Comcast expands LoRaWAN-based IoT network to 12 cities

Comcast machineQ IoT (Comcast)
Comcast is betting on LoRaWAN technology for its IoT play.

Comcast is expanding its LoRaWAN-based enterprise IoT service, which it calls machineQ, to 12 U.S. markets.

Comcast first announced machineQ service in October 2016 with trials in Philadelphia and the San Francisco Bay Area, expanding to Chicago in November. Now it’s rolling the service out in Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, Miami, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

"We believe that Comcast has a unique opportunity to leverage our existing network assets and Semtech’s LoRa technology, to fuel IoT innovation with disruptive new business models and smarter cities,” said Alex Khorram, general manager of machineQ, in a release. "We've seen excitement about a Comcast solution that is opening a whole new world of use cases that were previously not commercially viable due to the cost of connectivity and end devices, limited battery life and inability to get coverage.”

The company cited interest in the technology coming from a range of industries, including healthcare (patient monitoring, laboratory sciences tracking), public utilities (remote utility metering), automotive (asset tracking, telemetry) and smart cities (outdoor lighting, waste management, utility grid monitoring.)

Those are some of the same verticals that wireless carriers are targeting with their standards-based IoT solutions using LTE. In the U.S., Verizon and AT&T have rolled out LTE Category M1 for IoT and T-Mobile is banking on NB-IoT, the version that has been deployed mainly in Europe and Asia. Last week, T-Mobile said it’s working with the city of Las Vegas on trials of IoT projects such as flood abatement, smart city lighting and environmental monitoring. Sprint aims to begin rolling out LTE Cat M by the middle of next year.

RELATED: Editor's Corner—Comcast already operates a wireless network in Philadelphia. And builds in Chicago, San Francisco are underway

The biggest LoRa player in the U.S. to date, Senet is building a LoRa network in the unlicensed 900 MHz band in locations across the country. The company already has a presence in 225 U.S. cities and 23 states, covering a population of nearly 50 million people.

Senet CTO Dave Kjendal told FierceWirelessTech in May that LoRaWAN still has advantages over even future NB-IoT solutions. Cellular's NB-IoT technology specifically brings the power envelope “closer to where we operate, but it’s still arguably two to three times more power-hungry than an equivalent LoRaWAN solution is,” he said.

Senet is a founding member of the LoRa Alliance. Comcast formally joined the LoRa Alliance in April and is now on the board. Comcast also hosted the alliance's 8th all-members meeting in Philadelphia and a Smart City Summit last month.