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Internet of Things Cell Network Comes to San Francisco

The Internet of Things may have its own cellular network in the San Francisco Bay Area by the end of the year.

by / May 23, 2014

The Internet of Things, that rising industry of Internet-enabled products, is set to gain its own cellular network in San Francisco dedicated specifically to its growing number of connected devices.

Pending regulatory approval, network provider SigFox plans to deploy the network later this year, according to MIT’s Technology Review. The network’s reach will start at the top of the San Francisco peninsula and descend 40 miles south to the tech mecca of Silicon Valley. The launch from SigFox will be the company’s first U.S. network, although the French company offers coverage in the Netherlands, portions of Russia, Spain and all of France.

As one of the first cellular companies hoping to pioneer the nascent industry of IoT device networks, SigFox said it selected the San Francisco region to demonstrate a wireless network that could cheaply and practically put anything online -- whether that be trash cans, toothbrushes, egg containers, air monitors or otherwise.

The impetus for the project stems from a need for IoT infrastructure. Despite the hype about a future IoT boom, the company says current mobile networks are too congested with traffic from smartphone calls and data usage to make the devices affordable.

“If you want to get to billions of connections like that, you require a completely new type of network,”  SigFox’s U.S. Director of Operations Luke D’Arcy told MIT.

The company’s solution is a network that harnesses an unlicensed 915-megahertz spectrum band typically accessed by cordless phones. The network transmits at 100 bits per second and is 1,000 times slower than a typical smartphone network. Regardless, SigFox deems it will be more than capable to handle basic connection needs from battery-powered IoT apps.

Expected costs to use the new network will amount to about $1 annually per device and each IoT gadget must be equipped with a $1 to $2 wireless chip. After the San Francisco deployment, SigFox intends to expand with networks planned for tech cities such as Austin, Texas; Boulder, Colo.; and Cambridge, Mass.


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