Can North American IoT MVNOs Thrive in Difficult Times?

Kathryn Weldon – Research Director, Business Network and IT Services – Americas

Summary Bullets:

  • Internet of Things (IoT) mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) had to overcome reliance on connectivity-led portfolios as they court global enterprises while competing with mobile operators focusing on IoT as a growth area.
  • Those MVNOs that remain and thrive have re-vamped offerings to stay relevant, drawing customers with application enablement, vertical solutions, management platforms, and professional and managed services.

IoT MVNOs expand the reach of enterprises looking to connect IoT devices on a global basis, primarily via cellular technologies. They can expand mobile or fixed operators’ footprints as a partner or sell directly to OEMs and enterprises that need widespread, easy-to-use connectivity. They can also offer seamless connectivity in regions where a single carrier cannot provide service.

Aside from connectivity services, these MVNOs have enlarged portfolios to stay relevant, compete effectively, and grow revenue opportunities, adding vertical focus areas with end-to-end solutions that may include hardware, software, professional services, and applications. For MVNOs, the pandemic has been a mixed blessing as solutions for remote monitoring and connected healthcare expanded, and the global climate crisis intensified the need for sustainability solutions such as smart agriculture and energy usage monitoring. However, uncertain economic times put a damper on budgets for some new deployments.

The following North American headquartered MVNOs have updated their product portfolios over the last year to align with these environmental and economic issues:

  • KORE Wireless is the largest and one of the only remaining pure-play IoT MVNOs in the US, selling connectivity to about 3,600 enterprises and supporting 15.3 million connections. KORE provides global IoT connectivity via 24 cellular and satellite partners in 190 countries. It has refreshed its portfolio with strategy and readiness consulting, application management, data-as-a-service, reporting and analytics, asset monitoring, security management, and endpoint lifecycle management. KORE went public in October 2021, and in 2022, it doubled down on connected healthcare and life sciences with the acquisitions of Business Mobility Partners and SIMON IoT.
  • Aeris has evolved from a connectivity provider to a platform provider and automotive specialist. It aggregates connectivity from 600 operators in 190 countries, while offering platforms and vertical solutions. It is based in the US but is strong in India and other emerging markets, facilitating use cases such as e-rental rickshaws, IoT finance solutions, and fuel monitoring. It launched Asset Assurance Platform, an asset protection and repossession platform for auto finance companies; API One, an interface to auto OEMs’ connected vehicle platforms; and Smart Fleet Platform, for connected telematics. Recent partnerships include an alliance with Amazon Web Services (AWS) for secure Cloud Connect, allowing IoT devices to send data securely without a VPN, and with VisionTrack to boost AI, video telematics, and connected fleet data capabilities. Aeris provides connections for 15 million devices.
  • ORBCOMM connects businesses to their assets for increased visibility and operational efficiency. Its vertical solutions and global footprint are unique in geographies with limited cellular coverage and verticals such as maritime, where satellite is a required access method. While ORBCOMM began as a satellite network provider, it offers asset monitoring and control solutions, satellite and cellular connectivity, hardware, and vertical applications. ORBCOMM has a diverse customer base including OEMs, enterprises, and channel partners spanning transportation, supply chain, warehousing and inventory, heavy equipment, maritime, natural resources, and government. It also offers a satellite automatic identification system data service used to track vessels and assist in navigation and safety. In September 2021, ORBCOMM was acquired by investment firm GI Partners for $1.1 billion.
  • Sierra Wireless’ recurring revenues from managed services and end-to-end solutions, along with its edge to cloud solution, have helped to expand its once hardware-focused portfolio of cellular communications equipment (e.g., modules, modems, routers, and gateways). Sierra’s IoT customers now benefit from pre-integrated hardware, software, airtime, analytics (via Google), and billing from ‘device to cloud’ from a single source. The company has built up LPWAN and 5G capabilities, leveraging networks of operators such as T-Mobile. It offers use case-based managed solutions for asset, cargo, satellite and fleet tracking, remote monitoring, and cellular alarm communicators.

These examples show the diversity of approaches necessary to draw enterprise customers that need global IoT solutions in difficult economic times.

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