HomeCarriersSigfox back from the dead in South Africa – after customers rally, investors emerge

Sigfox back from the dead in South Africa – after customers rally, investors emerge

Sigfox is back from the dead in South Africa, after local Sigfox operator SqwidNet was canned a year ago by parent company Community Investment Ventures Holdings (CIVH) because of a lack of demand. This week, following Sigfox’s rescue by Unabiz in France and “extensive restructuring” of SqwidNet’s old Sigfox licences in South Africa, the Johannesburg-headquartered IoT operation is back on its feet with new funding and a new moniker.

Sigfox South Africa, as it has been renamed, retains CIVH as a shareholder. CIVH had previously managed SqwidNet via its Dark Fibre Africa (DFA) business. New investment has come from Discovery Insure, Fidelity ADT, Macrocomm, and Buffet Investments (presented in that order in a press release). Macrocomm appears to have taken a leading role in the new funding.

Discovery Insure and Fidelity ADT are long-time Sigfox users in South Africa, and were reportedly most alarmed at its demise. Buffet Investments was an early contender to bring Sigfox out of receivership in France; an exercise that was completed by Singapore’s Unabiz in the end, back in April. SqwidNet launched in South Africa during November 2016. The existing network covers 95 percent of the population in South Africa, and 90 percent of national roads, it is claimed.

New start – Henri Bong (centre left), co-chief at new Sigfox parent Unabiz, poses with investors in the new Sigfox South Africa venture

A statement from Sigfox (owners Unabiz) quoted the IoT Industry Council of South Africa (IoTIC), that the country should put more focus on low-cost IoT technologies to ensure South Africa is “4IR ready” – in other (non-acronymised) words, that base-level IoT is a way to prep for a ‘fourth industrial revolution’. “Sigfox has demonstrated IoT can be put to work for communities, people,” said Sigfox.

It referenced so-called 0G use cases for better security systems and city services, and automated mining and manufacturing operations. The press statement also said Unabiz has, by itself, connected “over 10 million devices and [is] servicing 1,500 customers globally”, with a decent proportion on Sigfox technology.

Sivi Moodley, non-executive director at Macrocomm, said: “Sigfox is a critical connectivity service in South Africa due to its positive and significant impact on a large value chain that depends on its sustainability and viability locally. The investment from all the partners provides a strong platform and support for use case development, adoption and accelerated growth.”

Raymond Ndlovu, also non-exec director at Macrocomm, commented: “We’ve taken past lessons to heart, but we [have] also learned that our customers are loyal and proactive because they see the direct value IoT creates. In technology, you learn from risks and never lose sight of meaningful, market-relevant innovation. This is the ethos of Sigfox South Africa, and we look forward to helping IoT make even more positive impacts for everyone.”

Henri Bong, chief executive and co-founder at Unabiz, said: “As one of the fastest-growing IoT markets in the MEA region, massive IoT adoption has accelerated significantly in South Africa over the last few years. We look forward to working closely with Sigfox South Africa to bring down the cost and complexity of massive IoT adoption in a vast number of sectors including  energy, manufacturing, agriculture, healthcare, and logistics.”

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