LIVE FROM CES 2020, LAS VEGAS: A panel of US operator executives admitted they are still wrangling with how best to approach the consumer IoT segment, after focusing initial growth efforts on the enterprise sector.

David Allen, director of product development for IoT solutions at AT&T (pictured, second from right), said operators started with enterprise because B2B business models “are very well understood” and easier to establish. But he noted consumer IoT requires a B2B2C set-up, which while offering access to massive volume and revenue potential, is more difficult to create.

He said one approach which appears to be gaining traction is embedding the cost of connectivity in the device itself so consumers don’t have to sort through different data tariffs, an approach Amazon took with its Kindle e-reader years ago.

“We need to make it easier so it just works…so when they take that refrigerator home and plug it in it automatically starts communicating. That’s where I think this industry is going”.

Satellite potential
The panel also noted satellite connectivity could increasingly factor into IoT networks, with planned launches from new players including Amazon, OneWeb and SpaceX potentially helping to lower costs.

Ricky Singh, head of products and solutions for Sprint’s IoT team (pictured, second from left), said satellite connectivity historically hasn’t been a good fit for the IoT due to the “astronomical” expense of launching birds, but the use of lower-cost equipment could make this a more plausible option.