CableLabs confirms tests of LoRa IoT network for cable industry

IoT (Pixabay)
LoRa uses low-power devices coupled with inexpensive base stations to offer connectivity for IoT solutions ranging from connected parking meters to vehicle-tracking offerings.

BARCELONA, Spain—CableLabs executives confirmed the company has tested LoRa network technology in order to investigate the offering and whether it represents an opportunity for cable operators in the United States and internationally.

George Kakatsakis, VP of CableLabs’ advanced technology group, said that the company built the network to cover parts of Boulder and Denver, Colorado, where CableLabs is based. He said the company constructed the network, including base stations, terminals and a back-end system, in order to test LoRa’s capabilities and performance. He noted that CableLabs’ LoRa network didn’t cost much to build because it runs in unlicensed spectrum and uses inexpensive LoRa network equipment.

LoRa is one of a number of network technologies available in the IoT space. Like most IoT network technologies, it uses low-power devices coupled with inexpensive base stations in order to offer slow-speed wireless connectivity for IoT solutions ranging from connected parking meters to vehicle-tracking offerings.

Kakatsakis noted that CableLabs’ LoRa tests align with the company’s overall mission: CableLabs is essentially a research-and-development consortium for the global cable industry. CableLabs members are able to tap into the company’s research in order to launch their own offerings and to ensure that their offerings interoperate with the services from other CableLabs members. DOCSIS, the cable industry’s network standard for internet and TV, is managed inside of CableLabs.

In CableLabs’ tests, which the company has conducted for the better part of a year, Kakatsakis noted that the company wanted to test the performance of LoRa with the goal of determining whether cable operators could launch their own LoRa services. An IoT-focused LoRa network could allow cable company customers to see when mail is delivered in the mailbox, for example, or to check on the condition of users’ cable boxes. Such services could make an overall cable service more “sticky,” he said.

“We’re just trying to understand potential use cases,” he said. “That’s the big unknown.”

Other IoT service providers in the United States include Silver Spring Networks, Ingenu, Sigfox and Senet. Senet, for example, is already using LoRa network technology to build an IoT network in locations across the country; the company said it has a presence in 225 U.S. cities and 23 states, covering a population of nearly 50 million people.

Further, the LoRa Alliance, the global association of over 400 companies backing the LoRaWAN standard for Low Power Wide Area IoT networks, announced it will support roaming among various LoRa networks.

CableLabs’ research into LoRa is particularly interesting considering Comcast said late last year that it is partnering with semiconductor company Semtech on a trial of LoRa technology in an effort to provide IoT offerings to businesses. Comcast last year said it would trial in Philadelphia and San Francisco and would focus on uses such as utility metering, environmental monitoring and asset tracking.