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Sigfox raises $115M to build IoT network

Posted: 16 Feb 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Internet of Things? wide-area network? M2M?

France-based Sigfox gained some $115 million from investors, which include three cellular carriers, in its bid to build wide-area networks for the Internet of Things (IoT). The company, which was founded in 2009, is considered a leader of a handful of dark horse candidates aiming to provide less expensive and power-hungry alternatives to cellular networks.

Sigfox said it closed a $93 million round with a $22 million extension, and said it will spend it on building out networks especially in the United States and Asia. Its narrowband, 900MHz network is already widely deployed in France and Spain and has some coverage in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Telefonica, SK Telecom and NTT DOCOMO Ventures took part in the funding round along with other new and existing investors. Sigfox was founded by a former Freescale cellular specialist in 2009 and raised its first major round in 2011.

Carriers are making side bets on several of the emerging IoT network alternatives. The LoRa Alliance based on proprietary technology from Semtech attracted a handful of small carriers as well as giants such as Cisco and IBM when it was launched at CES last month. It hopes to announce at the Mobile World Congress new carriers joining the alliance.

However, carriers say they prefer to drive new services to their existing cellular networks. The 3GPP group is drafting IoT-friendly versions of 3G and LTE standards, but they are not expected to be ready until 2016 or later, opening a door for Sigfox and its rivals.

Other new investors in its latest round suggest Sigfox will pursue avenues already popular among its rivals.

An energy company and a manufacturing gases company!GDF SUEZ and the venture capital arm of Air Liquide Group!invested in the round. Oil and gas fields, utilities and large-scale manufacturers are among the users of private networks based on technology from Sigfox rivals such as OnRamp Wireless (San Diego).

Satellite specialist Eutelsat also invested in the round. "Eutelsat's investment in Sigfox signals our conviction that satellites can accelerate the development of the IoT market, both in terms of reach and reliability," said Jean-Hubert Lenotte, director of strategy at Eutelsat, speaking in a Sigfox press release.

Other aspiring IoT network start-ups have discussed the possibility of satellite deployments for global reach, especially in hard to access areas.

An edge in the Wild West

Rivals and market watchers say Sigfox currently has an edge with its deployed base in Europe and its new funding. But it's still early days in the build out of a wide array of public and private IoT networks.

"M2M is going to be served by a portfolio of technologies!there will be tens of billions of connections using multiple technologies co-existing across multiple use cases," said Godfrey Chua, a principal analyst at Machina Research, a market watcher focused on this sector.

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