Sigfox has previously taken flak for its tight control of the technology ecosystem. It has also been criticized for demanding a huge cut of service revenues from partners running Sigfox-based networks.
To others, the company has simply tried to go too far too fast. Instead of concentrating on a small number of geographical markets and industry sectors, Sigfox has appeared determined to develop a global capability meeting a diverse range of needs, even when its technology has looked ill suited to the task. Some of its previous activities have met with a customer backlash, as Light Reading has already reported. (See Sigfox Said to Face Customer Backlash.)
If Sigfox cannot find additional funding to pursue its current strategy, one possibility is that it gets acquired by a much bigger technology company interested in its intellectual property.
The company claims that its technology gives it a huge cost advantage over rival developers of so-called low-power, wide-area (LPWA) networks. Using unlicensed spectrum, its chips can provide connectivity in some markets for as little as $1 per device per year, according to earlier reports. It currently provides connectivity in more than 36 countries and plans to increase that number to as many as 60 during 2018. It was previously said to be considering an initial public offering next year, but this would be unlikely to happen unless sales were growing significantly. (See Sigfox to Go Public in 2018 – Report.)
Sigfox's main technology challenge comes from another unlicensed-spectrum technology called LoRa, whose supporters boast a more "open" ecosystem and business model, as well as emerging cellular standards NB-IoT and LTE-M.
While some of the world's biggest service providers have embraced LoRa as well as the cellular options, Sigfox appears to have won limited backing from any telecom operators.
Although Spain's Telefónica and European cable group Altice have both announced deals with Sigfox, neither is making significant use of the Sigfox technology in production networks, according to Light Reading's sources. (See Telefónica Opens IoT Door to Sigfox and Sigfox 'Only Option' Today, Says Telefónica.)
Sigfox has also been accused of inflating the number of connections on its networks in official statements, basing the figure on the numbers in signed contracts instead of "active" connections.
The bust-up between senior management figures mirrors recent developments at Ingenu, another LPWA company with similar ambitions that lost industry veteran John Horn as CEO in the summer.
Formerly an executive at T-Mobile US, Horn quit the IoT specialist after its board rejected his requests for additional funding to establish Ingenu as a global player, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
A senior executive who still works for Sigfox declined to provide a comment for this story. Sigfox's press office did not respond to Light Reading's approach for comment.
— Iain Morris, News Editor, Light Reading