Verizon & Friends Light Up Filament With $15M
Verizon Ventures and Intel Capital -- and others -- have invested $15 million in an industrial Internet of Things (IoT) startup that uses its own take on LoRa wireless technology to connect machines to dedicated long-range, lower-power networks.
Reno, Nevada-based Filament has so far pulled in $21.8 million in three rounds of funding, including the seed money. The latest round was led by Verizon Ventures and Bullpen Capital. New investors include Intel Capital, JetBlue Technology Ventures, CME Ventures, Flex technology accelerator program Lab IX, Backstage Capital and Tappan Hill Ventures. Previous investors Samsung NEXT, Resonant Venture Partners and Digital Currency Group also ponied up.
A Filament spokeswoman tells Light Reading that it is not currently disclosing the number of customers it has in "paid pilots."
The technology used by Filament for its low-power, wide-area networks (LPWAN) is a variant on LoRa connectivity. "Filament uses the physical LoRa Module, but not their software stack –- so we technically can't call it LoRa," the spokesperson says.
LoRaWAN is one of several LPWAN technologies being used for IoT networks across the globe. It currently operates in a few unlicensed frequencies -- depending on region -- although a licensed version is being considered. (See Is LoRa Going Licensed?)
Filament instead runs over the "Telehash" communications protocol, which means Filament doesn't need a LoRa gateway or central hub. Instead, the Filament nodes can be deployed in a mesh configuration.
Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) has so far indicated that it is interested in using LTE technology for its IoT efforts. An investment by Verizon Ventures does not mean, of course, that its operator namesake will forsake these plans for this LoRa variant. Filament could merely be a good investment. (See Verizon Takes IoT Network Nationwide.)
Nonetheless, with low-power, narrow-band LTE -- often referred to as NB-IoT -- tests that were planned for 2017 delayed, other LPWAN technologies seem to have a wider window of opportunity to establish a bigger installed customer base. (See The NB-IoT Train Is Delayed.)
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading