Sigfox Cloud Boss Fired Amid OSS Problems Sources

Iain Morris
News Analysis
Iain Morris, International Editor

French IoT company Sigfox has fired cloud director Philippe Imoucha, according to two reliable sources with knowledge of the situation, making him the latest in a long line of senior executives who have quit or been sacked in the last year.

Imoucha may have taken the blame for problems with Sigfox's operational support systems (OSS). One of the sources told Light Reading that the OSS is not robust and that Sigfox has been struggling to absorb the volume of messages it receives.

A third source close to the company said the OSS "has never really worked."

"They have dumped a fortune on trying to do this themselves," said that source. "With volume, it is difficult to scale up."

Neither Sigfox nor Imoucha had responded to requests for comment at the time of publication.

The Toulouse-based company has developed a technology to support very low-power connections on wireless IoT networks. It is building networks in partnership with local service providers in dozens of countries, and operating its own networks in France, Germany, Spain and the US.

Co-founder and CEO Ludovic Le Moan believes he can provide a much lower-cost alternative to cellular for devices such as smart meters and industrial monitoring equipment.

But the company has recently missed financial targets and coverage goals in the large US market. And many senior executives have quit or been fired amid reports of clashes with Le Moan. (See French Toast? Sigfox on Skid Row.)

This year, the company has lost both Rodolphe Barronet-Fruges, who was responsible for the global deployment of networks, and Allen Proithis, president of the North American business. (See Sigfox Loses Networks Boss Fruges Sources and Sigfox Sheds More Senior Staff, Including North America CEO.)

The exodus appears to have begun last March when Xavier Drilhon, then deputy CEO of Sigfox, quit the firm after a disagreement with Le Moan on company strategy.

Critics say the company has tried to expand too quickly into new geographical markets and industries. There have also been signs of unhappiness in the customer and partner communities.

Sigfox now claims to support about 2.5 million active connections and aims to hit 6 million by the end of this year. It had previously boasted about 10 million connections. The recent downward revision suggests most of these were not active but simply targets in customer contracts.

Want to know more about the Internet of Things? Check out our dedicated IoT content channel here on Light Reading.

Despite the negative publicity, the company is soldiering on with its rollout and aims to break even in the fourth quarter of this year. Revenues last year came in at around 50 million ($43.6 million), according to Sigfox -- well above the 2016 figure of 32 million ($27.9 million) but 10 million ($8.7 million) below target. Plans for an initial public offering have been pushed back to 2019 from a former target of 2018.

Sigfox has also recruited a couple of senior executives to replace staff who have quit. Franck Siegel was hired from South Africa's Dimension Data last year as chief delivery officer, while Raoti Chetih has joined as chief adoption officer, having previously run a business park in Lille called EuraTechnologies.

The company also recently appointed Christian Oliver as president of Sigfox USA. Oliver was previously in charge of global business development at a defense and aerospace company called Aversan.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for Sigfox this year is the arrival of NB-IoT, a low-cost cellular technology that is targeting many of the same opportunities and winning commitments from some of the world's biggest operators.

In February, Chinese equipment giant Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. predicted that NB-IoT would have more than 150 million connections across more than 100 networks by the end of this year.

Iain Morris, News Editor, Light Reading

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