This is a Frequent question I received from many hackers or companies: How can I get a Sigfox subscription for my IoT device?
We need to start saying a Sigfox subscription is a right to have its device data to be proceeded for a year. In the LPWA technology there is no SIM cards or any physical things attached to the subscription. You buy a device from a semiconductor company, when this device is compatible with Sigfox you have an ID attached to this device. This ID is uniq and used to identify the device on the Sigfox network. So once you have a subscription, you attach this subscription to this device ID then you will be able to access your device data from the Sigfox backend.
That’s clarified we can address the question of this post: what are the way to access a subscription?
Get a subscription for a device-kit
For every Sigfox device-kit you buy, whatever the device-kit is, you can access a free subscription going to the https://buy.sigfox.com/activate website. I’ll not detail more the process it is easy and free.
The subscription you get with devkit have some restrictions, basically you can’t do anything you want with the API but for accessing data (API or Callback) everything works well.
Token validity are valid for 2 years after activation date. After the devkit subscription expiration you can go for a regular subscription.
The subscription is a platinum (140 messages / day) one. I assume geolocation is activated on this subscription type (but still to be verified)
Get regular subscriptions online (Discovery)
You can buy regular subscriptions online for small quantity like 10-20. This is used to renew devkit subscription or when you have a small amount of prototypes directly using Sigfox modem or chips. These subscriptions can be found on https://buy.sigfox.com/buy Once you have selected your country you can select different options:
- Number of subscriptions with a minimum of 10
- Number of messages per day from 2 to 140
- Network Geolocation (Atlas)
The price is not much expensive as for enterprise option but you have less support and less accessible options. The last time I bought subscription that way they were limited to National country only. According to the last discussion I had with Sigfoxer this restriction should not be there anymore.
What’s good with this option is you get a direct real-time access to your subscription even on a sunday night when only you not sleeping 😉
You pay for all the subscriptions upfront, one time. Be careful, indicated price exclude VAT, so you have to add your local tax on top for the indicated price. You will see that this solution can be interesting when your devices will have foreign communications.
Enterprise subscriptions (offline process)
For larger volume of subscription (>100), to access to a larger set of options and also get better price (for large volume > 1000) you go to Enterprise subscriptions. For this you need to contact your local Sigfox dealer. The contact information can be found on https://buy.sigfox.com/buy/ once you have selected your country.
The main big difference between Enterprise subscription and online bought subscription is for Enterprise you have a monthly billing and you are not paying the whole subscription upfront.
There are 2 kinds of Enterprise subscriptions :
- Committed volume
In this mode you commit on a volume of device and pay upfront a part of the global price for creating the contract. So whatever the number of devices you will really activate you pay a fix price (about 25% of global price) for your commitment.
For your commitment you access lower yearly subscription price.
- Pay as you Grow
In this mode you declare a volume but you don’t have to pay anything upfront and anything related with this volume. Every time you activate a new device you pay an activation fee and a subscription fee. That’s it.
We have 3 kind of billable elements attached to these subscriptions:
- The contract creation: This has been described previously and only related to Committed volume contract. It is payed upfront and is basically defined as fixed_contract_price_per_device * commitment Basically 25% of the total cost.
- The device activation: This is payed at end of the month the device has been activated for the first time in this contract. This exists for both Committed and Pay-As-You-Grow (PAYG). In the Committed contract this is about 25% of the total subscription price. In the PAYG this is about 50% of the total subscription price. When your device renew its subscription inside the contract you do not pay again for this activation.
- The communication fee: This is payed at end of each month once a device has been activated and it covers the communication costs. The indicated price is a yearly price but basically what is invoiced every month is number_of_day_in_the_month * (yearly_cost / 365). It works the same way for for Committed and PAYG. This part is about 50% of the total price for 140 frame a day.
The percentage depends on the number of frame per day I assume. The billing is made month after month. The communication fee are invoiced once your device is activated even if you had no communications.
What’s starting to be tricky is the way roaming is managed. By default you can communicate in all the Sigfox opened territory but the communication price depends on the territory you are communicating in. So, the communication fee price only makes sense when your device is only communicating in one country: the one you subscribed. When your device is moving, the invoice is calculated based on daily transmissions location. Day-by-day the local communication price is applied.
This is creating a certain complexity as the price differ country by country and the range factor can be 2 (potentially more). The second complexity comes from the country price indicated in the local currency. As a consequence you are subject to money variation risk. The reason is related to Sigfox SNO organization, it creates a certain complexity but it still a clear and simple way to manage roaming: with Sigfox whatever your device will communicate you always have a global coverage with commercial conditions clearly defined.
To protect against device roaming on certain location your can request to unactivate certain countries in your contract definition.
On top of the basic contract you can add options:
- Geolocation: this allows to get a position given by the network for each of the communication. This Option is a percentage applied on each of the element invoiced. (About 15%)
- Test Frame: this allows your device to have free communication before starting the communication costs. Basically it is made to be able to test your device before sending it to a client. This test will activate the device but not start the yearly communications counter. So it’s only when the device will have consumed its test frame the One year countdown will start. You pay a fix price (about 1c) per test frame.
Some more options will soon delivered and enrich the network offering. I’ll try to update this post that time 😉