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LoRa and Sigfox go head-to-head at IMC AGM

Steve Rogerson
December 10, 2015
Sigfox and LoRaWan came head-to-head in a low-power wireless network debate at last week’s IoT M2M Council (IMC) AGM in London, with Actility’s VP of marketing Nicolas Jordan acting as proponent for LoRaWan against Sigfox’s North American president Allen Proithis.
The big debate came over the suitability of the two technologies for public and private network’s with Jordan arguing that LoRaWan was suitable for both whereas Sigfox was only for public networks.
“We are not in the private network business,” acknowledged Proithis. “If you are looking for a private network, then go with LoRa. But on the public network, there may be some traction for LoRa on some specialised use cases.”
However, he said the established operators were looking at a more traditional view of the opportunities in IoT and some waiting to see how the LTE MPC standard pans out.
“With traditional operators that have gone for LoRa, we are seeing the real progress is going slowly,” said Proithis. “The challenge with LoRa is that it is hardware up rather than network down. With Sigfox it is seamless. You can stick your product wherever you want. It becomes invisible after you set it up. With LoRa, there is no concept of bandwidth management. If someone deploys a LoRa network and someone else it in the same area, then the bandwidth is halved.”
He also said that LoRa had a potential cost problem because there was only one chip supplier – Semtech – but with Sigfox there were a number of chip companies supporting the technology, which created a more diverse ecosystem and competition.
However, Jordan said the LoRa Alliance ecosystem had grown to 170 members in just ten months with public networks deployed by Orange, Proximus, KPN and others. Proithis responded by saying there were announcements with LoRa but very little deployment.
Jordan also pointed out that on gateways, LoRaWan had base stations and picocells compared with just base stations for Sigfox.
“That is fair,” said Proithis. “We have not announced a gateway strategy. We haven’t seen the need for that yet.”
The other debate was on data rate, and here LoRa scores with much higher rates, which Jordan said meant that sensors could sleep more. However, Proithis said it was a deliberate decision by Sigfox to trade off data rate so there could be ten years plus on battery life and a reduction in costs.