Cape promises private comms riding on USCellular's IoT network

  • After recent AT&T & T-Mobile data exposures, startup Cape wants to protect consumer privacy

  • It is running an MVNO on UScellular's IoT network

  • It has received $61 million in VC funding so far

Startup Cape has pulled in $61 million in venture funding and has its first phones testing out its shiny new Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) on UScellular’s network for the Internet of Things (IoT).

After AT&T’s recent data breach, which impacted 73 million accounts, some savvy consumers may be looking for an operator that doesn’t take (and hold) so much personal data. Enter Cape.

CEO and co-founder John Doyle told Fierce on a call that he came at the problem of interfacing with a mobile phone network from a defensive position, after being a communications specialist in the U.S. Army and working for Palantir.

“Just as a consumer and a person living my life with a phone in my pocket, how can I reset the default, which is that I have to give everything away in order to connect to a mobile network?” Doyle asked.

This desire for something beyond the status quo motivated the foundation of Cape to create an operation that didn’t need your location and identity details to get connected to the network. “We learned that we needed to start an MVNO in order to have the footprint needed to really attack that problem,” Doyle said. (It's worth noting here others, like Pretty Good Phone Privacy from Invisiv, are also attempting to tackle this issue.)

Cape recently came out of stealth mode and is riding on UScellular’s nationwide IoT network, which started as an LTE-M network in 2020. UScellular also has started rolling out 5G private networks based on its mid-band 5G network.

“UScellular has built an amazing overlapping network, comprised of their own network and partner networks in the U.S., for IoT and industrial use cases,” Doyle said. “They can credibly and correctly claim they have the highest tower density of any network in the U.S.,” the CEO stated.

What USCellular wasn’t doing was using that IoT network for voice services, which is what Cape is doing.  “We said look, we’re building a full stack MVNO, so we’re happy to run our core and our IMS [IP Multimedia Subsystem] over the network and offer voice services,” Doyle said.

He said said that any modern smartphone could use the Cape MVNO.

Cape currently has staff “dogfooding” phones live nationwide on the network – that is, it is using its own staff as guinea pigs for internal beta testing. It intends to launch for consumers later this year.

Doyle said that he expected enterprise and government customers to be among the first users.