Sigfox wins major smart water meter contract in South Africa

Sigfox wins major smart water meter contract in South Africa
Sigfox wins major smart water meter contract in South Africa

IoT network operator Sigfox South Africa has been awarded a major government contract to adapt or replace around 15 million water meters in the country with ‘smart’ connected metering devices. The tender, listed as RT29 in the National Treasury archives, closed in November. Sigfox SA said the deal has been awarded to “various system integrators”, and prescribes usage of the local Sigfox network for connectivity of all new smart water meters in South Africa.

The National Treasury issued a request for information (RFI) about the smart meter rollout in May 2022, shortly after the Sigfox technology was rescued from court receivership by Singapore-based IoT developer Unabiz (in April 2022). Both the acquisition of Sigfox SA (the original technology business), and the original RT29 RFI about smart meters, both preceded the rescue of the South African network, which had been run into the ground a year before by operator SqwidNet. 

Johannesburg-based SqwidNet was spiked in 2021 by parent company Community Investment Ventures Holdings (CIVH), citing a lack of demand. CIVH had previously managed SqwidNet via its Dark Fibre Africa (DFA) business.  Following Unabiz’s rescue of Sigfox SA in France, the Singapore firm set about its “extensive restructuring”, with new funding (from Discovery Insure, Fidelity ADT, Macrocomm, Buffet Investments) and a new moniker (Sigfox South Africa). 

The new business retains CIVH as a shareholder. The takeover was completed in time for the RT29 tender to open and close in October and November, 2023. The government’s intention, as with smart metering, is to “improve revenue collection and service delivery,” Sigfox said in a statement. “All the new meters will run on the nationwide Sigfox IoT network,” it stated. Sigfox South Africa claims its network covers 91 percent of the South African population.

Greg Rood, chief executive at Sigfox SA, commented: “The fact that the national treasury has entrusted Sigfox to monitor and support over 15 million smart water meters in the country underlines how robust the technology is. We expect this to be a catalyst to further grow our local IoT and system integrator ecosystem. Sigfox… has an established track record of supporting large commercial utility deployments in South Africa.”

The usual claims about the superiority of Sigfox technology for signal range and penetration (important in the context, because “meters are often installed in challenging environments”) and also for power efficiency “our devices will last for over 10 years at one reading a day”), compared to rival IoT technologies, were quoted by the firm. The tender stipulated a three-year lifespan for new smart water meters. By comparison, Sigfox South Africa claims “practically an ‘install and forget’ scenario”, it said.