French startup Sigfox – which is planning to roll out its own global radio network dedicated to connecting the Internet of Things – has raised $US115 million from seven heavyweight investors: Air Liquide, Eutelsat, NTT Docomo, SK Telecom, and Telefónica.
Today the Sigfox network covers France, Spain, the Netherlands and 10 of the UK’s larger cities. The company said that the funds raised in this latest round would be used to finance rollout in the United States, Latin America, Japan and South Korea. It aims to roll out its network in 60 countries in the next five years.
Commenting on the move, Machina Research said: “This is a clear vote of confidence for Sigfox as a potential global network.” It added: “There are a number of competing technologies, not least Weightless, Neul – recently acquired by Huawei – and Semtech’s LoRa. The last few months have seen a number of interesting LPWA-related announcements from communications service providers, for instance with KPN announcing it would be deploying LoRa, and Tele2 working with Sigfox. With Mobile World Congress coming up we firmly expect major announcements in this space.”
According to Machina, the investors are exactly the types that Sigfox would have wanted to secure, but some are a little surprising given that they have previously focused on other technologies, or are competing with Sigfox network operators in some of their markets.
Sigfox claims to be “the first and only company providing global cellular connectivity for the Internet of Things, fully dedicated to low-throughput communications.” Sigfox says it is “re-inventing connectivity by radically lowering prices and energy consumption for connected devices.”
Sigfox uses ultra narrow band (UNB) based radio technology to connect devices to its global network. It says UNB is key to providing a scalable, high-capacity network with very low energy consumption while maintaining a simple and easy to rollout cell infrastructure.
The network operates in the globally available ISM (instrumentation, scientific and medical) bands and co-exists in these frequencies with other radio technologies, but without any risk of collisions or capacity problems, according to Sigfox
Sigfox currently uses the most popular European ISM band on 868MHz (as defined by ETSI and CEPT) as well as the 902MHz in the USA (as defined by the FCC), depending on specific regional regulations.
Sigfox says: “An important advantage provided by the use of the narrow band technology is the flexibility it offers in terms of antenna design. On the network infrastructure end it allows the use of small and simple antennas, but more importantly, it allows devices to use inexpensive and easily customisable antennas.”
The company says communication on its network are secured in many ways, including anti-replay, message scrambling, sequencing, etc. It adds: “The most important aspect of transmission security is however that only the device vendors understand the actual data exchanged between the device and the IT systems. Sigfox only acts as a transport channel, pushing the data towards the customer’s IT system.”