On December 15, Connected World magazine announced the 2016 IoT Pioneers, awarded to those CEOs who have “demonstrated outstanding leadership, customer service, corporate stewardship, and unwavering technological vision, all of which have guided their companies to new heights.” Georges Karam, Sequans CEO, was interviewed by Connected World magazine’s editor-in-chief, Peggy Smedley, about his achievement. Here are a few excerpts:
What is your vision and strategy for Sequans?
Georges Karam: Since the beginning, the vision for Sequans has always been to be a pure-play 4G chip company and enable 4G on all kinds of devices. At first we addressed the smartphone market like everyone else, but now we have positioned our LTE technology, not for the smartphone world that needs 2G and 3G fallback, but for the much bigger world of The Internet of Things that needs 4G only. Today this evolution has brought us to the place where a huge market is rapidly developing, and on the horizon we see 4G LTE inside nearly every object in the world that requires a wide-area wireless connection. The evolving 3GPP LTE standards reflect this as we see the coming releases with more and more features and refinements specifically addressing the requirements of LTE for the IoT. Beginning with Category 1 LTE, already published, and then moving to Category 0, Category M, and Narrowband IoT, which are all planned for near future publication, Sequans is leading the charge on the chipset side. We have become the world’s first LTE chipmaker to develop and deliver a Cat 1 LTE chipset solution. This solution is already operator-certified and shipping inside leading IoT devices. Cat M, and NB-IoT solutions are in the wings and Sequans intends to be the leading global provider of LTE chipsets for the Internet of Things.
Do you see yourself as a disrupter in transforming the M2M/IoT marketplace?
Georges Karam: Definitely yes, we see ourselves as a disrupter in the IoT marketplace. It’s a matter of fact that when we started looking at the M2M and IoT connected device market, it was clear that these devices would not stay on 2G because 2G is vanishing to make room for 4G in the very near future. 4G is much more spectrally-efficient than 2G, and it’s an all-IP technology. If you want to connect to the Internet you really need to be on 4G, which is the best long-term connectivity solution. So this is our vision, and we were the first chip company in the world to push LTE for M2M and IoT. Two years ago the only way to do it was using a high-throughput CAT 4 product because that is where the industry went at first due to the singular focus of the industry on the high-speed smartphone market. But for the M2M and IoT marketplace where you don’t need a high speed, 150 Mbps CAT 4 solution, we realized that the only way to get LTE to penetrate the M2M and IoT market would be to drive down the cost. We did this by taking our CAT 4 chip and creating a derivative, that is, a second version of the chip that we call Colibri, which is really designed for M2M and IoT, delivering lower power consumption and overall lower cost. Carriers were interested, and Colibri was certified on operator networks. We encountered some resistance because the price of 4G was still high compared to 2G, despite the optimization we had done. However, we continued to innovate and developed an even lower cost, lower throughput, lower complexity, CAT 1 chipset called Calliope, which significantly improved the equation and made the cost competitive with CDMA. We collaborated with Verizon Wireless, who was very interested in CAT 1 technology, and after a lot of testing we demonstrated the value and they subsequently upgraded their network to enable CAT 1 device deployments. This was certainly disruptive. Since then, the second and third major US operators have adopted CAT 1 and a major trend has begun. Today the trend is extending around the globe as other leading operators, including those in Japan and China, are adopting CAT 1 technology. We are very proud about what we started here–being the first to dust off the overlooked CAT 1, optimize it for M2M and IoT, and prove that we can make a low-cost, low-power solution that really works for the M2M space as a replacement for 2G technology. With CAT 1 we come very close to a $15 module cost, which is comparable to CDMA module pricing. From there, we are reducing the speed, complexity and cost even further, in accordance with the 3GPP roadmap defining Category 0, Category M, and Narrow-Band IoT. We’ve already been trialing our CAT 0 technology and we intend to continue our leadership on this front. Our vision is for Sequans to be known as the leading provider of LTE for the IoT, and frankly, this is happening.
Listen to the audio replay of Georges Karam’s conversation with Peggy Smedley here: Episode 419: New Technology, New Solutions
See Connected World magazine’s press release announcing the ten IoT Pioneers for 2016