IoT newcomer Senaptic pushes non-cellular M2M play

A new venture led by the founder of small cell provider Ubiquisys, Will Franks, is to target the Internet of Things market, promising to free prospective providers and customers from “dependency on traditional networks”. The company, called Senaptic, has been spun out of telemetry consultancy Plextek, which remains the majority shareholder. Senaptic will take Plextek’s Ultra Narrowband (UNB) radio technology, its intellectual property and its existing customer base and offer a standardised solution for connecting a variety of devices across a range of verticals, Franks told

The UNB technology behind the play operates in the largely unlicensed ISM band (Industrial, Scientific and Medical) and Senaptic aims to supply entire networks to regional and vertical licensees which will then develop and deliver services to end users. Existing deployments include two UK street lighting networks and a Russian public authority that uses the solution to monitor and display information relating to free parking spaces.

While the solution uses 3G cellular for backhaul, Franks told that this would likely be the limit of mobile operators’ involvement.

“The operators aren’t getting the piece they want, which is to control the internet of things. They can’t control it because they don’t own the spectrum.” Franks agreed that operators could become licensees of the technology, but suggested that they might find it difficult to compete with regional or vertical specialists in terms of service development and deployment.

“Undoubtedly operators will feel threatened by this to a degree because they cannot control it in any way. Construction companies or water companies could do this themselves. They don’t want to be beholden to a mobile operator.”

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The Senaptic solution is not suitable for all IoT connectivity solutions, Franks conceded. With very low throughput, applications like smart metering or connected vending machines are likely to be served by cellular-based solutions, he said. A UNB solution instead trades on very long battery life and very good penetration characteristics, he said.

This is not the first M2M play that has sought to offer a connectivity alternative to traditional cellular networks. UK-based Neul uses White Space spectrum for its IoT solution. Last year reported on a debate between Neul founder and CTO James Collier and GSMA CTO Alex Sinclair in which Collier argued that mobile operators are fundamentally mismatched to much of the M2M opportunity due to the nature of their business models and networks. Sinclair offered a robust defence.

“The Internet of Things is world-changing,” said Franks, who was part of the team that sold Ubiquisys to Cisco for $310m last year. “The big question is how it can be rapidly developed and monetized. By removing the dependency on traditional networks, we believe that Senaptic has the answer.”

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