We analyse the advantages and disadvantages of Sigfox and the features of one of the leading IoT networks currently on the market.
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These days, the Internet of Things affects our lives significantly. Health sciences, smart home devices, security and public safety - everything is connected! Consistent improvements are being made in IoT to cater to varying sectors' needs. Making all this happen is a wireless wide area network technology system that interconnects low-bandwidth, battery-powered devices with low bit rates over long ranges. One provider of such a system is Sigfox.
What is Sigfox?
SigFox is a non-cellular IoT, low-power, wide-area network (LPWAN) form of wireless communication that has been developed to provide wireless connectivity for M2M and IoT devices such as electric trackers and sensors. Founded in 2010 in France, the Sigfox network is now present in 75 countries and regions worldwide.
Having encountered difficulties in recent years, Sigfox was acquired by Singaporean company UnaBiz in April 2022 for an undisclosed fee, though some sources claim a fee of around 25 million euros. The Sigfox network is dedicated to the Internet of Things (IoT), using the UNB (Ultra Narrow Band) to allow devices to communicate with low power on a wide area.
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For what is Sigfox used?
Thanks to networks like Sigfox, each country has frequencies where everyone can transmit, subject to limits per hour but free of charge. IoT Malta brought Sigfox to Malta in 2016/17, ensuring it was one of Europe's first countries to provide a nationwide Sigfox network.
The Sigfox vision was to connect every object in our physical world into a digital universe, creating a global network dedicated to the internet of things based on low power, long-range and small data that offers an end-to-end connectivity service. As our economy, environment and social bond become increasingly connected, we must realise the importance of being able to access and rely on communications networks. We have become more vulnerable as we depend more and more on digital services.
Sensors attached to devices send messages to notify the customer of that message. The Sigfox technology acts as a middle man between that device being monitored and the end-user for analysis, allowing data to be sent directly to Sigfox servers without distance constraints. Unlike high-speed cellular connectivity, data transmitted by LPWAN are much lower, the devices consume less energy to communicate, and the pricing for such communication is mostly low cost.
Sigfox is one of a number of networks that transmit information from the devices to the internet but at a low data rate. The SigFox wireless interface was developed to enable communications with minimum power consumption, meaning a simple battery that will last for several years is sufficient to power the device.
They are networks by which a device 'speaks' to the internet and devices located at distances, some up to five kilometres away. Sigfox topology also offers seamless worldwide connectivity, making it the clear winner for logistics applications. Currently, Sigfox is present in 75 countries and regions with an astounding near 16.3 Million registered devices, estimating about 5.7M km² across the world with 1.3 billion people covered. Today, Sigfox delivers nearly 80 Million messages per day.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Sigfox
Sigfox is the most basic one of the networks currently on the market whilst boasting one of the most extended signal ranges available. Unlike cellular technology, Sigfox requires a network constructed from the ground up, meaning a firmware upgrade for some of the base stations with the hardware capability. In addition, the radio protocol operates in an unlicensed spectrum, which might not make Sigfox ideal for specific applications which require to have control over the radio spectrum used. There is no two-way communication, meaning that messages are not acknowledged.
Being a company with a common network service, roaming between countries is much more straightforward. Sigfox has the lowest cost radio devices. The radio protocol does not require two way-communication to communicate with the network, making the technology very effective for applications that are not safety-critical. Sigfox bases its reliability on the repetition of signals from multiple base stations. If designed correctly, professionals argue it may be more reliable than the two-way communication required in cellular networks but more efficient.