Taming IoT networks

November 18, 2016 // By Julien Happich
Sigfox announced it is closing its Series E funding round of €150 million to accelerate the expansion of its global network and soon reach worldwide coverage. In the last five years, the company has built a unique global wireless network that provides a simple, efficient connectivity solution for devices to connect efficiently to the cloud and at ultra low-cost.

It claims the world's largest footprint in terms of IoT connectivity, with over 10 million objects registered on its network. With the new round of investment, Sigfox expects to extend its coverage from 26 countries today to 60 countries by 2018, while reaching financial breakeven point.

The company is also eyeing Industry 4.0 as a key growth path, where data analytics can help with industrial process optimization and predictive maintenance, hence its plans to integrate its data networking services with Salesforce’s IoT Cloud.

Looking at the new investors listed behind this new round of funding, namely Alto Invest, Salesforce Ventures, Henri Seydoux, Swen CP, Tamer Group and Total, but also at re-investing partners including Bpifrance, Elliott, Intel Capital, Air Liquide, Idinvest Partners and IXO, Tom Rebbeck, Research Director at Analysys Mason, gives us his own analysis of Sigfox' business model and its potential limitations.

Rebbeck writes: "The investment shows investors’ continued interest in IoT. The round, one of the largest this year for an IoT startup, illustrates the ongoing interest in IoT from financial and industrial investors.

The money Sigfox has raised, around EUR300 million, highlights the capital-intensive nature of its model. While competing technologies, like LoRaWAN and NB-IoT, have a more standard licensing model, Sigfox develops and provides the technology and absorbs some of the risk of each network roll out – this requires upfront funding from Sigfox. This model gives Sigfox a greater share of the benefits but also more of the risk. Likewise, its network partners are bound to a single supplier and a single point of failure. 

The addressable market for LPWA networks for IoT is considerable, but connectivity is only a small share. Analysys Mason is forecasting over 3 billion connected devices on LPWA networks globally by 2025. Total revenue generated by these networks will be around USD70 billion in 2025, but only a small share of this, USD5 billion, is on connectivity, the market in which Sigfox operates. (The remaining USD65 billion will be on spend relating to hardware and applications.)