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Sprint, like AT&T, ups focus on machine-to-machine wireless connections

Sprint touted the number of partners for machine-to-machine connections signaling the importance of connecting devices as the U.S. mobile market becomes saturated.

Sprint on Monday touted the number of partners for machine-to-machine connections signaling the importance of connecting devices as the U.S. mobile market becomes saturated.

Sprint talked up its emerging solutions unit, which is focused on forging so called "machine-to-machine" (M2M) partnerships. The idea from carriers such as Sprint is to also connect devices as well as people.

Sprint touted partners such as Axeda, Lenovo, Skiff, Top Global, Walsh Wireless and ZTE. The aim for Sprint is to offer mobile connectivity to a wide range of devices to deliver content, updates and other services. Sprint noted in a statement that these M2M connections can create new business models.

The message: Device connections will increasingly matter for wireless carriers. For instance, AT&T's most recent quarter was largely fueled by deals for Amazon's Kindle, netbooks and other devices. Emerging devices boosted AT&T's wireless customer base by 1 million in the fourth quarter.

AT&T CFO Rick Lindner said in late January:

We put a concentrated effort into the emerging device space over the past year. We believe the range of devices that will be connected wirelessly is going to be quite broad. We created an organization with a specification to build relationships and grow in what we believe is a high potential area.  Now while ARPUs in emerging devices are typically low, the churn and the margin characteristics are quite attractive, and we are encouraged by the growth we are seeing in this category.

Verizon Wireless also talked about M2M connectivity at its developer powwow last year. Expect the focus on device connectivity to ramp up.