CES 2017: T-Mobile Unveils IoT Pricing Plans For Consumers, Partners See Opportunity With Business Customers

T-Mobile took to CES 2017 to debut new pricing plans for Internet of Things devices. The new IoT Access Packs bundle wireless data with a Category 1 module, which the carrier – and its partners – believe could help simplify IoT adoption.

The two IoT Access Packs can be used for applications and devices that require little data, such as wearables, and include the Cat1 modem. The first IoT Access Pack offers up to 5 MB of data per month for $20 per year for each device in the first year, and $6 per year, per device after the first year. The second IoT Access Pack includes unlimited data at 64 Kbps, for $25 per year, per device. For a limited time, unlimited data customers will receive $5 off the first year for each device, according to Bellevue, Wash.-based T-Mobile.

While the IoT Access Packs have been specified for smart home use cases for consumers, partners believe they also would be able to leverage the IoT pricing plans for business customers down the road if the offerings are expanded.

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Rob Chamberlin, co-founder and chief revenue officer for DataXoom, a Walnut Creek, Calif.-based solution provider and T-Mobile partner that specializes in mobility services, called T-Mobile's IoT bundles an interesting approach, and one that would be welcome to its channel partner community. Chamberlin said that compared with T-Mobile's latest strategy, the carrier's competition – including AT&T and Verizon – are instead aligning themselves with large OEMs for wireless modules that they are using to address consumer use cases, including smart cars and smart homes.

"This move by T-Mobile will be helpful to the partner channel and the small companies that it services," Chamberlin said.

CRN reached out to T-Mobile regarding the IoT Access Packs and whether the pricing plans would be available to T-Mobile’s channel partners but did not hear back in time for publication.

During the 2017 Citi Internet, Media and Telecom conference in Las Vegas Wednesday, Braxton Carter, T-Mobile's CFO, called the new IoT Access Packs a "unique way to address the IoT market" because they give developers access to modems, as well as pre-packaged data plans.

’Like everything they do, the carriers overcomplicate the Internet of Things, and that leads to more hassle and cost for customers,’ Doug Chartier, senior vice president at T-Mobile, said in a statement. ’The wireless industry needs simpler options for IoT to take off."

TeraNova Consulting Group, a telecom expense management provider for wireless solutions that partners with T-Mobile, is selling IoT solutions by lighting up the modules with the best carrier in its customers' coverage area. Natasha Royer Coons, managing director at San Diego-based TeraNova, called T-Mobile's new IoT Access Packs "interesting" and "much needed" in terms of IoT simplification, but the carrier would have to bulk them up with more data for solution providers to sell to businesses, she said.

"Typically, our customers require anywhere from 250 megs per device per month to 5-plus gigs per month, per device," she said. "I do like the visionary approach, but I am not sure that this will lend itself to the business market and how partners will be able to sell this unless they are indirect dealers in retail stores."

However, T-Mobile is right from the perspective that IoT has been very fragmented, TeraNova's Coons said, noting that T-Mobile's new pricing plans are "extremely aggressive."

"The pricing is unique in providing a cost per device, per year. Typically, in the market so far, it's always been cost per month, per device for the network usage," she added.

T-Mobile, the self-proclaimed "uncarrier," explained that developers currently must purchase their own wireless module and negotiate with carriers for a data plan, which are often overpriced because many IoT applications have very low internet access requirements. T-Mobile's Chartier believes that the IoT Access Packs will help remove these barriers and spur IoT development.