The IoT network rivalry is heating up and going global

Network builder Ingenu expects its system to dominate in a few years

In the hotly contested market for Internet of Things networks, Ingenu has its sights set on nothing less than world domination for its technology.

"We will have the largest footprint in the world ... and it will become a global standard," CEO John Horn said in an interview last week. Ingenu-based networks will reach more than half the world's population within three years, he predicted.

San Diego-based Ingenu is one of several companies and industry groups vying to connect things like industrial sensors, utility meters and shipping containers over power-efficient networks. They're promoting various forms of LPWANs (low-power, wide-area networks) that can link thousands of devices spread out across an area the size of a city. What these networks lack in bandwidth they make up for in efficiency, letting IoT endpoints communicate for years without a battery change.

Each contender wants to become the dominant provider of LPWANs, or at least a long-term viable option. Cities, utilities and enterprises may adopt these systems for decades in large-scale deployments. Incumbent carriers are taking a shot at it using  variants of LTE under the name LTE Category M. The LoRA Alliance industry group is pushing another specification.

Ingenu is going it alone, using proprietary technology rather than an open standard. That will be the fastest way to get networks rolled out, Horn said.

Rival SigFox is taking a similar approach. It has its own network in its home country of France and is expanding to other countries through partnerships. Now Ingenu is going international, too.

It's happening faster than the company expected, Horn said. The launch of Ingenu's international licensing program on Tuesday, during Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, is happening two or three years earlier than planned. Demand was greater than the company expected, as would-be partners approached Ingenu on their own, Horn said.

Partners in China, Australia, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates and several other countries have signed contracts for exclusive country licenses to deploy Ingenu networks, the company says. Construction is already in progress on some of them.

Ingenu, which changed its name from On-Ramp Wireless last year, built its business by selling private networks for enterprises. Its technology, RPMA (Random Phase Multiple Access) is exclusively for machine-to-machine communication. There are now 38 of these networks, and Ingenu is expanding into public networks that anyone can sign onto and use. But don't look for them on your cellphone, because they're strictly for machines.

The public network strategy started in the U.S., where Ingenu is building and operating its own infrastructure. The network is live in parts of Southern California, Texas, Pennsylvania and Alaska and under construction in other areas. Ingenu aims to cover 70 percent of the U.S. population by the end of next year.

In other countries, the company will sell access points to its service-provider partners and charge the partners a licensing fee for each access point and each device on the network. Manufacturers who want to build devices to run on the networks will have to buy chips from Ingenu, but there's no licensing fee.

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