Softbank takes equity stake in 1NCE – as “only company that can deliver global IoT”
Global cellular IoT provider 1NCE has confirmed a long-trailed deal with Softbank, a major investor already in the firm, to release equity to the Japan-based carrier in return for exclusive distribution rights in Asia Pacific. Softbank will sell 1NCE in 19 markets in the region, including Australia, Japan, Malaysia, and Singapore. It joins Deutsche Telekom, which sells 1NCE in most of the rest of the world, as a shareholder in the firm.
In rare tribute, Softbank declared that 1NCE is “the only company that can deliver true cross-border, future-proof IoT without uncertainty”.
Both Deutsche Telekom and Softbank are now putting much of their global NB-IoT and LTE-M connections through the 1NCE platform. The Germany company, in the style of a global MVNO, leverages Deutsche Telekom and Softbank to buy international airtime roaming minutes at advantageous rates, achievable with the kind of scale these operators, and only a few others, can afford.
It is unclear whether Softbank’s (newly-confirmed) equity is now greater than Deutsche Telekom’s – although it appears unlikely on the grounds 1NCE’s relationship with the German carrier, which has held the biggest single stake in the firm until now, is longer, and strategically played. It is also unclear how shareholdings in the firm have shifted with the deal. Historically, no single firm has held a majority stake, of over 50 percent, in 1NCE.
Softbank has been materially involved in the firm for some time. It contributed to a $50 million investment round at the start of the year, as part of a series B syndicate with private equity firms Kensington and I2 Capital, joined by Deutsche Telekom and 1NCE founder Alexander Sator in the round – to “avoid dilution” of a “very clever shareholder construct” between “financial investors and strategic investors”. The $50 million investment has been used to fund 1NCE’s move into the US and Asia, already.
But Softbank has gone further, and possibly even joined Deutsche Telekom as a majority shareholder. This is unconfirmed, however, and 1NCE has not yet revealed precise share-holdings. With the new deal, 1NCE said it will open offices in Singapore and Tokyo, in Japan, to also serve Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.
1NCE was among the first to flat-rate cellular IoT roaming fees, a move that has been aped variously by the rest of the market, including by tier-one mobile operators, which had fumbled over NB-IoT and LTE-M inter-network charging for some years. By flat-rating IoT fees – at $10 for 10 years, in the case of 1NCE – the likes of 1NCE, as well as Belgium-based BICS and UK-based Arkessa, have squared cellular IoT for roaming and tracking of assets.
1NCE is offering 100 SIM cards for free on the AWS marketplace, via its 1NCE For All offer. It reckons 80 percent of IoT projects require multinational deployments – “but few mobile network operators have the capability to meet these demands”, it said. Via its deals with Deutsche Telekom and Softbank, 1NCE claims to deliver cellular IoT connectivity and software in around 110 countries, with plans to expand its footprint to more than 140 by the end of 2022.
The company claims 10 million connections “under management”, with 7,000 customers. It is winning 400 enterprise customers per month, it claims – all online; “customers that know us, which we don’t necessarily know ourselves”, it told Enterprise IoT Insights a couple of months back (in extended conversation that never made it off the cutting-room floor).
Daichi Nozaki, vice president and head of global business in Softbank’s enterprise business unit, said: “1NCE is the only company that can deliver true cross-border, future-proof IoT connectivity without uncertainty – a perfect extension of SoftBank’s existing IoT portfolio. We’ve closely followed 1NCE’s strong U.S. launch earlier this year and expect the same explosive growth in the underserved APAC region.”
Sator, chief and founder at 1NCE, said: “With our existing Hong Kong office and with SoftBank’s support in establishing new offices in Singapore and Tokyo, we are supercharging the rollout of 1NCE’s lifetime, flat rate IoT in the region. And with multiple mobile network operators now invested in 1NCE, we have validation that we’re on the right track to become the global leader in IoT connectivity and software.”