- Thierry Spanjaard
Sigfox is acquired by Unabiz
Sigfox, a major player in the IoT environment had filed for insolvency protection beginning of 2022. Its fate was uncertain until the announcement, end of last week, of its tie up by Unabiz, which has acquired Sigfox SA, the primary technology company, and Sigfox France SAS, its network operator subsidiary in France, for a total amount of approx. EUR 25 million, according to Enterprise IoT Insights.
Sigfox is essentially known for the eponym network. The original analysis made by the developers of the Sigfox network was to concentrate on power consumption issues, and therefore to develop a network, which had been dubbed 0G, as it provided a reliable low-throughput ultra-narrowband LP-WAN (Low Power Wide Area Networks) connection. Sigfox network deployment model is to partner with mobile network operators and to benefit from their little used bandwidth to add IoT-dedicated operation. Sigfox now has over 19.5 million registered active connected objects, including 3.5 million in France. Now, Sigfox, which employs around 350 people, has network operations in 75 countries; all networks, except in France and the US, are owned and operated by third-party Sigfox operators. The Sigfox infrastructure is able to connect millions of objects and locate them across all partner networks. However, as IoT deployment did not happen as early or, as fast, as analysts anticipated, Sigfox faced difficulties in reaching its business goals.
While Sigfox decided to have a unique positioning as a network service provider, and even a network standard, Unabiz has chosen another way: created by French entrepreneurs Henri Bong and Philippe Chiu, and headquartered in Singapore, Unabiz has developed a set of products and services for the development of IoT in Asia. Unabiz is the operator of the Sigfox 0G network in Singapore and in Taiwan and is well-known for having proposed a network plan at US$ 1 (EUR 0.93) per device per year from 2016. The company delivers custom-designed IoT solutions for smart utilities, smart building and asset tracking. Unabiz provides a wide array of products and services from low-cost connectivity to hardware design and integration services. Unabiz raised US$ 25 million (EUR 23.4 million) in Series B funding in October 2021, and has gained recognition from the IoT community with significant business achievements such as the retrofit of 850,000 gas meters in Japan to allow their automated data collection.
In a context where sovereignty is at stake and Sigfox is considered as an asset for French economy as its technology is used by French blue chip corporations as well as administrations, a part of the issue revolved around the fact Unabiz was incorporated in Singapore. Consequently, the French Ministry of Economy, at first, blocked its bid to favor a French bidder. Unabiz founders had some exchanges with the French Ministry of Economy in which they claimed their links with France and said they are considering relocating their headquarters to France. Finally, Unabiz was recognized as “the best offer among nine initial bidders by the jury, administrators, the public prosecutor, Sigfox SA, Sigfox France SAS, and Sigfox employee representatives.”
Sigfox had been attracting the attention of analysts already for a while. In February 2021, the board decided to replace Ludovic Le Moan, the co-founder and CEO of the company by Jeremy Prince, who was CEO of Sigfox USA. And early 2022, the company was placed under administration. Candidates for the acquisition of the Sigfox business included Actilty (a French supplier of IoT network services), Buffet Investment Services Consortium (a South African investment fund), Greybull Capital (a UK-based investment fund), Heliot Europe (the Sigfox operator in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia and Liechtenstein), Iwire Innovation Management (the Sigfox operator in 10 Middle-East countries), Oteis France (a French engineering company specializing in building and infrastructures), Sentiens (a French systems integrator co-founded by Ludovic Le Moan), Unabiz (Sigfox operator in Asia) and Groupe Zekat (a French specialist in digital and mechatronics).