AT&T regularly adds close to a million connected devices per quarter to its mobile network and exceeded that number by some margin in a particularly strong Q4, the company told Total Telecom this week, shortly after making an announcement that will enable it to extend its reach in certain industry verticals.

The U.S. telco recorded 1.5 million net additions in the fourth quarter, including both consumer devices and enterprise machine-to-machine (M2M) connections, according to Eric Krauss, director of M2M product management at AT&T Business Solutions. “A great majority of them were consumer products,” due to the holiday season falling during the quarter, Krauss explained. During the rest of 2010, the telco added around 900,000 connected devices per quarter, split roughly equally between business and consumer connections.

M2M is a growing market. According to ABI Research, M2M connections will reach in excess of 297 million in 2015, up from 232.5 million the previous year. Europe will lead the way with 110 million connections, followed by North America with 79 million and Asia-Pacific with close to 66 million.

Krauss declined to share AT&T's own forecasts for M2M connections, but described ABI's numbers as “pretty darn accurate”.

Earlier this week AT&T revealed four partnerships in the M2M space, “each in a certain vertical we're going after,” Krauss said. The company is working with cloud-based M2M platform provider Axeda, which has traction in the industrial, medical, IT, banking, retail and government sectors; ILS Technology, which provides monitoring and predictive maintenance applications in the building automation, data centre, energy management, and industrial markets; SensorLogic, which specialises in fleet management; and Sierra Wireless, developer of the AirVantage cloud-based service and development platform.

“Our customers are asking us to be more end-to-end,” Krauss said. They want us to do more, “and we'll charge for that”.

AT&T's target market is U.S. companies with a global presence. For example, it is currently running a multi-country trial with a heavy-lifting vehicle maker that wants to capture engine data to gain a better understanding of how a new engine is performing.

Key areas for the company include home alarm-monitoring systems, smart grids, and energy management.