Orange extends IoT trial with LoRa in France

It looks as though French telco Orange is covering its bases when it comes to the Internet of Things (IoT). The operator is deploying a LoRa network in 17 French urban areas while it continues standardization work on future cellular networks optimized for the IoT.

Orange previously said the LoRa network will be operational in the first quarter of 2016 and progressively deployed nationwide. It will be used to transport communications for mass market and business customers. Orange tested the LoRa technology in a large scale trial in Grenoble involving more than 30 partners.

LoRa is just one of at least six technology options open to companies that want to deploy IoT networks serving low-bandwidth, low-power IoT applications like utility meters and vending machines, Mobile World Live notes. LoRa is based on technology initially developed by Semtech. Like rival Sigfox technology, LoRa operates in unlicensed spectrum.

Low power wide area (LPWA) networks, of which LoRa is an example, also play nicely with cellular and can act as a second platform for mobile operators, Telecom TV pointed out.

For its part, Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) said it will conduct a world-first Extended Coverage GSM (EC-GSMA) trial with Orange in France using the 900 MHz band, with the aim to enhance device reachability by up to 20 dB or a seven-fold improvement in the range of low-rate applications. That will extend coverage to reach challenging locations such as deep indoor basements, where many smart meters are installed, or remote areas in which sensors are deployed for agriculture or infrastructure-monitoring use cases. 

In addition, EC-GSM will reduce device complexity and thus lower costs, enabling large-scale IoT deployments. Another advantage of the technology is enablement by software upgrades of existing cellular networks, providing nationwide IoT coverage without additional hardware investments.

Ericsson also plans what it calls the first LTE IoT trial in partnership with Sequans using  low-cost, low-complexity devices with one receive antenna (instead of two) and half-duplex FDD, thus simplifying the device hardware architecture and reducing expensive duplex filters, allowing for 60 percent cost reduction compared with existing LTE Cat 4. In partnership with Sequans, Ericsson also will demonstrate energy efficiency over GSM and LTE networks with Power Saving Mode (PSM) technology. The PSM feature is applicable to both GSM and LTE and supported by Evolved Packet Core (EPC), extending battery life of modules such as sensors by up to 10 years.

Back in September, Orange CEO Stéphane Richard said that Orange's ambition is to become the No. 1 operator for the Internet of Things. "Beyond connectivity, Orange is also involved in the distribution of connected objects, in the aggregation and data processing stemming from these objects as well as proposing value-added services in the field of health and well-being, the connected home and Smart Cities," he said in a statement.

Orange's goal is to earn more than $635 million in IoT revenues by 2018.

In the U.S., AT&T (NYSE: T) has been an early and big proponent of IoT connections and counted 25 million cellular-connected machines on its network as of the end of the third quarter. It's seen success in the connected car space and home security and automation markets through Digital Life, among others.

Rival Verizon (NYSE: VZ) only recently laid out its IoT strategy, including the launch of ThingSpace, which had been under development for at least a couple of years. The carrier said it has the scale to support the backbone for the IoT and can bring its expertise in security to the table.

For more:
- see this Orange release
- see this Ericsson release
- see this Mobile World Live article
- see this Telecom TV article

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