US-based semiconductor manufacturer and LoRa pioneer Semtech announced a $1.2-billion deal on Wednesday to acquire Canada-based cellular IoT module and device supplier Sierra Wireless. The deal comes after last week’s merger deal between Telit and Thales’ cellular IoT business. The IoT module market has entered a consolidation phase and we can expect a few more announcements in the near future.
The IoT module market is fragmented. Many brands are struggling to improve performance, scale up products and face competitors. Some players are moving towards services, which comprise 77% value of the total IoT value chain, for better revenue opportunities instead of sticking to hardware only. For example, u-blox acquired Thingstream in 2020 to generate more revenue and offer complete IoT solutions, from chipset to cloud. In some cases, companies are trying to build up their own supply chain ecosystem through integration. For example, Quectel entered the IoT antenna space last year. In the future, we may witness some large players offload their cellular IoT module business which is not a core business for them.
The Semtech-Sierra Wireless deal is an important announcement for the IoT space. It can change offerings in the IoT industry. Here are some key takeaways from this deal from Counterpoint analysts:
- Sierra Wireless is mainly focused on the cellular business, whereas Semtech is focused on the non-cellular business. The ultra-low power benefits of LoRa and higher-bandwidth capabilities of cellular networks will bring innovation to IoT use cases. They can also solve problems faced in massive IoT adoption across all segments.
- International brands such as Sierra Wireless, Telit, Thales and u-blox were struggling to compete with Chinese module vendors such as Quectel, Fibocom and MeiG in terms of scale and bringing innovation to the field.
- Sierra Wireless divested its auto business in 2020 to focus on the router/CPE segment but the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain disruptions and ransomware attack hit Sierra Wireless’ efforts to regain its market share last year. Interestingly, the automotive spin-off business was acquired by a consortium led by Chinese module vendor Fibocom.
- We also witnessed a corner-room change at Sierra Wireless to revive brand glory when Phil Brace replaced Kent Thexton as the CEO in July 2021.
- This year, Sierra Wireless divested its Omnilink offender monitoring business to Sentinel for $37.6 million. This was not a core business for the company and it offloaded Omnilink to focus more on the services industry. Product segments can generate revenue for one time, whereas services can generate revenue on a recurring basis. That is why we have been seeing many IoT module players shifting towards IoT platforms, cloud and services.
- According to its chip-to-cloud strategy for IoT adoption, Semtech aims to offer solutions across the IoT value chain. However, it has no good presence in the module, device and platform categories. Moreover, LoRa isn’t suitable for each IoT application. LoRa and cellular technologies may complement each other in serving segments across the IoT value chain.
- Sierra Wireless will bring a rich experience of cellular IoT modules, cellular gateways and cloud service platform to Semtech, while Semtech will offer LoRa chips, LoRa gateways and cloud services. In the future, we may see more hybrid cellular+LoRa solutions instead of dual cellular module-based solutions. In this type of application, the cellular module can be used for data communication and LoRa can be used for device management and other applications where a low payload is required. This can change offerings in the IoT module space and help Semtech increase its market share in the cellular space too.
- Semtech already has a good hold on smart meter, smart city, industrial, smart grid and asset-tracking applications through LoRa solutions. The addition of Sierra Wireless products will help Semtech target high-end markets such as security cameras, gateways, fleet and PC.
The combined entity is looking for a 10x growth opportunity to reach a $10-billion serviceable addressable market (SAM) by 2027. To achieve this figure, IoT platform and cloud services will play a pivotal role as these can contribute revenue on a recurring basis. At the same time, Semtech needs to be careful not to disrupt the standalone LoRa ecosystem partners and customers. We believe cellular+LoRa-based industrial applications such as security, smart campus, factory and private networks will be a big opportunity for Semtech.
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