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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

WND aims for pan-UK Sigfox network by 2019

By Nick Flaherty at

One of the main low power wide area network operators in the UK is planning to have 95% coverage of the country by 2019 to connect up devices in the Internet of Things. This uses the French proprietary Sigfox network.

“The feedback we’re getting from many of our channel partners is that some customers remain uncertain about the reliability, security and costs associated with using the Sigfox network," said Neal Forse, chief executive of WND UK. "We’re spending a lot of time reassuring customers that Sigfox is proven technology and the basis for a commercially viable IoT network. Unfortunately, the failure of previous network operators to deliver on their promises has left us with a confused market."
“If we look at what WND is achieving in international markets such as Europe and Latin America as it continues to deploy Sigfox networks throughout Brazil, Mexico, Columbia and Argentina, then customers should be reassured that we will achieve the same outcomes here in the UK," he said.

He points to a difference business model based on usage. "We firmly believe that it is the responsibility of the network operator to fund the development of the network infrastructure. We base licence fees on message volume, resulting in very low ‘per message’ charges for high-volume users. Furthermore, unlike other IoT networks, you don’t require a gateway to use Sigfox.”

WND UK started its rollout in March and currently provides coverage to over 37% the UK’s population and is on track to cover 50% before the end of 2017, with over 450 base station installations across the UK. However, IoT applications are often in areas of low population so using a measure of population can be misleading for coverage. The advantage of the lower frequency LPWAN technology is greater range to cover such areas. 

Ideally equipment makers can add a Sigfox module to a system and connect directly to the network, which then uses the Sigfox server (or Azure cloud) to make the connection to the wider Internet as required.

"Sigfox base stations can be deployed at customer sites anywhere in the UK and be fully operational in a matter of weeks," said WND partner Tim Streather at Spica Technologies.

Using a non-IP, proprietary protocol is a benefit for security, says Forse. “Although Sigfox-ready devices are classed as IoT objects, they are not directly connected to the internet and do not communicate using internet protocol," he said. "Sigfox-enabled devices have a built-in behaviour; when this requires data to be transmitted or received, a device will communicate via a radio message. Each message is picked up by several access stations and is delivered to the Sigfox cloud network over a secure VPN, which then relays it to a predefined destination, typically an IoT application. Because Sigfox devices don’t have IP addresses, they are not addressable for rogue hackers to gain access.”

Such a security design ensures that Sigfox-ready devices are prevented from sending data to arbitrary devices via the internet and are shielded from interception by strict firewall measures.

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