But what will ordinary people do with it?
WND‑UK – the “who they?” firm that boasted it will deliver more Sigfox Internet of Things network coverage than there is 4G coverage across the UK mainland – says it will achieve this by putting IoT aerials on people’s homes. Neal Forse, managing director of WND‑UK, spoke to El Reg at length earlier this month to explain …
The demand for Sigfox and other similar solutions isn't primarily domestic consumer business: that is probably best served by WiFi, combined with either permanent power or phone-style recharging. The demand is primarily for applications which either need wide area coverage (like lorry or package tracking) or very low power (like collars that can be put on livestock and left without recharging for the lifetime of the animal, or monitoring of water flow and quality in streams).
Meter reading may also be a case (because it is hard to ask your customer to provide the power and connectivity necessary for you to send them a bill).
So, I expect that ordinary people won't do much with it. But that doesn't mean it won't be big. Personally I think these business uses are the real IoT business case.
That'll still be 3 million people who won't get anything.
TBH this sounds like the sort of the infrastructure those smart utility meters that the govt keeps banging on about the UK needing would require, and which the utility companies are so keen to sting their customers for the cost of.
I believe the UK tried something similar with low power line of site telephone systems. "Ionica"?
That went down the pan, although technically I think it was as sound as this idea.
But "technically sound" <> economically viable <> a good idea.
IIRC the business case for Ionica was based on a successful roll out in countries without an existing infrastructure.
Going up against an established Telco with a virtual monopoly turned out to be different.
This does sound hauntingly similar. South America for previous success?
Another parallel is with satellite versus terrestrial TV in the UK and the rest of Europe.
AFAIK TV reception was always problematical outside towns, making it ripe territory for cable operators with centralized satellite aerials, and later roof top sat aerials for Sky.
In the UK they developed suitcase sized repeater units and dotted the landscape with small sheds to hold them and a variety of power sources to power them. Hence the wide range of actual TV channels that the fairly small number of national channels that they were mapped onto.
AFAIK the sheds are still there, although obviously the repeater designs are very different.
But will IoT need a broadband land line, or will it rebroadcast all those aggregated packets onto a single combined channel?
Well, given that satellite installers typically run the cable down the wall and drill straight through into the living room, most people would accept a less tidy job. However, where they've already abandoned their terrestrial TV for Mr. Murdoch, they could use the existing aerial cabling and simply plug into the existing IEC 61169-2 connector on the wall.
"Well, given that satellite installers typically run the cable down the wall and drill straight through into the living room, most people would accept a less tidy job."
From the article, I get the impression these are literally base stations, so there's not going to be one on every house. Range, types of buildings surrounding and the local geography will define how many are needed per $area.
Better not use Clovertrail and Win10.
Or Intel CPU "bricking" in embedded stuff.
ARM would make more sense.
Actually, roof top Yagi is about 16x more spectrum efficient and easily x4 range (at higher speed) than typical indoor smart phone aerials. So there is quite a bit of logic. The install expense (unless user DIY) is about £150 more per site than posting "modem/rounter" like Three uses for their misnamed "high speed broadband" which is only mobile and a WiFi point.
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...we used to be faced with a real problem and then we would engineer a technology to solve that problem. To me, SigFox and other low data rate wireless technologies are part of the modern tech malaise of developing tech - because we can - and then trying to force-fit a problem to it. Probably.
But what exactly is yet another layer of EM radiation blanketing the population of the UK supposed to achieve? 'IOT connectivity' all very vague what things? and why can't these non-defined 'things' use the existing infrastructure of wired broadband and non-wired internet already blanketing the country?
As for 'current UK legislation means domestic households can have up to two roof-mounted antennas without needing planning permission.' ... Unless there are restrictive covenants on the property to limit to one tv aerial per house (which is very common) ... and as these aren't tv aerials... You may need more than planning permission in those cases.
49 rollouts in nearly 4 months, looking to roll out how many units?? even upping that optimistically to 100 a month it's going to take them a couple of years to achieve their goal.
why can't these non-defined 'things' use the existing infrastructure of wired broadband and non-wired internet already blanketing the country?
Good question. The main answer is very low power devices. Don't think about consumer devices (they will be connected to the mains, or be rechargeable). Think about devices that are installed somewhere (inside a water meter, in a river, around the neck of a cow, on a container when it ships from China) and never touched. There are many use cases which only need to transmit a few bytes a day but need to last for many years without being touched.
Current mobile phone protocols can't support these sorts of devices. NB-IoT can (that is what the NB bit is about) but it doesn't exist yet. SigFox and LoRaWAN are trying to get up and running with blanket coverage before the mobile phone companies can roll out NB-IoT. Being first to market obviously puts them in a strong position (although there are also significant technical, and commercial business model, differences between the solutions).
[Full disclosure: my employer sells some of these technologies, although the above is my personal opinion only]
I don't know a lot about radio transmissions but aren't Yagis directional? Wouldn't it be more ideal if it were something omni-directional at the centre of the area it served rather than sitting on its boundary?
I guess coverage is coverage and no one really cares so long as the service is available but I am not sure where the incentive is for anyone to fit such an aerial if by virtue of being directional it did not serve those actually having it fixed to their chimney. To get service themselves they would need to be in the coverage area of another aerial, and that seems to suggest far more than 2,000 would be needed.
It looks like something which sounds great on the back of a napkin, may be ideal for places which currently have nothing, but I can't see it successfully competing with other options we already have.
Yagis are indeed directional, so presumably the base station is off to one side of the area they intend to service, and ideally above, looking down. In some scenarios that would work better than an omni in the middle because it's a more efficient use of your broadcasting power. The customers would have another Yagi to catch the signal from the base station.
I can't see them hitting 95% coverage over the whole UK with that setup though.
"I don't know a lot about radio transmissions but aren't Yagis directional? "
Yes, but only El Reg ever mentioned Yagis in the article. The actual quotes only ever say "will look, for all intents and purposes, like a domestic TV aerial". I strongly doubt this will be directional and aimed per house. It's referred to a base station, which implies area coverage.
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