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From high power to low power: FCC’s Tom Wheeler joins LPWAN pioneer Actility



  • Tom Wheeler to join LoRaWAN LPWAN player, Actility
  • Wheeler sees IoT as crucial part of Web 3.0

Actility has snagged ex-FCC chairman, Tom Wheeler, to serve on its board. Wheeler it was who eventually yielded to public and presidential pressure and implemented strong network neutrality rules in the US, even though he knew he was bound to get pilloried for it by entrenched telco interests for ‘overreach’ (Imagine.  A regulator actually regulating to protect the rights of customers? Unbelievable).

But never mind. It’s all character-building. And while Wheeler’s record at the FCC is unlikely to get him any high-paid gigs at one of the incumbent operators, it’s endeared him to the broad telecoms ‘challenger’ community anxious to line up the ‘next big thing’ in telecoms and get to it before their huge rivals can.

That’s a fair description of Actility, which styles itself as the “industry leader in low power wide area networking” as the founder of the LoRa Alliance which at this moment looks like being the lead player in that soon-to-be highly contested segment. This year LoRa and Sigfox (the two current leaders) are to be challenged by more or less the same low-power, long life technology deployed as NB-IoT,  the 3GPP  ‘standard’, by many of the world’s telcos. These players, which include Vodafone and other mobile operators as well as large integrated players like Deutsche Telekom, aim to start taking a big slice of the emerging IoT connectivity market as they roll out NB-IoT this year.

Actility says Wheeler’s appointment to its board demonstrates the company’s determination to achieve a leading role in the Web 3.0 future, a concept Wheeler is apparently fond of. In the blurb it says Wheeler sees IoT as a “key manifestation” of Web 3.0, but that “we need to think bigger than some of our current IoT examples. Web 3.0 is about connecting intelligence in all forms – data, ideas, apps, and ultimately people.

“That’s why I’m really excited to be able to work with Actility, with its leadership in connecting things, people and companies with intelligence, and its pioneering commitment to enabling and delivering the networks that will underlie the industrial transformation that Web 3.0 will bring. Web 3.0 is the orchestration of information drawn from a Web in which everything is intelligent and online. That orchestration is itself a new product and is at the heart of what Actility does.”

Wheeler wasn’t always a tool of government overreach, keen to apply 1930s laws in the 21st century etc etc.

Before he became the 31st Chairman of the FCC, appointed by Obama in late 2013, he was a venture capitalist and for a time President of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) and CEO of the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA). He was inducted into the Wireless Hall of Fame in 2003.

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