Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Twilio creates developer platform for T-Mobile NB-IoT network

Steve Rogerson
October 25, 2018

Twilio has created a developer platform for the T-Mobile NB-IoT network, the California-based cloud communications company announced last week at Signal, its customer and developer conference in San Francisco.
Twilio Narrowband is said to be the first developer platform for NB-IoT in the USA. The cellular low-power wide-area network technology should reduce prices and increase battery life for intermittent low-bandwidth connections.
Twilio also announced the Twilio Breakout software development kit (SDK) to help developers start taking advantage of the optimisations offered by NB-IoT networks.
NB-IoT was designed for the majority of IoT devices that don’t need a lot of bandwidth. With NB-IoT, devices can consume a fraction of the battery power they do with previous cellular M2M devices, enabling connectivity at a fraction of the cost. NB-IoT is built for smaller data packets, such as timestamps, GPS coordinates and status updates for a variety of industries, from smart metering to health device monitoring.
With the power and cost efficiencies generated by NB-IoT, the market is ripe to open for new categories of lower cost, battery efficient internet-connected devices that don’t exist today. T-Mobile is the first to deploy a NB-IoT network in the USA, and it launched nationwide in July.
“Together with Twilio, the un-carrier is unleashing developers and building an entirely new ecosystem for IoT solutions,” said John Legere, chief executive officer of T-Mobile. “I can’t wait to see what awesomeness they create. Once again, T-Mobile is at the forefront of innovation, enabling a world where anything and everything can be connected. The possibilities are endless.”
The developer platform is comprised of three components:

  • Narrowband SIMs: Since the introduction of Twilio Programmable Wireless two years ago, Twilio has been focused on getting developers started quickly with cellular connectivity, instant self-service on-boarding, no contracts required and two-day shipping in the USA.
  • Narrowband IoT developer kit: A limited supply developer kit including an Arduino-based development board and Grove sensors specifically chosen for low-powered wide-area products. It also features the U-Blox LTE Cat NB1 Sara-N410 hardware module, certified for the T-Mobile narrowband network.
  • Breakout SDK: Twilio Breakout SDK reduces the complexity of hardware and heterogeneity of different networks, allowing developers to focus on creating their NB-IoT device deployment. The SDK handles tasks such as network registration and intelligently optimises communications between devices and cloud services based on the network capability requirements across IP, non-IP and SMS.
“We see Twilio as part of a new wave of IoT connectivity providers that is disrupting the market by reducing the friction for developers," said Tom Rebbeck, research director at Analysys Mason. “We think its offer is especially well suited to the narrowband market, where operational costs need to be kept extremely low. The market for NB-IoT connectivity is potentially very large, possibly exceeding three billion connections by 2026 with potential applications in consumer electronics, utilities, agriculture, smart cities and other vertical markets. The new models that are built for scale, such as Twilio's, are likely to become the standard for much of the market.”
The two companies first teamed up in 2016 with the launch of developer tools for cellular IoT, opening up the opportunity for IoT developers to build in cellular connectivity for the first time.
“The introduction of T-Mobile’s narrowband IoT network provides a tremendous opportunity for developers who are innovating and building new categories of devices that don’t exist today,” said Chetan Chaudhary, general manager and vice president of IoT at Twilio. “By applying Twilio’s proven approach for cellular IoT connectivity to narrowband, it will remove barriers so developers can focus on building devices and dreaming up new use cases that don’t yet exist. We can’t wait to see what you build.”
Also at Signal, Twilio introduced the Super SIM, built on its mobile core infrastructure, and an expanded set of tier-one carrier relationships with Singtel, Telefonica and Three Group, which power Twilio Programmable Wireless. With the Super SIM, developers can use a single API to deploy IoT devices globally with the confidence that Twilio can optimise network performance on tier-one carriers based on the location in which the device is deployed.