A new report just published by Beecham Research: ‘An Introduction to LPWA Public Service Categories: Matching Services to IoT Applications’, proposes creating service categories for different types of providers of LPWA (Low Power Wide Area) public services. The aim is to make it possible for enterprise users to match the applications that they want to the most appropriate connectivity services required to enable them. In addition, the report proposes a new name to refer to this new class of providers. Through discussions with the key market players who offer LPWA-based public services, Beecham proposes using the term ‘Public LPWA Services Provider’ (LSP) for a provider that offers LPWA-based connectivity services directly to users. In addition, when services offered by these LSPs are themselves enabled through a cloud-based service, they then propose using the term LPWA Services Enabler (LSE) for a cloud-based services provider.
To explore how these service categories will aid market development in this increasingly important area of the IoT market, Robin DukeWoolley, CEO at Beecham Research, interviewed Thomas Nicholls, EVP Communications at SIGFOX, one of the leading players in this sector.
RD-W: Do you see it helpful that the report calls for a service focus rather than a technology focus?
TN: Customers care about what they buy, much more than how it’s built. For example, very few people care about how 2G, 3G and 4G networks actually work. They just want a cheap data subscription that they can use wherever they go.
In the LPWA space there are a lot of discussions around technologies and protocols. These discussions are interesting for the engineers involved – but not so much for the customers, so we warmly welcome the idea of shifting to a more customer-oriented service description.
By the way, for LPWA use cases, the key attributes are often expressed through the concept of the 4Cs: coverage; commitment, e.g. SLAs; and cost and consumption, e.g. battery life.
RD-W: The report categorises key service attributes that can be matched to different types of application. Do you see that as an aid to market development?
TN: The IoT covers a wide range of applications. Some are addressed very well by traditional cellular connectivity, some by WiFi or Bluetooth and some by LPWA. When it comes to connectivity there is no one-size-fits-all.
In that context, it’s very relevant in terms of being able to guide users of connectivity to an optimum solution that’s based on their actual application requirements.
RD-W: How would you define the applications that SIGFOX is focusing on and how do these differ from others that you see in the market?
TN: The market is broad, very broad. What we see is that the applications that use our services are very different from the ones that use traditional connectivity solutions. These range from cost saving applications, ones that will maximise the revenues of our customers, through to ones that are supporting new and disruptive business models.
Many of the applications that we enable require nationwide or international coverage. This includes tracking solutions as well as B2C products.
We also see a lot of combinations of SIGFOX and traditional connectivity solutions, such as cellular, WiFi and Bluetooth. The goal can be to have backup connectivity, avoid GSM jammers, automating pairing and so on.
And, last but not least, there’s also a huge retrofit market, which is due to the fact that SIGFOX is compatible with all of the existing sub-GHz transceivers in the market. This means that customers who already use chips from the likes of Texas Instruments, Atmel, Silicon Labs and others can use SIGFOX without any changes to their Bill of Materials (BOM). Some customers have even installed SIGFOX via Firmware Over The Air (FOTA) upgrades using a GSM connection.
RD-W: What are some of the key differentiators for how SIGFOX enables these types of applications?
TN: SIGFOX provides a very high performance method for resolving the 4 Cs that I mentioned before: coverage, commitment, cost and consumption. B2C alarm systems will, for example, require country-wide coverage – or even international for some customers.
You also need to be able to commit to an SLA when you manage critical communications, which is something that only SIGFOX provides. SIGFOX even provides SLAs for global connectivity. Our costs for connectivity subscriptions and end points are clearly market leading, while our open chip vendor approach allows customers to choose the cheapest and most appropriate chipsets for their specific applications. Energy consumption has always been one of the key focus areas for SIGFOX and we are more than willing to benchmark against any other operated LPWA solution to show just how much further we push the limits of battery life.