John Horn, formerly CEO of RacoWireless until its acquisition by KORE in November 2014, talks to M2M Now’s editorial director, Jeremy Cowan about the changes he is making in his new role as chief executive of Ingenu, formerly On-Ramp Wireless.
As we reported last week, On-Ramp Wireless has now been re-branded as Ingenu and is launching what it describes as the first US-wide “wireless public network dedicated to machine-to-machine (M2M) and Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity”. (See also: On-Ramp Wireless rebrands as Ingenu and launches US-wide M2M wireless public network and KORE uses new ABRY funding to acquire RacoWireless and boost global M2M adoption.)
M2M Now: I’m interested in what’s happening, but also the background to it. Why did you feel it was necessary to re-brand On-Ramp?
John Horn: Well, while I was at Raco, I was approached by On-Ramp to be their CEO about three and half years ago. I was 100% blown away and impressed by their technology, and was very intrigued.
Things were going great at Raco. I was executing on a plan, a very long-term plan. Everything was working out very well, and obviously worked great with our exit in December, and the sale of the company with a great multiple.
I stayed in contact with the board at On-Ramp during that time because I believe that there is a major hole in the entire IoT / M2M universe, and that the technology that On-Ramp has with RPMA® (Random Phase Multiple Access) is going to fill that hole.
After I left Raco I contacted the board and said, “Listen, I’m available and I am really excited with what you’re going to do. I have some ideas.” We got together. I brought together my key leadership team, integrated it with theirs.
We’re now going to take what I believe is an absolutely disruptive technology, that’s proven through the networks that they’ve already built, and point the company in a direction that’s going to be pretty exciting.
If you look at what On-Ramp have done, you’ve got a bunch of guys from Qualcomm who basically invented this industry, and started along the path of human-machine interface. They could see that everything that was happening with cellular was going great and fulfilling the dreams of everyone with bigger, better, faster, more power, everything in your hands for these human interfaces.
All the things that made cellular great were counter-intuitive to what machines needed, and that there were going to be, ultimately, trillions of machines that needed to be connected. They set out to create a technology that was basically the complete opposite of cellular, and that’s what RPMA® is. They’ve built 38 networks on five continents.
Those networks are running phenomenally. Some of them are single purpose AMI (advanced metering infrastructure) networks for utilities. Some of them are multipurpose networks for municipalities that have quite a few different types of sensors and solutions running on them. It’s allowed On-Ramp to prove the RPMA® technology all over the world, and the fact that it really works well, and delivers what we say it delivers.
What we’re now going to do is take the company, we’re going to re-brand it to Ingenu, which means ‘simply genius’, because what they’ve done is simply genius. They took all the weaknesses of cellular, and made them the strengths of RPMA®. Cellular is sunsetting 2G. Cellular has sunsetted analogue. Eventually in the coming years, cellular will sunset 3G, and at some point in the future, 4G.
What On-Ramp does is we own 32 patents. We own the entire ecosystem in the tower, in the devices, in the communication protocol. Everything that makes RPMA RPMA we control. No-one can sunset us out of that. No-one can ‘end of life’ us out of that. We control the entire ecosystem.
Where cellular has constantly had to be changing, which it should be for people, to give them a better experience, we can create stability for machines, because that’s what they need long term. We can give them 10, 20-year network guarantees. Where cellular has to put 10 to 30 towers, we put one. We can get as much as 200 square miles of coverage out of one tower.
An example, I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Aruba in the Caribbean, you’ve got a handful of towers covering the entire island for a multi-purpose network. You can’t come anywhere closer to that with cellular.
The infrastructure costs are less, battery drains less. We’re able to put a device on a container, ping that container a couple of times a week, and we can run that on one battery for the next 10 years, something you can never even dream of with cellular.
All the things that are the challenges with cellular, RPMA® brings to the table. We’re now going to take what we’ve done on the private network side and build a public network, which we’re going to call the ‘machine network,’ first in the US and then throughout the rest of the world as we continue to grow the business.
M2M Now: You clearly don’t see cellular as your main competitor. Who do you see as your competitors?
JH: Well, that’s a great question. At the high end of the market, cellular’s going to own it, when you need lots of data, when you need video, you need voice as part of the solution. Cellular will own that market. They’ll own it forever and they’ll do a great job of it.
