AT&T: IoT opportunities for carriers extend far beyond simple connected devices

The burgeoning market of the internet of things teems with opportunities to generate revenue by providing wireless services to a wide range of devices. But for carriers, the IoT is about much more than just connecting devices, according to Steve Hodges, AT&T’s senior vice president of business customer experience and strategy.

The connected car alone provides multiple ways for mobile network operators to leverage their services, Hodges said at an investors conference Thursday morning. In addition to wireless diagnostic offerings, operators can provide driver-assistant capabilities such as navigation services, and deliver entertainment and other content to passengers in the car.

Other opportunities include wireless healthcare devices and services, Hodges continued, and agricultural sensors, to name just a few.

“It just goes on and on and on,” Hodges said at the conference. "You look at the billions of devices that are being predicted to be on the networks—now, granted they’re relatively lower use, but hey, it’s all revenue; it doesn’t tax your network. It’s just a fascinating world to get into.”

Indeed, carries are increasingly looking to the IoT to offset data revenues that are flattening even as consumption increases, as analyst Chetan Sharma recently observed. Net additions from the IoT and connected cars led new additions to the U.S. wireless ecosystem in the first quarter, according to Sharma Consulting, and the two segments accounting for 55% of all new net connections during the first three quarters of 2016.

But the IoT also enables operators to serve as a consultant to businesses in a wide range of industries, which could pave the way for additional revenue streams.

“We predict good revenue growth, but it has another secondary benefit beyond standalone benefits,” he continued. “If you’re a leader in IoT, it will actually have a pretty large pull-through, in my opinion, to your core businesses. Because once you bring that into your core operational model, it creates new levels of conversation with your customers that you may not have had before, talking about new applications, how you can help them be more productive. Now you’re in a very consultative kind of world in a way that they’re not as familiar with as you are.”