Arqiva Ltd., the leading owner and operator of communications infrastructure in the UK, is planning to create a national network dedicated to the Internet of Things (IoT) and has said it will use technology from French startup SigFox SA.
Arqiva (Winchester, England) did not indicate how much it plans to spend on rolling out the low-power, long-distance cellular network or how quickly it could achieve coverage goals. However as Arqiva already owns masts and basestation locations across UK it has cost advantages over potential rivals.
SigFox (Toulouse, France) was founded in 2009 and uses proprietary ultra-narrow band (UNB) radio technology to provide a low-power cellular infrastructure dedicted to machine-to-machine M2M communications and IoT. The UNB radio operates in license-free ISM bands and combines with software defined radio techniques performed at the basestation to achieve high sensitivity and therefore long distance communications at efficient energy levels. The basestations are said to operate over ranges of 3 to 10 kilometers in urban areas and up to 30 to 50 kilometers in rural areas.
The network operates in the globally available ISM bands and co-exists in these frequencies with other radio technologies and SigFox provides multiple techniques and layers of security for users' data. SigFox already claims to have a network providing 80 percent coverage of France and is now moving rapidly to roll the SigFox networks out in other countries.
The company has raised about $30 million in venture capital and includes Intel Capital and Partech Ventures amongst its investors.
The company operates its own network in France and is working with partners in the Netherlands and Spain, as well as in several cities, including Moscow and Munich. SigFox's rapid movement towards establishing global network provides a first mover advantage as it can offer international roaming and uniformity of M2M and IoT technology to global customers.
"The UK has an active, fast-growing Internet of Things market, and our partnership with Arqiva is a significant part of SigFox's plan to establish a global cellular network dedicated to the IoT. According to some forecasts, there will be 50 billion connected devices worldwide by 2020, but for this to become a reality, both cost and energy use will have to come down," said Rodolphe Baronnet-Fruges, vice president of business development at SigFox, in a statement.
Wendy McMillan, managing director of smart metering and M2M at Arqiva, said: "Arqiva has the unique breadth of capabilities needed to meet evolving machine-to-machine connectivity requirements across the UK. We already run satellite, WiFi, and long-range radio networks, providing full managed services where required. Our smart metering communications service, connecting 10 million homes using long-range radio technology, will be one of the UK’s largest machine-to-machine deployments."
McMillan added: "Our partnership with SigFox, and the new dedicated Internet of Things network we are building, will provide nationwide low-power connectivity for the first time. Low-power consumption allows batteries and equipment to last longer, avoiding the cost and inconvenience of replacing devices. This massively expands the range of devices that can be connected, increasing the benefits to consumers and businesses alike."
Arqiva said the SigFox IoT network will be rolled out nationwide but will start in ten cities: Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, London, Manchester and Sheffield.
The adoption of SigFox by Arqiva is likely to be seen as a be a blow to Neul Ltd. (Cambridge, England) which has developed its own wireless networking standard for IoT/M2M applications that can make use of so-called "white space" UHF radio spectrum.
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