LPWAN tech Sigfox vows 95% UK population coverage by 2019

Sigfox operator WND-UK has said it is ramping the deployment of its UK IoT network such that it should reach 95% of the population in the next 18 months.

WND seems to be the sole operator for Sigfox in many of its territories, including launches in Colombia and Mexico, and has now set its sights on the UK. Arqiva has been a Sigfox UK partner since 2014 but is focusing on major cities and thus only covers 30% of the population. WND seems to have been drafted in to cover the rest of the country, bar the most remote areas that most telcos don’t think are worth the hassle.

“In a world of IoT, tomorrow’s smart devices will need to be wirelessly multilingual,” said Neal Forse, chief exec of WND-UK. “In other words, they will need to be able to communicate across different kinds of networks and choose the most appropriate technology for specific tasks so that performance and battery life are optimised.

“Sub-gigahertz networks, such as Sigfox, require far less power and provide much longer battery life for the many devices that only require intermittent internet connectivity and the transmission of small amounts of data.”

Forse seems to be acknowledging the LPWAN battle that is unlikely to be resolved conclusively anytime soon. Telefónica has publicly supported Sigfox but many other operators and trade groups seem to favour 3GPP-approved NB-IoT as the main IoT-specific wireless technology, with Vodafone its most vocal cheerleader. Meanwhile Orange still seems committed to LoRa and LTE-M doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.

Sigfox is especially exposed in this environment, being the most deliberately proprietary of the LPWAN technologies available. NB-IoT and LTE-M are branches of LTE and thus supported by the licensed spectrum industry. Meanwhile LoRa is positioning itself as complementary rather than competing with the licensed technologies. Sigfox need to do a good job of proving itself in IoT providers are going to be lured away from the mainstream path.

With this in mind Sigfox/WND got some canned comments from channel partners. “We’re now working closely with WND-UK as a channel partner to assist in the provision of the Sigfox national network,” said Peter Milton, MD of RTLS. “The sensor technology available via WND will significantly improve the cost basis for implementing IoT systems and provide the necessary spring board to wider international coverage and business opportunities.”

Cost seems to be a key USP for Sigfox, which makes sense. “Sigfox is the lowest cost, lowest power technology for IoT applications, and we’re already well underway with delivery of a robust and cost-effective Sigfox network,” said Forse. If Sigfox is able to point to viable, profitable IoT services using its technology in the UK ahead of the other technologies that would represent a significant competitive win.

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