There‘s a battle going on for the infrastructure technology that will support the Internet of Things. Currently the three most talked about contenders are Sigfox, LoRa and LTE-M. There are a lot of other alternatives and it’s quite possible that none of LoRa, Sigfox nor LTE-M0 will win, but that’s another story. If you search for LPWAN (Low Power Wireless Area Networks) you’ll see that the battle for supremacy is a hot topic. It’s largely because of the impending loss of the GPRS networks which power much of today’s M2M business. As a result, almost every day you’ll find another article debating their respective technical merits.
I’m going to argue that these comparisons miss the point. Which technology will win depends far more on the business model than on the underlying technology. The three technologies listed above are interesting to compare, as they exemplify three significantly different approaches to an IoT business, which can be broadly summed up as:
- Sigfox – become a global Internet of Things operator
- LoRa – provide a technology that lets other companies enable a global Internet of Things
- LTE-M – evolve an existing technology to make more money for network operators
Between them they promise to help us get to the predicted 50 billion connected devices in 2020. A winning solution could allow the IoT to take off and make its supporters a lot of money. The ones that fail may be limited to niche applications and lose investors hundreds of millions of dollars. Only one is likely to win. It’s also possible that all of the current pretenders could lose. So let’s forget the technology and look at the business models.