At the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got SIGFOX and LoRa and so forth, that take a sliver of the solutions at the bottom end of the market.
We want the 80% in the middle. We really don’t see anybody that can really attack that 80% in the middle, especially as the cellular companies are moving to 4G. They’re going to give people more and more power, and more and more data at higher and higher prices when no-one needs it.
When we sold Raco we had 1,600 customers in 71 countries, about 20,000 products being run under those 1,600 customers. The vast majority of them could run today on an RPMA® network. Very, very few needed the top end, and very few would be satisfied with that low end experience. We’re in a unique position and we’re going after that 80% in the middle.
M2M Now: You’re obviously not the first to have dedicated yourselves to creating a network specifically for M2M. I’m thinking of the likes of Aeris. Presumably, the differentiation is the non-cellular side?
JH: Well, everybody that’s tried to do it has done it with cellular technology, other people’s IT, cobbling together multiple different pieces to try to create a network.
We’re an entire ecosystem. We own all the IT. It works. It’s been working for years. It works all over the world. We aren’t recreating anything here. All we’re doing is taking something that we’ve built at private network levels and creating a machine network, public network.
Many of our private networks are bigger than multiple states in the United States, they’re huge. So we know how to cover the big areas of land. We know how to cover areas where there is massive, dense populations.
We have an access point on a tower on the tallest building in downtown LA (Los Angeles). We cover 30 sq mi of downtown LA with one access point, one tower. We know how to do it in dense populations.
We cover 55,000 sq mi of oil and gas production in the United States, or more than 50% of oil and gas production in the US is covered by our RPMA® network.
We know how to deal in low density, high density, different topographies, different climates, and we know how to make it happen, again with something that’s proven and working today.
M2M Now: When was it that you decided to make that change after you came in?
JH: Well, when I came to the company this was my vision, and basically I came because it was my vision. I wouldn’t be here if the board didn’t agree with where I wanted to take the company.
M2M Now: I see. Was it easy to persuade the board?
JH: Oh, I guess I could say, “They were doing cartwheels.” Yes, this is the vision of what they wanted to do all along. My team brings the expertise to be able to deliver on that vision.
M2M Now: Why hadn’t they done it before?
JH: They didn’t have the experience in house, didn’t have the knowledge in house. They got focused on the utility space, and a lot of AMI solutions, and just were focused on that road, and didn’t deviate from it.
You might say that’s a negative because they didn’t look at the overall market. I see as a positive because they cut their teeth through the network technology, in one of the hardest verticals for anybody to succeed in, where most companies have failed. They were just very, very focused there, and the time is right with the 2G sunset and everything else. The marketplace is at an inflection point where the time is right for us to do what we’re going to do.
M2M Now: How long do you think it’s going to take you to complete the transition of Ingenu?
JH: Well, to actually deploy the network in the US, it’s going to take a couple of years. We will continue to sell private networks globally. To do the transition of what’s our mission, our focus, and what we’re delivering, is going to happen very quickly here.
We’ve been working it for the last three months, and we’re ready to go now next week. As far as a complete network in the US, it’s going to take a couple of years.
M2M Now: And outside the US?
JH: Different countries at different rates. We are actually working on projects in multiple countries. We’ll have some announcements coming not too long after CTIA about some of those, but we’re not ready yet.
M2M Now: Right. I hope you’ll keep us posted about those as well?
M2M Now: What do you think are going to be the biggest challenges in making this change? To completely refocus a company, and to build a network at the same time must bring some organisational challenges. Are you having to invest heavily?
JH: Not really, because we have a lot of really smart people in this company, and we’re refocusing them to some of the things that we need to do for the machine network. I bring some people to the table that have strong skill sets, so that’s a significant help for the company.
The thing that’s really great is the culture that we’ve had for the last 13 years in our group. It’s very similar to the culture at On-Ramp, so it puts us in a very easy way of working together. We’ve melded the teams together very well, and everybody’s pretty much on board with what we want to do.
The people that have been working there for a long time are really excited with the direction the company’s going. We actually had our annual company picnic yesterday, and delivered to them all the swag for the new branding, and the look, and reinforced what we were doing in our messaging. Everybody was just ecstatic. The energy level was just fantastic. The company is absolutely ready to go.
M2M Now: The only other thing I wanted to know was, will the company remain private?
JH: For now, yes.
M2M Now: OK, John. Thank you.
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