Vodafone's IoT boss packs bag, Sprints off to America

Ivo Rook heads to US telco, picks up Softbank advisory role

By Gareth Corfield

Posted in Internet of Things, 12th September 2017 11:34 GMT

Vodafone’s Internet of Things boss Ivo Rook has moved to US telco Sprint, against the background of Voda’s well-publicised slowness to get its commercial IoT networks up and running.

Having spent the last seven years at Vodafone, latterly as chief exec of Vodafone’s IoT division, Rook will cross the pond to become senior veep of IoT at Sprint.

“My focus will be on developing secure IoT solutions for our business customers and all people who want to make the best of the digital revolution,” said Rook in a canned quote, which he also stated that he will advise Japan’s cash-splurging Softbank investment firm on IoT matters.

Vodafone has talked the talk on IoT, but has notably been slow to walk the walk. Despite boasting in October last year that it would roll out NB-IoT networks in a number of EU countries, this plan was delayed time and again until the gear eventually went live – for trials.

Sources speculated to El Reg that this may have been because chipset module makers were overwhelmed with orders from the US for LTE-M compliant equipment, which is a competing IoT connectivity standard.

Will Rook be able to make Sprint sprint on IoT? Tom Rebbeck, IoT research director at analyst firm Analysys Mason, told us: “Sprint has struggled in the shadow of Verizon and AT&T in the US IoT market. Both Verizon and AT&T will earn $1bn+ from IoT in 2017; Sprint much less. Sprint has also been slower to roll out LTE-M.”

Rebbeck added that Sprint is also planning to launch NB-IoT “at some point” (that sounds familiar, no?) and asked, rhetorically: “I wonder if we will see any changes to these plans? Rolling out LTE-M a year later than AT&T and Verizon doesn't put Sprint in a very strong position.”

As for Rook’s Softbank post, this needs to be set against the background of Softbank betting billions on IoT being the next big thing in tech: earlier this year it bought British chipmaker ARM for $32bn, with Softbank chief exec Masayoshi Son saying that he expects ARM to produce a trillion IoT chips by the year 2040.

“Softbank has historically kept distance between its investments but this may be different,” mused Rebbeck. “The Sprint release says that Rook will be the ‘Liaison Officer’ with Softbank on IoT. Sprint could accelerate its plans for NB-IoT, which would differentiate their strategy from the big operators, be more closely aligned to ARM and its investments and build on what Rook learned about NB-IoT from his time at Vodafone.”

We have asked Vodafone for comment on Rook’s departure and will update this article if we hear back. ®

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