Senet gets headstart on cellular NB-IoT with LPWAN network

Senet, which describes itself as the first and only North American provider of public, low-power, wide-area networks (LPWANs) for LoRa-based Internet of Things (IoT) applications, says it has achieved coverage in 100 U.S. cities and plans to double that number over the next year.

Senet, whose name conjures images of all those sensors that are part of the IoT, used to be known as EnerTrac until a couple of years ago. EnerTrac made a name for itself in the oil and gas industry by developing an end-to-end residential heating fuel delivery automation application that saved oil and gas dealers 30 percent to 40 percent in delivery costs on a per customer yearly basis. That's because they were better able to monitor the tanks and know when they could do a full fill, for example. That was the company's first commercial application on the LPWAN network, which is commercially deployed with about 50,000 end devices in the field today and growing, according to Will Yapp, vice president of business development and marketing at Senet.

"Our whole sort of go-to-market at Senet is to be the leading provider of LPWAN networking as a service," he told FierceWirelessTech. "Our business model is 100 percent a recurring revenue business model, so it's not dissimilar to some of the cell models where it's based on number of devices and data usage on a monthly basis."

Senet has deployed about 125,000 square miles of network today, predominantly in areas of New England, upstate New York, some in the Midwest and a lot in California, from San Francisco to the Central Valley -- a highly agricultural community -- and extending down into the LA area.

"We've been deploying network for a long time now," he said. "We continue to build that network out in concert with commercial applications" that will be deployed through the rest of the year and going forward, in verticals such as smart agriculture and smart city type applications. The company expects to cover the top 10 most populated U.S. cities this year and continue to grow both in regional areas as well as urban environments.

Yapp doesn't deny that LoRa will compete with cellular on some level when the Narrowband IoT standard gets rolled out, but it will take some time for that to happen and there are opportunities for them to coexist.

He likens LoRa today to where 3GPP was eight or nine years ago -- the difference being that cellular ecosystems are still very, very complex, which equates to a higher total cost of ownership because end-user devices are changing all the time and software on the back end is also changing. "Even though it's standards-based, the ecosystem is complex," he said, all the way from the chipset designs through the interface with applications.

"With LoRa and LPWAN, it's a much less complex ecosystem and devices are out there for 10 or 20 years and they're backwards compatible to gateway versions… Where there's a use case that requires low power, wide area technology, LoRa is a very good, simple lower cost of ownership solution," he said. Where there's a use case that requires more complexity and higher bandwidth, cellular is perfectly acceptable at a higher cost of ownership, he added. That's why it won't be one or the other; they will be living in harmony and in some cases, in a single use case.

In some situations, LoRa makes sense for wireless operators because NB-IoT is not here yet and the operators serve a set of enterprise customers that have needs today that they can't fulfill with existing infrastructure at a price point that makes sense, he said. "I think for the foreseeable future… like two to four years, I do see wireless operators getting involved in using LoRa and LPWAN," he said, a case in point being Orange in Europe.

For more:
- see the press release

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