which could make IoT roaming deals unnecessary in the future.
The operator is also hoping to work more closely with developers so that other companies will start to develop their own solutions that will run on Curiosity. “We want to basically turn Curiosity into a software platform and expose elements to developers that can then use open source software,” Rook added.