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Sigfox shows 20-cent IoT wireless module

Peter Sayer | Sept. 27, 2017
Sigfox reckons it can make wide-area wireless modules so cheap that even disposable items can become part of the internet of things.

There's one situation in which the modules can't rely on the network to calculate where they are, and that's when the send their first transmission. To comply with local radio regulations, they at least need to know what country they are in. In this case, the modules listen to the frequencies local base stations are transmitting on to deduce on what frequency they should reply. That's important given that the company operates networks directly in the U.S., France and Germany, and through partners in many other regions of the world.

The wireless modules only represent part of the cost of sending a message over the Sigfox network: There's also the cost of a subscription to the service.

Those start at $10 -- per year, not per month -- for up to 140 messages per day. (Those messages are only 12 bytes long, or 8 bytes if sent from the network to the device, however.)

Le Moan said that could come down to as little as $0.10 per subscription for devices such as package trackers that are only likely to send a few messages per year.

At that price, partners' and resellers' administrative costs are likely to be higher than the cost of the subscription, so Sigfox is also introducing a self-service portal for provisioning wireless devices on its networks.

While Sigfox's service is going gangbusters in the 32 countries where it is offered (and Le Moan announced four more to come in Prague) one thing holding it back is that devices need to be built around a special Sigfox module in order to use it. Devices built to operate on the narrowband LTE networks offered by traditional telecommunications operators for IoT applications won't work with Sigfox.

Soon, that obstacle will disappear, Le Moan revealed, as Sigfox partner GCT Semiconductor has developed a firmware upgrade for its LTE-M1 modules that makes them compatible with the Sigfox Admiral Blue service. No hardware changes are necessary, he said: The modules are already capable of emitting and receiving the necessary signals.


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