Has Verizon just signed a death warrant for Sigfox and Lora?

May 28, 2018

Has Verizon just signed a death warrant for Sigfox and Lora?In an emerging market initially there tends to be a glut of vendors, a plethora of early adopters who have spotted the opportunity to get in on the ground floor. But as the market matures, vendor numbers dwindle until typically only a handful remain.

This natural attrition comes in many guises but one of the most the powerful is action from a major player. And this is what we have seen recently from communications giant Verizon and their launch of web-based IoT development platform, ThingSpace.

Verizon says “ThingSpace is a gateway to a simplified IoT workspace and machine-to-machine (M2M) management center for prototype through production…to bring your IoT solutions to life, and to market.”

While news of another IoT development platform isn’t much of an eyebrow-raiser what is, is the decision by Verizon to offer CAT-M1 modules from USD 6.50 each, and to allow free certification on their network and additionally provide 100 hours of expert help.

The axe has fallen

By its actions, Verizon has clearly indicated its intent to capitalize on the billions of IoT devices predicted to come online in the next few years, and by subsidizing hardware connections, its service becomes a very attractive option. Furthermore Verizon is one of the few companies who already have the infrastructure in place to support this.

This latest move will likely secure substantial market penetration for Verizon while at the same time potentially culling several existing players from the market.

This “market cleansing” action has significant impact for Sigfox and LoRa and may signal the death knell for these LPWA technologies in the U.S. market.

READ: The completely overlooked but drastic cost savings municipal water departments can achieve with this simple IIoT application

The advantage is clear

CAT-M1 has huge advantage over both SigFox and Lora in the type of applications that can be achieved with it. With a direct TCP connection from the sensor and no third-party servers, gateways or services required to connect to the internet, CAT-M1 is in a strong position to significantly reduce cost, complication and latency whilst still allowing for complete flexibility.

The introduction of CAT-M1 modules at this price point means Verizon can now also compete in the simple, low-frequency (time), low-data applications that Sigfox and LoRa were invented for e.g. daily automatic meter reading.

In my opinion any advantages that Sigfox or LoRa thought they had are now dwindling fast in the light of this power play by Verizon.

The comparison table below summarizes some important points in determining which direction device manufacturers should head.

Comparing Sigfox, LoRa and CAT-M1

Verizon CAT-M1 Sigfox LoRa
Network operated by a Fortune 500 company?
U.S. nation-wide coverage complete?
Device operating in protected licensed frequency?
Latency between web and device? (very good/good/poor)
Battery life for simple applications (very good/good/poor)
Hardware cost for simple applications* (very good/good/poor)

* Simple application defined as obtaining a meter reading for an existing meter and posting to the internet once per day.

Anthony Glucina is an IIoT consultant and CEO of Define Instruments, an industrial instrumentation manufacturer. He has worked in the industrial engineering space for over 25 years and holds a Master’s degree in Engineering.

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