Orange joins the LoRa Alliance

Orange said it has become a board member of the LoRa Alliance, further aligning itself with the LoRaWAN standard for future Internet of Things (IoT) networks.

The France-based operator, which joins other board members including IBM, Cisco, Bouygues Telecom, Actility, Augtek, Homerider, Kerlink, KPN, Proximus, Sagemcom and Semtech, said it is already the largest adopter of the LoRaWAN standard among telecoms operators.

In September last year, Orange unveiled plans to use LoRa (Long Range) technology as the basis for a new IoT network in France from 2016. At the time, it said it selected LoRa because it supports connectivity at a reduced rate of energy consumption and at a lower cost. It added that LoRa technology is especially useful for connecting sensors in smart cities.

When asked why it chose LoRa over Sigfox technology, for example, the company said LoRa is a more open technology, "which allows us to deploy our network and be interoperable to create an ecosystem of the IoT. We want to develop value-added services for our customers".

Mari-Noëlle Jégo-Laveissière, senior executive vice president for innovation, marketing and technologies at Orange, said the company has decided to take an active role in driving the LoRa Alliance.

"LoRa Alliance and LoRaWAN meet customers feature expectations, our business model and has the largest LPWAN eco-system," she said.

However, Jégo-Laveissière also noted that LoRaWAN is complementary to Orange's overall strategy for the IoT.

A spokesperson for Orange said LoRa is what is available today, "so that's why we're rolling it out now." The company is also looking at cellular alternatives such as narrowband IoT (NB-IoT), and is prioritising those technologies that could be embedded in 2G, 3G or 4G.

Proprietary technologies such as LoRaWAN, Sigfox, Ingenu's RPMA and Silver Spring Networks are increasingly being pitted against each other as rivals in the area of IoT connectivity now dubbed low power wide area networks (LPWAN), with cellular options such as NB-IoT held up as the preferred alternative for mobile operators in the longer term.

Indeed, Vodafone said it plans to launch NB-IoT in "multiple markets" in 2017, and called on the industry to focus on trials that would enable customers to quickly add the technology to their products.

Thomas Nicholls, executive VP for communications at Sigfox, told FierceWireless:Europe that some proprietary technologies could co-exist with NB-IoT in future because of the different needs of future connected devices, including data throughput and power requirements. He also warned that the different technologies are not always compared on an "apples to apples" basis, and noted that care should be taken to look at what the different options will ultimately provide and at what cost, when it comes to the service offering.

In a recent report, Beecham Research also said there is no "one-type-fits-all" connectivity option for the increasingly wide range of applications covered by the IoT, and called for a greater focus on the actual connectivity needs of these applications rather than on the underlying technologies such as LPWA networks.

For more:
- see this Orange release

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