Although touted in the financial press as a deal that “strengthens ties” between SoftBank and Deutsche Telekom, the tech and telecommunication tie-up actually runs much deeper and could end up affecting millions of consumers on three continents.
For starters, in the wake of last year’s Sprint and T-Mobile merger, which formed the second-largest U.S. mobile carrier, the new agreement gives Deutsche Telekom the right to purchase part of SoftBank’s stake in take T-Mobile U.S., which would bring its existing position above 50%, and in-turn give it more leverage in future decisions.
Followers of connected economy news point to Deutsche Telekom’s designs on being a global leader in digital telecommunications, while those familiar with Softbank’s playbook cite its work with drones, autonomous vehicles and an array of other connected tech as being at the core of its incentive.
The Ichimill Example
Two weeks ago, Softbank unveiled its super-precise positioning service called “ichimill,” an Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity engine that touts accuracy to within centimeters that is already being put to use by industries across Japan.
For example, in an August blog post Softbank pointed to automation efforts being adopted in construction, agriculture, automotive, autonomous vehicle, drones and wearable devices for sports and other uses. But in each case, these next generation developments are only as good as their connectivity.
5G Rises as 3G, LTE Sunset
The news comes as does word of T-Mobile preparing to retire older infrastructure early next year to power the mobile experiences promised by 5G, the IoT and the connected economy.
T-Mobile has said that Sprint’s older 3G network will be retired “as of January 1, 2022,” followed by Sprint’s LTE network on June 30, 2022. According to the T-Mobile website, “Moving customers who are on old networks onto modern, advanced high-speed networks means they will need to have phones and devices that can tap into the latest technologies and don’t rely on older ones.”
The upgrade of T-Mobile’s network is ongoing. As PYMNTS reported in August 2020, T-Mobile expanded last year, “growing its 5G footprint by 30% covering nearly 250 million people in more than 7,500 communities across 1.3 million square miles.”
Read more: T-Mobile Adds 5G to 2K More Communities
“Since Sprint became part of T-Mobile, we’ve been rapidly combining networks … expanding our nationwide 5G footprint, and today we take a massive step into the future with standalone 5G architecture,” said T-Mobile President of Technology Neville Ray at the time. “This is where it gets interesting, opening the door for massive innovation in this country…”
New 5G BMW Previews Connected Next Steps
As for the “latest technologies” foreshadowed by T-Mobile, most if not all fall under the “connected” heading, with digital experience across eight pillars of the connected economy as identified by PYMNTS.
Read more: How Consumers Live in the ConnectedEconomy
As that special report stated, “connectivity is reflected in how just how prevalent and widespread certain digital activities have become. A greater share of consumers report purchasing retail products online over the past 12 months than in store (75% versus 64%, respectively). Ninety-two percent of consumers have placed an online order for a product and/or service at least once recently. More than three-quarters of consumers have conducted at least some of their banking online.”
Meeting the demands of connected consumers is clearly part of the plan.
Per coverage from The Wall Street Journal, “The two companies also said … they would form a strategic partnership that aims to help the hundreds of companies SoftBank has invested in take advantage of Deutsche Telekom’s customer base in Europe and the U.S. SoftBank is already discussing options with some of those companies in Europe, a person familiar with the deal said.”
The whys and wherefores haven’t been spelled out yet, but one development gives an idea as to what can be expected from a 5G telecom network and the connected experiences it will deliver.
Days before the stock swap news broke, Deutsche Telekom and the BMW Group announced that the BMW iX is the first premium vehicle equipped with 5G. Per a statement, “For the first time, 5G will be available in a production vehicle from a premium manufacturer. In addition to the vehicle eSIM installed as standard, an additional personal eSIM is integrated as previously known from smart devices such as tablets or smartwatches. The mobile communications technology installed in the vehicle enables both eSIMs to be fully active on 5G at the same time (Dual-SIM-Dual-Active). State-of-the-art antenna technology in the car enables peak 5G speeds for the customer.”