Sigfox gets help from San Francisco to launch IoT network

Sigfox, the French startup that wants to build a global, low-cost Internet of Things (IoT) network, is getting a little help from the City of San Francisco, which is making city property available for Sigfox to mount antennas.

The city property being made available today is mostly libraries. San Francisco is the first U.S. city to receive Sigfox's connectivity; the other cities Sigfox plans to launch in by early 2016 are New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago, Austin, Houston, Atlanta, Dallas and San Jose.

"The Internet of Things can bring new opportunities to San Francisco -- the Innovation Capital of the World," said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee in a press release. "Creating a network of this kind, the city will be able to attract new startup companies, strengthen existing businesses and provide more jobs, economic growth and continuing prosperity for our residents. I'm excited that the Internet of Things network will help the city deliver more efficient services for residents and opportunities for innovation for entrepreneurs."

Sigfox's low-power wide area network (LPWAN) doesn't need a lot of infrastructure to begin with; initially, it will use about 20 briefcase-sized base stations on top of buildings in the San Francisco area. Sigfox's technology covers a wide area so it doesn't require a massive number of base stations.

"The idea is we're very complementary to existing cellular," Allen Proithis, president of Sigfox North America, told FierceWirelessTech. Existing networks are great for sending massive amounts of data, but that's not what Sigfox is about -- it's more about low-bandwidth applications and making the batteries last a long time. It's designed for transmitting small amounts of data, like moisture sensors in fields that don't send a lot of data but "what they do send, you want."

A lot of people can't justify the cost of an LTE module, he said, and he thinks cellular operators are probably trying to understand what their wide area low power play is going to be. AT&T (NYSE: T) has been actively building its IoT business, and Verizon (NYSE: VZ)  just this week revealed how it's going to be launching a new IoT core in early 2016 that works with IoT profiles at a much lower cost. Verizon's new IoT core will be "super-efficient," allowing for new use cases, according to the operator, which boasts the ability to connect in 92 countries and growing.

Proithis acknowledged that there are a lot of IoT technologies vying for attention, one of which is LoRA, but one of the problems with that, according to Proithis, is it wasn't network driven and doesn't easily roam. The Sigfox model is global; it's now in 10 European countries and registers more than 5 million objects on its network.

Sigfox's technology is FCC certified; it uses the ISM band in the U.S., operating in the 902 MHz space.

For more:
- see this release

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