CTIA: Sprint expands M2M portfolio with partnerships

Sprint executives took advantage of the CTIA Wireless last week in Orlando, Fla., to showcase their machine-to-machine partners that they hope will help broaden the company's technological applications and increase revenue opportunities.

M2M refers to technologies that allow both wireless and wired systems to communicate with other devices. For example, a digital sign could be powered by a hard-wired system; however, powering it via a wireless platform allows the deployer to easily move the sign. Sprint's partnership with digital signage solutions provider Popstar Networks is one example of Sprint's newest strategy. Popstar, one of Sprint's 14 partners, is now using Sprint's M2M platform and its 3G and 4G broadband connectivity to deliver rich media content for interactive and passive digital displays.

The goal is to touch a variety of platforms, including kiosks, mobile systems, digital signage and retail point-of-sale, said Wayne Ward, vice president of Sprint's Emerging Solutions Group. 

Sprint's Emerging Solutions Group (ESG) is designed to serve as the single partner that business customers can turn to for M2M resources and expertise, Ward said. Through ESG, Sprint provides a comprehensive set of solutions and support services that partnering companies may use as much or as little of to help design, deploy and maintain their own M2M-based products and services.

"These partners bring distinct enhancements to our M2M solutions set, which translates into even more finely-tuned options for customers," Ward said. "Sprint M2M customers can draw on the specialized expertise of a wide range of M2M solutions partners, with Sprint simplifying the development and implementation process through our Open-Network-Execution approach."

That Open strategy means that Sprint has no plans of moving into the digital signage or kiosk business, for example, but instead wants to be the go-to wireless carrier to companies specializing in those industries. Sprint executives believe that these new business relationships will give Sprint and its partners opportunities for revenue growth, Ward said.

CTIA attendees tour the Sprint booth to learn about
the company's M2M partnerships

"What's pretty unique to sprint is that we're not a local exchange carrier," Ward said in an interview at CTIA. "We don't have any confusion about, 'Do we go after that space because we don't sell POTS lines, cable modems, DSL lines or T1s?' My competitors do."

Ward said Sprint has taken a gamble on a few of its smaller partners, but because M2M is so new it isn't possible to predict which companies will emerge as industry leaders.

"Everybody that follows this industry sees the growth curve that's coming from the M2M space, and they're moving in," he said. "There's all kinds of large companies in this space, like Intel, and then there's two guys and a dog in their garage."

Ward is confident that the company's strategy of not excluding smaller companies will eventually pay off.

"Not a lot of these companies are household names. They could be one day," he said "The example I use is that HP and Google and eBay were probably started in a garage or in a kitchen somewhere 15 years ago, and no one had ever heard of them then. Right now, we're not smart enough in the space to really understand who the next 800-pound gorilla is, but they're out there."

Sprint's new partners or existing partners offering new services include Feeney Wireless, Trimble, Aeris, PACCAR, ECOtality, Macheen, Omnilink, Popstar Networks, RedDotNet, Wireless Ronin, Grid Sentry, SmartLabs and IDEAL LIFE.

Click here to watch an interview with Ward at CTIA.

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