LoRa camp sees room for ‘multiple’ options in IoT tech

Some of the smart city applications for LoRa include monitoring infrastructure like bridges.

There’s plenty of room for both cellular-based low power wide area networks (LPWAN) and technologies like LoRaWAN that use unlicensed spectrum, according to a new white paper sponsored by Semtech, which provides the silicon that embeds LoRa wireless RF technology. 

The LPWAN market is often viewed as a technology battleground where eventually one solution will emerge as the winner and the de facto standard, the paper points out. But in reality, LPWAN use cases are so varied that no one technology will meet all requirements, as some LPWAN technologies are better suited for certain applications than others. And given the size of the market and varied nature of applications, “there is room and, in fact, a place for multiple complementary options,” the paper states.

Such a conclusion is probably to be expected from a company like Semtech, a founding member of the LoRa Alliance that stands to gain from the adoption of LoRa. But it’s not the only one singing the praises of the technology. The LoRa Alliance now has more than 450 members since it launched in early 2015, including mobile network operators, sensor and gateway manufacturers, chipset and module manufacturers, large enterprises and application software providers.

Mike Mulica, CEO of Paris-based Actility, told FierceWirelessTech earlier this year that the LoRa community is optimistic that LoRa will grow in the United States as it has in Europe and Asia. Actility touts its ability to provide LoRa-based connectivity but also tie it into cellular.  

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Comcast announced last fall that is was conducting trials of LoRa in at least two cities, and the hope is that two or three other U.S. carriers will adopt it this year, Mulica said. KPN in the Netherlands, Orange in France and SoftBank in Japan are among the operators that have invested in LoRa.

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In France, Orange says that by the end of January 2017, its LoRa network will exist in 120 urban areas—about 2,600 towns—offering connectivity both indoors and outdoors. In parallel with its work with cellular standards bodies, Orange is rolling out LoRa with the goal of being able to meet whatever its customers require in terms of sensor, power, speed or coverage.

Proponents say LoRa, which uses spread spectrum technology, offers a lot of technical advantages, such as the ability to provide location for tracking purposes, scalability and low cost. It can be used to track containers on ships and measure temperature, vibration and location. For example, if fish is being shipped from Iceland to Europe, sensors can track the temperature to make sure it never gets above freezing and provide that information to the merchant. The sensors can also be used for insurance purposes.

According to the white paper, existing cellular technology is not suitable for LPWAN applications that require long battery lifetime and low cost of connectivity. Alternative LPWAN technologies, such as LoRa, are addressing the market by enabling fast, low cost network deployment for different types of network operators, including mobile network operators.

“Immediate and global availability of commercial LoRa-enabled sensors and gateways is an added benefit and does not require an operator to own or use expensive LTE licenses,” the paper states. “By combining the feature sets of multiple technology options, network operators can deliver a wider variety of IoT connectivity services and thus capture more market share.”