With US$115 million in new funding, French company Sigfox plans to expand its dedicated IoT (Internet of Things) network around the world.
Sigfox's technology lets devices transmit messages with up to 12 bytes of data at slow speeds, but low connection costs and energy-efficient radios make it a good fit for sensors, smart meters and location trackers.
After building networks in France, Spain, the U.K., the Netherlands, Sigfox will accelerate European, Asian and American network rollouts in the coming months. The company plans to build out coverage in 20 countries, including the U.S., Singapore, South Korea, Japan, India, Germany, Italy, Brazil and Argentina.
Sigfox is taking a different tack in the U.S., where it will build a network on its own instead of finding a local partner, its usual practice. Finalizing a partnership would take six to nine months, and CEO Ludovic Le Moan doesn't want to wait that long.
"We need to go fast and keep up the momentum," he said.
Initial coverage in the U.S. will include San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Washington, Boston and New York.
"If you cover the main cities, you can build a real business," Le Moan said.
That business will include networking gas, electricity and water meters, security systems, and products used to track pets, bikes and cars. Using chipsets that have been developed to work with Sigfox's networks, it is possible to build a tracking product that costs just €20 ($23), according to Le Moan.
Attracting startups is an important part of Sigfox's strategy. For example, the company is part of the jury at a pitching event for Internet of Things startups during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next month.
Business from startups may not drive revenue for Sigfox immediately, but is key for future growth, Le Moan said.
Sigfox's technology uses spectrum below 1GHz to send data. That means networks can be built using less equipment and devices can use inexpensive antennas, which makes the technology appropriate for networking IoT devices, Le Moan said.
Sigfox is competing with a variety of vendors as it races to raise its profile and grab market share in the low-power, wide-area network (LPWAN) sector, which is still in its infancy.
The new funding comes from operators such as Telefonica, SK Telecom and NTT DoCoMo. These are good partners to have, as Sigfox aims to make its technology part of not only its own cellular networks, but those built by other companies laying the groundwork for 5G infrastructure.
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