T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) will power a new service from startup Twilio called Programmable Wireless that essentially gives developers the ability to control the operation of voice, texting and data on Twilio's T-Mobile-powered SIM cards. The SIM cards can be installed on phones or into IoT-style sensors and gadgets.
"We're bringing our wildly successful un-carrier strategy to developers," said Mike Sievert, T-Mobile chief operating officer. "While the old-guard carriers stifle innovation and try to lock up all the value for themselves, T-Mobile has a different philosophy; we openly partner with world-class companies, like Twilio, to empower entrepreneurs and ignite wireless innovation. By partnering with Twilio to deliver these capabilities to Twilio's vast developer network, we support developers in building the cellular-connected solutions of tomorrow."
Twilio's Programmable Wireless will launch in the fourth quarter of this year. Like many of the startup's services, developer pricing will be based on volume: For low-bandwidth, IoT-style applications, pricing will begin at $2 per SIM per month, and data will cost $0.10 per MB metered across a users' pool of devices. For high-bandwidth, smartphone-style uses, data will cost $25 for the first GB and $15 for each additional GB.
Twilio, founded in 2008 and a 2014 Fierce 15 winner, essentially offers one API (application programming interface) that mobile service and application developers can use to send messages and make calls across the globe -- the company essentially buys wholesale access to wireless services and then resells that to developers. Uber, for example, uses Twilio's service to send text alerts to riders.
But the company's new expansion into Programmable Wireless provides developers with far more complete and granular control over wireless communications. For example, with Programmable Wireless, developers can remotely control SIM activation, data usage and bandwidth limits.
Moreover, developers will be able to integrate their Programmable Wireless applications with other services available through Twilio's new Add-ons program, which essentially creates an app store for Twilio-supported APIs. Through Add-ons, developers can snap services such as sentiment analysis or demographic data into their existing Twilio offerings. IBM Watson, Marchex, Whitepages Pro, Mobile Commons, Payfone and Next Caller are the initial companies supplying services to developers through Twilio's Add-ons program.
Via Twilio Add-ons, "our community of developers can now access these partners' features without the heavy lifting of maintaining different integrations," said Jeff Lawson, Twilio's CEO, in a release.
Lawson told TechCrunch that he initially expects Programmable Wireless to target big enterprises, which could use the service to create a customized set of calling options on corporate phones or on employees' phones powered by the Twilio SIM.
"When an employee uses their phone or tablet over a cellular network, a business has no ability to track, log, or reroute data," Manav Khurana, Twilio's vice president of product marketing, told VentureBeat. With Programmable Wireless, enterprises could record calls between employees restrict calls to specific numbers, for example.
Beyond the enterprise option, IoT players could also use Twilio's Programmable Wireless to deploy and authenticate Internet of Things services without a direct relationship with a wireless carrier like T-Mobile.
Of course, T-Mobile isn't the only wireless operator moving into the IoT sector. AT&T (NYSE: T) for years has been working to connect devices ranging from cars to houses to its wireless network. And Verizon (NYSE: VZ) recently announced its own ThingSpace platform, which is specifically designed to provide developers easy access to its network to create IoT services. Verizon in the first quarter said revenue streams from the IoT came in at $195 million during the quarter, marking a 25 percent increase year over year.
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