Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

LoRa battles Sigfox at Embedded World

Steve Rogerson
March 6, 2019

The battle between LoRa and Sigfox for LPWAN adoption reached the conference floor of last week’s Embedded World in Nuremberg with David Armour, marketing manager for Semtech’s LoRa product group, and Aurelius Wosylus from Sigfox, both pushing their standards.
Armour (pictured below) was bullish, saying that LoRa had become “the de-facto standard for LPWANs”.

He said it was not just the technology but how it worked over really long range and could last for years on a battery.
“The sweet spot for us is really low power,” he said. “It will last for more than ten years on a battery that will fit in a water meter. It can have a 20 to 30km range, or 2 to 3km in a built-up area. You can penetrate really deep into buildings as well.”
He said that he did not really view cellular technology such as NB-IoT as a competitor.
“Cellular is good for higher data rates and you need a lot of power for that,” he said. “The energy consumption for cellular can be a hundred times more than us for sending the same data. Then you have wifi and Bluetooth that are fantastic for some networks but not really appropriate for what we do. Sigfox is in the same space as us but with a different business model.”
He said with Sigfox, people had to buy a gateway and a subscription and that a lot of the planet did not have coverage.
Wosylus (pictured below) countered by saying that Sigfox had a global network and was in sixty countries, with six million registered devices and over 500 units had been certified for use with Sigfox.
“We cover five million square kilometres,” he said. “There are about a billion people in the coverage area.”
He said that the goal was to bring the module cost down from €2 to twenty cents or less.
“We want to get down to twenty cents or even lower because we can get much higher volumes,” he said. “When you get to a much larger market, you can push the cost down. It will take a while to get to two cents – that is too far out yet – but twenty cents is reasonable.”
Low module costs mean the devices can be used in logistics applications such as detecting when the seal of a package has been broken and sending an alert of when and where.
Such devices do not need to receive information, only send one short burst, this means the power consumption is low as it is a on-time-send device. That is why Wosylus believes the below twenty cents cost target can be met.
“There is still a way to go to get down to twenty cents,” he said. “It is not easy. It is a challenge, but we will get there. We are maybe a year, maybe more, away.”
Talking about the benefits of Sigfox, he said: “There is no investment needed in the network because we do it. No SIM card is needed. The subscription cost is €1 to €8 a year per device worldwide. There is no roaming cost because it is always one network. A lot of companies underestimate the problems of managing antennas. This is all done by us.”
He stressed that Sigfox was one global network.
“With LoRa, you have several small networks,” he said. “If you move a device from one network to another, how do you get the message? As to NB-IoT, that will transmit more data but has more power consumption.”