LIVE FROM CTIA SUPER MOBILITY WEEK, LAS VEGAS: John Horn, CEO of Ingenu Networks, said the technology battles taking place in the fast-growing low power Internet of Things (IoT) market will see just two major winners: his own RPMA technology and the favoured (but as yet unavailable) tech choice of most cellular players, NB-IoT.
“There’s plenty of room for NB-IoT and RPMA,” argued Horn in an interview with Mobile World Live on the eve of this week’s show.
While Horn’s company claims to have brought low power wide area (LPWA) connectivity to 38 private networks in more than 20 countries over the last seven years based on its proprietary Random Phase Multiple Access (RPMA) technology, he isn’t impressed with the lack of commercial NB-IoT deployments so far.
NB-IoT was ratified as a standard by the 3GPP in June and deployments are not expected until next year.
“What’s been standardised in NB-IoT are the press releases,” said Horn (pictured, left). “They’ve done a really good job of trying to standardise the message but they still haven’t standardised the product.”
“You have China, Europe, South Korea all launching different products. You have more fragmentation happening in the cellular industry than ever before.”
Once NB-IoT does get up and running, Horn believes it will be “competitive in core urban areas”, but not in more remote areas because of the fact it is reliant on an LTE backbone which serves various frequencies.
Indeed, Horn is a strong believer that today’s mobile networks are not up to the job of supporting machine-to-machine communications.
He said that because RPMA utilises the globally available and unlicensed 2.4GHz band, one radio module can serve applications throughout the globe, enabling a cheaper and quicker way for its partners to launch IoT services.
“We can address major swathes of the market [NB-IoT] can’t address with an effective business model… If you can’t get a signal on your phone… do you think you’re going to get your NB-IoT device to work? I don’t think so.”
Sigfox and LoRa – niche tech
Ingenu’s RPMA technology is not the only non-cellular low power IoT option available to service providers and operators. Sigfox and LoRa have been making waves in the past few months (the latter even signing up some mobile operators while NB-IoT remains unavailable).
“I’m not too concerned,” said Horn of the competitive threat posed by the pair of rival technologies. “We can address 86 per cent of the marketplace today with the way RPMA works. Sigfox and LoRa both address a very, very small subset of that…. They can have success in some niches and there’s probably room in those niches.”
Horn was talking as Ingenu unveiled the latest partner in its licensing strategy (launched earlier this year at Mobile World Congress). Ingenu has struck a deal with module manufacturer u-blox. The Swiss company is expected to support Ingenu’s LPWA tech in modules supporting the automotive, industrial and consumer markets, with a particular emphasis on location tracking.
The u-blox deal followed an announcement by Ingenu in May with consumer electronics manufacturer (and one of the world’s largest notebook computer makers) Compal.
Horn says the remainder of 2016 will bring “a couple of other very well known names that will be ecosystem partners” and the start of “a lot of market announcements both in the US and outside the US”.
“We are up to 63 countries that are in the mix. We have construction happening on four continents as we speak and construction getting ready to happen on two more continents in the coming weeks,” he noted, adding that this progress “will show that RPMA truly will become a global standard based on the effectiveness of the size of the footprint”.