Blog Home Ultra Narrow Band Networks for the Internet of Things


by Gabriel de Fombelle

Posted on Avril 15, 2016 at 18:00

SIGFOX loves Makers

As an IoT solution architect and developper, I recently decided to focus on the new and first really available ultra narrow band solution provider on the market : Sigfox. I have to say how supportive and proactive Sigfox team has been behaving from the very first tweet I posted to get the very basics to start. They answered immediately even on Sunday! Then a few days later they invited me to attend to Sigfox Makers tour near to my place in Bordeaux, no need to trip to Paris or London. During that half day we got this kind of seminar that engineers/makers may dream of: theory , then practice with real programming with a beautiful development card (SmartEveything)

SIGFOX Briefly

In a few words SIGFOX is a ready to use, low energy, low cost, radio network suitable for Internet of Things using Ultra Narrow Band 868 Mhz in Europe (902 Mhz in USA). It is designed to carry short status messages of 12 bytes each with a maximum rate of 140 messages per day, according to European Duty cycle rules. This kind of network is mainly design to uplinks (modem to server) but support also downlink. In any cases the communication is instigated by the device (i.e. no push)
SIGFOX is available almost everywhere in France and in other countries.

Uses cases

Such a network is perfect when : "no user", "no power", "no sockets", "no local network" - it is particularly suitable for "shy devices" carrying only useful data.
Utra narrow band networks are good at telemetry (water, gaz, etc.), for addin to existing devices such as counters, sensors, hydrants, parking, defibrilators.
They also are ok for Tracking good or equipment (associated to GPS and/or accelerometer), after-theft solutions, monitor industrial and construction site equipement, fail alerts, schedules maintenance, battery loads, etc. There are additional uses cases in many various fields: button-action application, kid monitoring, health monitoring, fall detection, tracking community subsidized devices usages, Agriculture: soil and crops monitoring, cattle tracking, non-profit applications, ... and your own use cases.

Open Ecosystem Hardware

SIGFOX has an open hardware policy, so there are plenty of transceivers available as SOC, module, breakout, or developement cards.

Quick set-up and prototyping

Prototyping an SIGFOX based application is pretty easy - Modems provide AT commands, there also several C/C++ libs ready to use on friendly development platforms such as Arduino.
SIGFOX provides a backend service that gather all messages where you define rules, with email template and/or call-back-urls


When talking about connecting devices to servers, whenever there is no local network available, we usually focuse on GSM or 3G networks as there was no other possibility until now. In some situations we also rely on SMS as backup (using the voice network) available almost everywhere. Now we have UNB networks really available like SIGFOX, the two approaches UNB, GSM must be considered.
Each use case should be a detailed study and take into account the following aspects:

  • Amount and frequency of data to exchange between server and devices
  • Size in bytes of each message
  • Need to push data from the server to the device
  • Power consumption
  • Cost per message, Roaming costs, Set-up and provisionning cost
  • Cost of related hardware
  • Cost of package-overruns
  • Coverage
  • UNB can also be considered as backup of GSM in some cases.
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Ultra Narrow Band networks are the backbone of new Internet of Things projects. SIGFOX is one of the first really available, with a huge coverage and delivering a ready to use solution

Copyright ©, Gabriel de Fombelle