Ingenu Plans Nationwide Wireless Network for Internet of Things

San Diego’s On-Ramp Wireless has shed its skin.

The startup that was founded in 2008 and raised $77 million to advance its low-power, wireless networking technology for utility power grids and other industrial applications has a new identity, new CEO, and a bigger, more ambitious strategic focus on the Internet of Things (IoT).

As the CTIA Super Mobility conference opens today in Las Vegas, what was On-Ramp Wireless is now Ingenu, a reorganized company building what it calls the first nationwide wireless public network dedicated solely to machine-to-machine (M2M) communications.

To lead the effort, Ingenu hired John Horn, the T-Mobile executive who led the wireless carrier into M2M communications with the formation of a new business unit, RACO Wireless, which focused initially on the lucrative opportunities in automotive telematics. Horn also headed RACO’s spinout from T-Mobile, establishing RacoWireless as an independent company in 2011—and oversaw its development of a cloud-based API that made it easier for developers to create IoT applications in any format, for any device.  After three years at the helm, Horn sold RacoWireless to the Kore Wireless Group last year in an undisclosed, all-cash deal.

“Some of the things John did dramatically simplified the technology, and made life a lot easier for customers,” said Daniel Obodovski, an industry consultant and co-author of The Silent Intelligence: The Internet of Things. “He is a person who really understands how to run networks in the IoT space, and how to simplify things. He really understands customer needs.”

Ingenu CEO John-Horn

John Horn

Horn told me he joined On-Ramp as CEO in June, replacing Kevin Hell, the former DivX CEO who led On-Ramp since 2012. Since then Horn has replaced a few other key On-Ramp executives, and brought in Tom Gregor as president, Landon Garner as chief marketing officer, and James Seines as vice president of finance. (Two key On-Ramp co-founders, CTO Ted Myers and chief network officer Robert Boesel, remain with the company.)

Horn also added former Verizon CTO Richard Lynch to Ingenu’s board, where he joins former Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg. (Andy Viterbi, the Qualcomm co-founder and former CTO, will stay on as an Ingenu adviser.)

On-Ramp wireless tower

Private wireless network tower

While Ingenu will continue to use its core Random Phase Multiple Access (RPMA) technology to build and operate private, wide-area sensor networks that monitor things like oil and gas production (the company has 38 networks around the world), Horn said the company’s primary focus is now on building out a public “Machine Network.”

“We’re changing the vision, strategy, and plan with a new entity and a new look and feel over the course of coming months,” Horn said in a recent phone interview.

In a statement released today, Ingenu says the construction of its Machine Network already is underway, with more than 50,000 square miles covered in the United States. (Much, if not all of this coverage, however, appears to be in U.S. oil and gas fields—created through a partnership that former CEO Hell established with WellAware, a San Antonio, TX, data analytics specialist.

The company hopes to exploit the fact that the cellular networks being used in many IoT deployments provide far more bandwidth than required for most IoT devices and applications. According to Horn, the emerging IoT industry doesn’t want to pay the kind of rates carriers charge for cellular network rates. But perhaps more importantly, Horn said many carriers plan to phase out their outdated 2G and 3G networks—and IoT companies have nowhere else to go.

“Machines don’t need video. They don’t need LTE networks,” Horn said. “What they need is a purpose-built network that maximizes the things that machines do need.”

By January, Ingenu said its Machine Network will include Phoenix, AZ, and Dallas, TX, and the nationwide build-out will continue through the end of 2017. Ingenu said it has received a significant capital investment to fund the project, and Horn told me he is currently in the middle of raising additional funding through a Series D round.

As impressive as that might sound, the starting gun already has sounded for Sigfox, a global ISP based near Toulouse, France, that raised $115 million in February, chiefly to build wireless networks throughout the United States dedicated solely to the Internet of Things. Sigfox also signed strategic partnerships with Samsung and Arqiva, and plans to build networks in the 10 largest U.S. cities—beginning this year in San Francisco.

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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