T-Mobile US Joins Zephyr Project to Boost 5G Developer Innovation

K. Weldon
K. Weldon

Summary Bullets:           

  • T-Mobile joins Zephyr Project as a platinum member to offer innovators a developer kit and partner resources to help them develop innovative applications/devices for its 5G network.
  • This builds on the 5G Forward initiative disclosed by the operator in March, which includes a new developer platform, DevEdge. What kinds of use cases is T-Mobile anticipating and will they give it a leg up in the enterprise?

When T-Mobile launched 5G Forward on March 23rd, it described initiatives designed to accelerate 5G developer innovation, including DevEdge, a new developer platform; the Tech Experience 5G Hub, a state-of-the-art innovation center; new T-Mobile Accelerator participants; venture funding for two companies (SignalWire and Spectro Cloud); and strategic partnerships with Disney StudioLAB and Red Bull to develop 5G-powered experiences for fans. T-Mobile claims that wireless developers run into “carrier barriers,” including the need to navigate a maze of hoops and hurdles with limited support, inaccessible experts, unclear pricing, drawn-out certification processes, and limited coverage from rivals’ 5G networks. DevEdge promises easy connection of any device to T-Mobile’s network, pre-certified modules and chipsets, access to APIs and open-source projects, real-time collaboration, and a developer kit (free to the first 1,000 users) with access to data from T-Mobile’s LTE and, in the future, its 5G networks. The T-Mobile Accelerator already boasts a handful of partners, most of which are building consumer applications or devices such as augmented reality (AR) glasses. Spectro Cloud, however, is an enterprise management platform.

What may be different from these original initiatives when considering T-Mobile’s membership in the Zephyr Project is access to developers who want to build more diverse applications, along with the fact that Zephyr is an open-source project at theLinux Foundation using a secure, flexible RTOS designed for resource-constrained devices. It should also be noted that T-Mobile is the first wireless carrier to join the Zephyr Project, which may provide a much-needed differentiator compared to Verizon and AT&T. Adding cellular to other connectivity technologies supported by Zephyr (e.g., BLE and WiFi) should also enable multi-interface deployments to be built more quickly. Other Platinum members include Antmicro, Baumer, Google, Intel, Meta, Nordic Semiconductor, NXP, Oticon, and Qualcomm, while other non-Platinum members are primarily universities and research institutes. The applications and industry sectors noted in the announcement include industrial IoT, wearables, and machine learning, which imply a focus on innovative enterprise use cases. The Zephyr Project further notes industrial, automotive, smart city, and smart home as key vertical targets.

As it has been difficult to get T-Mobile to disclose details regarding its overall enterprise strategy, the Zephyr membership may be a significant milestone since T-Mobile has noted a desire to increase its market share of B2B accounts to 20% from its current share of about 10%. In addition, it is true that in the consumer space T-Mobile has been innovative in its focus on getting rid of red tape, providing ease of use for customers, and an aggressive movement to improve and tout its 5G network position. If its claim about “carrier barriers” squelching innovation is true of AT&T and Verizon, we look forward to discovering what new use cases, applications, and devices in the SMB and enterprise space will come from its new DevOps and innovation focus. Admittedly T-Mobile’s initial focus is on enabling developer use cases via access to data from its LTE network, with 5G in the near future. While US and global wireless rivals have had years to offer an array of B2B services on their 4G and 5G networks, and have done quite well in areas such as industrial IoT, wearables for worker safety, retail, smart city, and – more recently – the powering of low-latency ‘devices’ such as drones, robots, and AGVs, we haven’t heard a lot of truly differentiating use cases of late. We eagerly await T-Mobile’s contributions to the enterprise ecosystem.


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