Guest post: AT&T Wireless Flexing Muscles in Embedded Wireless Device Space

Today’s guest post comes from John Stepp, President of Free Tech Consultants. He shares his thoughts on the less glorified market of embedded wireless devices, an area which sees participation by all major carriers but gets poor (media) coverage (no pun intended).

With much of the emphasis on the loss of exclusivity on the iPhone, many have opined that the wireless division of AT&T faces some very difficult times ahead.  Certainly there have been a lot of growing pains because of the mass adoption of the iPhone and the burst of data usage that has accompanied all the smartphones added to the AT&T network.  However there is much more to ponder about AT&T’s future than the iPhone.  One area where AT&T is dominating the market and getting best in class customer satisfaction scores is in the embedded wireless device market.

The embedded wireless device market is expected to grow by several hundred percent in just a few years.  This means that although we have just attained 100% penetration rate for wireless devices in America, we could easily reach a 500% penetration rate in just a few years.  AT&T currently dominates this space and is well positioned to keep this market leadership well into the future.  In 2010 e-readers and iPads helped grow the market.  Now the fight is on to put wireless devices in just about everything.  From cars to health care to the smart grid and all the myriad of electronics we use, wireless devices are here or on their way.

At the Wireless Technology Forum in Atlanta, Glenn Lurie of AT&T spoke about the trends in the emerging embedded wireless device market.

Fueling the mass adoption of Embedded Wireless Devices are several factors:

  1. The plummeting costs for wireless device modules
  2. Advances in wireless monitoring technologies
  3. The low bandwidth needed in the vast majority of embedded wireless devices
  4. A continuous stream of new ideas on how to use wireless to improve products and processes

Already there are wireless devices in pill bottles to make sure that patients take their medicine properly and alert doctors if they don’t.  GPS devices are showing up on kids and pets.  Monitoring devices are proliferating on cars, boats, homes, appliances and everything electronic.  .The smart grid will be filled with wireless devices.  So even though the revenue per unit will be smaller on EWD’s than wireless phones, the number of these devices will grow to dwarf that of traditional cell phones and create a huge revenue stream for wireless carriers.

AT&T is positioned very well in the market.  They have a division, led by Glenn that is behaving more like a start up than an old school telecom giant.  By giving their clients in this space flexibility on their contracts and a business model of openness they are creating partnerships with the customers that will help them grow profitably in this market.  The experience and knowledge they have gained with the adoption of tablets and e-readers is a big advantage over their competitors.  And although nobody pays attention to the carrier involved with their Kindle or iPad, customer satisfaction for the activation of these devices is extremely high.  So even though AT&T Wireless currently has its issues (who doesn’t), there is good reason for optimism for the future.


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