Moves afoot to save the Sigfox IoT network in South Africa

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TechCentral

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Corporate clients and other stakeholders have banded together to save the Sigfox Internet of things (IoT) network in South Africa, with an agreement expected to be signed soon for a new consortium to run the network.

This is according to Sigfox chief revenue officer Glen Robinson, who was speaking to TechCentral in an interview from the UK on Tuesday. Robinson has just returned to the UK after a two-week visit to South Africa.

The move to save the network comes after CIVH, the Remgro-controlled parent of SqwidNet — the company licensed to deploy the French-developed Sigfox technology in South Africa – told TechCentral in June that it was considering shutting it down after it failed to meet growth expectations.

SqwidNet was founded about six years ago under Dark Fibre Africa, a fibre operator also controlled by CIVH, and was recently moved out of DFA to become a standalone entity in the CIVH stable.

CIVH CEO Raymond Ndlovu told TechCentral on 1 June that the company invested “a significant amount of capital” in building a national IoT presence, which he described as “second to none”. It invested heavily because it identified what it believed was a big gap in the local technology market.

“They built it and they (the customers) came, but not to the extent we would have wanted or anticipated,” Ndlovu said in an interview at the time. The Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns resulted in depressed commercial activity in the economy, which worsened the problems at SqwidNet, he added.

Early

“We could have been early. We might have mistimed our initial investment,” he said. “But it’s better to take it on the chin now than prolong things that are not value accretive.”

It now appears likely that the network will be saved. This is after corporate customers of SqwidNet’s stepped up to the plate. Talks are at an advanced stage, with a deal expected by Christmas, or soon thereafter, said Sigfox’s Robinson.

After the announcement that CIVH would restructure the business – and that it might be forced to close it down – there was a strong reaction from customers that wanted it saved.

“CIVH will be making an announcement soon, together with Sigfox,” Robinson said. “We are in exciting discussions with members of a potential consortium to sustain the South African network for the long term,” he said.

Raymond Ndlovu
Raymond Ndlovu

There is particular interest in the Sigfox IoT network in South Africa for security applications to combat crime. “South Africa is leading in the adoption of Sigfox for stolen vehicle recovery, for home and commercial alarms, and for other asset-tracking requirements from a security perspective.”

Robinson said South Africa is “on the cusp” of mainstream IoT adoption. “Customers have stepped up and want to invest in the network. CIVH will be making some announcements soon as to what that construct will look like. We see South Africa as very much front and centre in Sigfox’s strategy for the long term.”

Sigfox, he said, intends to maintain exclusivity with the consortium that is being created. This is line with keeping with its network deployments elsewhere in the world.  – © 2021 NewsCentral Media