Senet said it will power the LoRa deployment by Inland Cellular, a small wireless operator in Southeastern Washington and North Central Idaho. The company’s announcement coincides with the start of the spring trade show by the Competitive Carriers Association, which represents the nation’s smaller wireless network operators.
For Inland Cellular, the agreement allows the operator to sell inexpensive IoT services for applications like tank monitoring, water metering and management, smart agriculture and smart cities under the operator’s new Emerge Technologies brand for the IoT. While Inland will deploy its own LoRa equipment on its own towers, the system will rely on Senet’s IoT platform and will make use of the company’s new Low Power Wide Area Virtual Network (LVN) business strategy.
“It's a way to crowdsource a global IoT network," Bruce Chatterley, Senet’s CEO, said of the company’s LVN offering. "It allows any one of our customers to place a device on any one of our other customer’s networks, whether it be a managed network service or a private/public or whatever. And whoever the hosting network provider is will get a percent of revenue from that device that connects to their network. So that is a unique way to get network deployed when it's needed at the right cost and with an upside, which is if you bought the gateway for your application, and other devices connect, you can actually end up in a revenue surplus situation.”
Essentially, Chatterley explained, Inland can use Senet’s platform to launch its own LoRa-powered IoT services, but can then also engage in a revenue-sharing situation if other Senet customers participating in the LVN make use of Inland’s network.
“This has opened up all kinds of new business models,” Chatterley said. "So, for example last week alone we had an agricultural application with 2500 sensors get deployed in Mexico. And now that gateway that got deployed in Mexico is available for other applications to connect to."
Chatterley said that several hundred gateways (which is the LoRa term for IoT base stations) have already been deployed through its LVN, and he said that the company hopes to ink additional LVN agreements with other regional operators. “Because each one of these regional carriers is an island unto themselves, but with the LVN they can connect their islands seamlessly,” he explained. “And if you think about rural carriers specifically, they have a commonality of applications: agriculture, tank monitoring, some smart water, those kinds of things. So, it makes a lot of sense. So, I hope you’ll see a series of announcements in this segment in the coming months.”
Senet’s LVN is one of a handful of IoT market strategies the company deployed when Chatterley joined the company in 2017. Senet initially launched its LoRa strategy in 2013, having enjoyed success connecting oil and propane tanks to the internet, thus allowing the companies that sold that oil and propane to monitor their customers’ fuel levels. In subsequent years, Senet worked to build out its own LoRa network across hundreds of thousands of miles of territory in the United States.
But after Chatterley joined Senet, the company sold off its fuel delivery and monitoring solution, EnerTrac, to the Wesroc division of Independent Technologies. That freed up Senet to pursue a variety of IoT strategies including building its own IoT network, building public-private hybrid networks for other customers, and also helping other operators—such as SenRa Tech in India—deploy their own LoRa networks using Senet’s OSS, BSS and management systems. Senet’s LVN effort seeks to add value to that last strategy by allowing its customers to leverage each other’s deployments.
Of course, Senet isn’t alone in the IoT space. In fact, it isn’t even alone in leveraging LoRa network technology; Comcast, the nation’s largest cable operator, recently announced significant progress with its machineQ business building LoRa networks in top markets around the country. But machineQ, Senet and other IoT players will continue to compete against IoT giants like AT&T and Verizon with their LTE M networks.