What Semtech plans to do with Sierra Wireless

  • January 18, 2023
  • Steve Rogerson
Julie McGee

Now the takeover is completed, Steve Rogerson talks with Semtech’s Julie McGee about the company’s plans for the newly acquired Sierra Wireless.

Back in August, I wrote about why Semtech wanted to buy Sierra Wireless. Well, here we are a few months later and the $1.2bn takeover has been completed and approved and the Canadian company has now become part of Californian LoRa specialist Semtech.

Please remember the name Sierra Wireless because its days are now numbered, almost certainly, as Semtech senior vice president Julie McGee told me when I caught up with her this week. And, as happens with these things, some people will lose their jobs, though McGee insisted the number would be minor.

“Minor means minor,” she said.

Most workplace shrinkages will be where duplications in job roles exist. Engineers should on the most part be OK as it is the technical knowhow of Sierra Wireless that was the attraction for Semtech.

So, stepping back a little to look at why the takeover happened, I recall in the early days of the IoT there was a lot of talk about whether LoRa or Sigfox would become dominant and that both would be challenged by the cellular IoT standards. A battle was looming. A few short years down the road and most in the industry have now realised that licensed and unlicensed spectrums work well together. LoRa can connect all the sensors and edge devices and cellular can be used to send that information to the cloud. It is a win-win, and that is why Semtech went looking for a cellular partner.

“It won’t be difficult to put it all together,” McGee told me.

In fact, McGee showed me a nice little diagram (below) that illustrates the areas where the technologies overlap. Cellular brings global network coverage and a sensor data backhaul channel, whereas LoRa adds low-cost and low-power sensor networks. The combination brings the possibility for a massive sensor-as-a-service offering.

“We have been introducing LoRa to the Sierra Wireless team,” said McGee. “We are really focussed on use cases.”

The goal, she said was to take the best of LoRa and put it together with the best of cellular. And she said the two technologies will work together very well.

The product teams from the two companies have already been getting to know each other so that both sides know what is available.

“People who want to apply sensors to their ecosystems will now have all the pieces,” she said. “They will be able to put sensors in places they haven’t thought of before. IoT really starts to become real.”

She said the two companies had not previously worked closely together; there were no established partnerships. But she said Semtech did some start some communications with Sierra Wireless about two years ago and, when Semtech knew it needed a strong partner with a cellular ecosystem, Sierra Wireless became an obvious choice.

“We realised that after LoRa had reached critical mass, there was a need to move into cellular,” she said.

As to how long the integration between the two companies will take, the answer is pretty quickly. McGee reckons that in three to four months customers will see a united front. The two teams have been working together since August and she said in many ways they already seem like one company. Internally, there will still be stuff going on for at least a year, but externally it will present itself as a single entity.

Finally, what about that name? I have always liked the way Sierra Wireless sounds and I am sure others have too. It is a pretty unique sounding name. Will it really disappear? Yes, sadly, but McGee offered a glimmer of hope. The plan is to keep the existing Sierra Wireless product brand names and she said it was possible that the company name may still be a part of that, though unlikely.

And there we are. The takeover announcement last year that made everybody sit up and listen is now completed. Semtech will go forward with its LoRa silicon and what used to be Sierra Wireless’ cellular gateways and routers. That looks a powerful combination.