LPWA turf wars
What makes Ingenu so much better, then? As Horn tells it, the biggest attraction of RPMA is the technology's wide-area capability. In a press release distributed earlier this month, Sigfox hinted at plans to build 230,000 sites across the US to provide nationwide coverage. Horn says it will not take this many sites for Ingenu to cover the entire planet. "Depending on topography, Sigfox has to put in between 18 and 40 times as many towers as we do," he boasts. "That affects profitability for licensees dramatically."
Sigfox also comes up short on its two-way communications capability, according to critics. Supporters of LoRa, another LPWA technology, have previously argued that Sigfox is unable to support downlink communications -- that is, from the network to the sensors -- as effectively, giving LoRa a much bigger addressable market. Horn goes even further, effectively castigating Sigfox as a one-way system. "When I sold Raco we had 1,600 customers in 71 countries supporting thousands of products and not one of those apps would work on the Sigfox network," he says. "With the small amount of [downlink] data they transfer, they are dead in the water."
Yet the LoRa Alliance , the association that represents LoRa technology, has also slammed Ingenu's technology for relying exclusively on 2.4GHz spectrum. While this means an Ingenu radio and device should work anywhere on the planet, the 2.4GHz band is used to support WiFi communications as well, making RPMA subject to interference and congestion, according to an Alliance spokesperson. In his view, Ingenu is "too late to the game" and the decision to focus on 2.4GHz is a "strategic mistake." (See LoRa Alliance Defends Tech Against Sigfox Slur.)
"I'm happy they think that and hope they keep thinking that," responds Horn. "The secret sauce is how RPMA deals with this: We have networks running today in Los Angeles, Tokyo and Seoul where you could not get a more interference- and congestion-rich environment, and yet there are no problems."
It might help that Ingenu has been able to point to actual deployments of its technology in private networks. As On-Ramp, the organization deployed about 38 of these private networks on five continents, meaning prospective new customers do not usually have to go far to see RPMA in action. Private-network clients willing to share their stories have reported some major benefits. In Nigeria, for example, oil giant Shell says an $87,000 investment in RPMA, which it is using to cover the Niger river delta, saved it about $1 million in operating costs over the course of a year.
Details of such experiences should also help to persuade organizations that licensing arrangements with Ingenu will pay off. Under the company's model, a licensee is charged an upfront fee, giving it the exclusive right to build and operate an Ingenu network in a particular country, and puts money for hardware construction into escrow. Once the network is up and running, it pays an annual licensing fee for every access point on the tower and a separate fee for every device on the network. "It's not a revenue share and is very profitable for them," insists Horn.
Clearly, Ingenu is keen to distance itself from any comparison with Sigfox, whose growing pains may owe something to its own revenue-sharing demands. In late 2014, Sigfox was reported by Light Reading to be claiming as much as 40% of the service revenues its partners generate. A source close to the matter reckons Sigfox takes an even bigger cut. (See The Wolf at Sigfox's Door and Sigfox Plans Global IoT Network.)
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