LPWAN for IoT: Interview with Ludovic Le Moan, CEO of Sigfox

Ludovic Le Moan, CEO of Sigfox

At IoT Business News, we had the opportunity to interview Ludovic Le Moan, CEO of Sigfox.

IoT Business News : Sigfox has been one of the first players to launch a dedicated technology and connectivity service for low-power, low data rate IoT applications. Where is Sigfox today in terms of commercial deployments (live applications), network footprint and connections?

Ludovic Le Moan (Sigfox) : We now cover 980M people in 46 countries. Our network is the only one able to propose the same value proposition for customers all around the world. It is very important to understand that wherever you are in the world you can benefit from the same SLA, same API, same everything. Our customers can sign a global contract with one price, without roaming or complex conditions.

When we created the first low power, long range and most of all global IoT network, the telecom world didn’t believe it would work. But after our 100M€ financing round, they have started to struggle to find out something to challenge us. They ended up with technologies like LoRa which is definitely not a solution for a global network. Now they are aware of it and they try to move forward with NB-IoT which is a promising technology, but once again, not able to compete with us. I believe they will never be able to reach our value proposition.

IoT B.N. : Could you share with us where Sigfox stands today in terms of revenues, growth curve and profitability?

Ludovic Le Moan : We did 50M€ last year and we are on track to do more than 80M€ this year. Our connection growth is amazing. At a recent press conference on Feb 15, I announced 2.5M objects registered on our network. Today we are reaching 3.2M+ devices connected. In terms of profitability, our objective is to reach break even by Q4 this year.

IoT B.N. : Demand for LPWA solutions is accelerating and competition intensifies among IoT network operators. In the unlicensed networks arena, LoRa seems to gain momentum on the market (at least in terms of adoption) and licensed LPWA networks (using LTE-M and NB-IoT) are growing very fast. How Sigfox is responding to this competition and what is your strategy to differentiate?

Ludovic Le Moan : I don’t consider LoRa as a competitor, they are out of our market. LoRa is a private network solution, not a global one. Look at all the customers we mentioned during the last months, who are big names, with significant volume. We never communicate on our POCs because we would be releasing press announcements every hour!

We have more than one thousand projects ongoing in 46 countries, with tier one companies. In a recent article you mentioned 500 partners in the LoRa Alliance, but we have twice more solutions running on the market! We don’t have the time to feed the medias with meaningless information so we filter our announcements and we don’t necessarily provide regular updates on our situation. But today, I have the opportunity to establish the truth. So once again, the LoRa Alliance can do interesting businesses on private networks. I don’t say other LPWAN technologies have no interest, but can you track a luggage or a container around the world with LoRa or even with NB-IoT?

IoT B.N. : Will all these competing LPWA standards be able to coexist in the future or do you anticipate some kind of consolidation?

Ludovic Le Moan : As already said, I don’t believe that LoRa is a candidate for a global IoT network. NB-IoT and LTE-M could be interesting options for mid-end solutions. Unfortunately, due to the different operating frequencies, the specific backend solutions, the possible compatibility issues between vendors, it will not be possible to offer a global solution for customers, based on those standards. Nevertheless, we have good discussions in progress with MNOs to enter into smart agreements in order to tackle together the huge IoT opportunity.

We have more and more NB-IoT and LTE-M device makers who are looking to follow the path of GCT Semiconductor and embed dual connectivity with Sigfox for security, autonomy improvement and reliability. It doesn’t impact their BOM, it’s just 200 lines of code to add in the modem firmware to benefit from a Sigfox backup!

IoT B.N. : What does the IoT market need the most today to expand and reach the billion figures forecasted for years by market analysts? What is the best way to address and stimulate this market?

Ludovic Le Moan : IoT means data collection. Therefore, we need to produce/extract data from the ground at the lowest cost possible to create a significant gap between the data’s intrinsic value and the cost of data production. We went from a 12$ module in 2015 to 2$ in 2017 and you will see the first industrial module at 20 cents this year as announced in Prague last year.

IoT B.N. : Are security issues likely to slow down or even to jeopardize the adoption of IoT, at least in the consumer space?

Ludovic Le Moan : Of course we have to carefully address the security issues, to avoid losing the high momentum. Remember Sigfox is not IP based, which is a high value differentiator for security! We claim to be the most secure and reliable connectivity solution for IoT. In any case, security has to be balanced with the cost of data production. We have partners offering the Sigfox connectivity embedded into secure elements which is a killer solution in terms of security level, for a reasonable extra cost on the module. Remember that Sigfox can be embedded for free in every wireless modules (patent free model). Therefore, you can reinforce your security against DDoS with a dual path verification (IP protocol + Sigfox). Like when you receive your credit card at home, you generally receive your PIN code through another channel!

IoT B.N. : What is your vision for Sigfox in 10 years from now?

Ludovic Le Moan : Sigfox will cover the planet with a bunch of cube satellites, which will allow to get every square meter covered with the same value proposition, the same devices, the same antennas, the same API. Our goal is to have One Network for the planet!

The cost of modules should be at 5 cents or cheaper, with billions of data extracted every day. We will fuel the cloud with additional data to build up our future. There will be no more batteries to power transmission, thanks to affordable energy harvesting solutions.

But there are environments or humanity threats that can’t be addressed by profitable solutions. We are running the company with strong sense and values. With our Sigfox Foundation we are seriously supporting global causes, with a strong commitment to deliver our promises, through global and open source solutions.

For example, we are working on anti-poaching solutions. Some of them are up and running for more than 18 months in the fields. We will soon commit on different software and hardware designs freely accessible through an open source model to let everybody copy and improve our creations, with the aim to get smart contributions from the community on our Foundation projects.

Our next big achievement will deal with sismic detection, with tests running now in Mexico with local experts.

As you see, at Sigfox our vision of the future encompasses a better and safer world!

An interview conducted by Manuel Nau, Editorial Manager at IoT Business News.

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