IoT coverage for 95% of UK by 2019? We can't even do 4G, Sigfox

French firm and new pals WND announce, err, ambitious plans


French Internet of Things connectivity firm Sigfox says it is partnering with a hitherto unheard-of firm, WND-UK, to cover "95 per cent" of Blighty by 2019.

WND is a very recent expansion into the UK, having set up shop earlier this year. Sigfox is a French-headquartered firm which has had an active commercial presence in the UK since 2014, deploying its IoT connectivity gear in a number of locations around the country – but on a relatively limited scale.

WND-UK "will deploy, operate and maintain a nationwide network", according to Sigfox's statement this morning. Their claim of being able to secure coverage of "95 per cent of the UK" is not quantified as to whether that is landmass coverage or population coverage – and it's a claim that badly needs further explanation.

Ofcom's 2016 Connected Nation report reckons (PDF) that 93 per cent of UK consumers can get data services coverage from their mobile operator in "outdoor premises" of the type likely to have IoT sensors installed.

On the flip side, WND's other operations, particularly in South America, have given it reasonable experience of deploying Sigfox networks. Whether that translates well to the UK is something The Register will be keeping an eye on.

Although Sigfox has already partnered with Arqiva, whose mobile mast infrastructure spans about 30 per cent of the UK's population, concentrated in 11 major cities, it is difficult to see how the French firm is going to hit its 95 per cent coverage target, particularly when mobile network operators with large pots of cash and licence obligations to boot have, so far, not secured that level of coverage for 2G/3G/4G.

A previous report by Globaldata Technology – the artists formerly known as analyst house Kabel – said: "The public sector's lack of ambition for open IoT networks in the UK might have left the way clear for established mobile network operator to dominate the space. However, in practice only BT's EE has announced any intent to enter the market with plans to trial an IoT upgrade to its 4G/LTE network by the end of the second quarter of 2017."

Well-informed sources whisper to El Reg that industry is proceeding on the basis that a nationwide IoT network of some description will be in place and ready for commercial customers by late 2018. Whether Sigfox will feature in that plan depends entirely on WND-UK. ®

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