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How do I check and improve Sigfox coverage?

Sigfox is an IoT network with the best worldwide coverage present in more than 60 countries worldwide with already more than 60 countries and territories covered nationwide.

The coverage is currently rapidly developing - before you implement Sigfox solutions, it' always good to talk to your local Sigfox operator and check coverage where you need it at the Sigfox backend.

The aim is to have all major cities, international ports and airports worldwide covered. This will allow for global tracking use cases.

In major economic hubs, the aim is to have indoor coverage in all cities and towns with 5000+ inhabitants, all national border crossings and along all major motorways.                                                                           ↓

This should allow for all indoor use cases, tracking use cases, urban utility measurements and general B2C use cases.

Having outdoor connectivity is dependent on the terrain. The coverage is generally between 90% and 100% and the coverage is better than with LTE. Beyond that, densification depends on the business case and approach of individual operators.

Sigfox Access Points / Base stations comparison table

There are 4 devices that make up Sigfox coverage and also serve as densification tools - they are three types of Sigfox base stations (BS) and the Sigfox signal repeater.

Device Price Deployed by Data scalability* Downlink support Selectivity** Sensitivity*** Downlink support External antenna support Avg. outdoor reach Avg. indoor reach
Macro BTS n/a SO Very good ✔️ Very good Very good ✔️ ✔️ 50 km n/a
Mini BTS n/a SO Average ✔️ Average Average ✔️ ✔️ 10 km n/a
Micro BTS €250-€400 SO/customer Low ✔️ Average Average ✔️ 1 km 100 m
Repeater €50 Customer Very low n/a n/a 300 m 50 m

* ability to process data from a large number of devices

** ability to process signals in environments with lots of signals in the air - cities, towns

*** ability to receive and process very weak signals

Caution

Please note that the Repeater requires outdoor Sigfox coverage to work properly as it is not connected to the Internet itself but just strengthens the received signals.

Macro and Mini Sigfox Access Points / Base Stations

Macros are the main base stations installed by Sigfox operators to ensure nationwide coverage and scalability - they are the most powerful type of base station. They have large antennas and are installed on towers and rooftops. They are powered by redundant power supply and have redundant Internet connectivity.

Minis are the cheaper base stations that are usually deployed by Sigfox operators in rural areas. They are generally smaller and have a smaller reach than the macros.

Micro Sigfox Access Point / Base Station

Micros are base stations that are either deployed by Sigfox operators or rented to end customers by Sigfox operators to densify indoor coverage in logistics centers, large office buildings, places located in deep valleys or very small villages.

Micros can be either connected to the Internet via Ethernet but in most cases a GSM USB dongle is sufficient. The installation is very easy and straightforward.

You can find out more about Micro Base Stations here.

Repeaters

Repeaters are special commercial battery-operated devices available to purchase to extend the coverage for a small number of devices (they work like extension cords for signal). They need to be placed at locations where Sigfox coverage is already present. Their usage is required if you have up to 15 devices in the vicinity in deep indoor locations (underground, behind thick or humid walls, deep in factory complexes) and you have good Sigfox outdoor coverage. It’s an advantage to place the repeater at a high position to get the best coverage.

You can find more about the Repeater here.

Outdoor, indoor and deep indoor

Here's how all the models of coverage are calculated:

  • Outdoor coverage: at the height of 1,5m above ground.
  • Indoor and deep indoor coverage: mathematically calculated as places that require 20 dBm resp. 30 dBm margins - their signal attenuation.
  • Indoor is generally defined as rooms above ground with windows.
  • Deep indoor is defined as either underground with windows or above ground without windows.

All the coverage models are approximate and the field results can vary because of wall thickness, soil humidity in underground installations, placement etc. Signal strength can be measured by the CheckFox device, which is useful for deploying Sigfox-based device pretty much anywhere. Please note that modern glass-steel office buildings with metallic facades and windows act as Faraday cages and may possibly require densification.

Redundancy

Sigfox technology is based on a probabilistic model and in order to work reliably, it requires redundant coverage by more than one base station.

Sigfox operators are deploying base stations in such a way that major cities have a redundant (overlapping) coverage from at least two base stations in every location.

Radio performance of devices

The radio performance of the device and its proper placement play a significant role.

See this article.