Sprint mum on SoftBank’s embrace of LoRa for low-power IoT service in Japan

SoftBank detailed how it expects to deploy LoRa. Source: SoftBank

Sprint said it has “nothing to announce at this time” following parent SoftBank’s pronouncement that it will use LoRa network technology to launch a wireless network focused on the Internet of Things (IoT) sector starting later this year in its home market of Japan.

“We work very closely with SoftBank,” Adrienne Norton told FierceWireless, noting the U.S. carrier doesn’t have anything further to announce on the topic.

Nonetheless, SoftBank’s embrace of LoRa technology for its forthcoming LoRaWAN network is notable considering Sprint and SoftBank have worked closely together on a number of key wireless network technologies, including Sprint’s deployment of TDD-LTE network technology on its 2.5 GHz spectrum in the United States. SoftBank owns roughly 80 percent of Sprint.

As for SoftBank specifically, the company said it will work with Actility, Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. and LoRa developer Semtech to build its LoRaWAN ecosystem. SoftBank’s LoRaWAN network will use the unlicensed 920 MHz band in Japan, and can offer low-cost devices with battery life of up to 10 years or more along transmission ranges of “multiple kilometers or more.” The technology leverages the work of the LoRa Alliance, which currently counts 391 supporters around the world.

Interestingly, though, SoftBank said its embrace of LoRa won’t forestall its use of competing technologies like LTE M. “In anticipation of the coming full-fledged IoT era, SoftBank will deploy LoRaWAN first and actively work to construct an IoT network, and will aim to deploy the full set of LPWA networks, including Cat-M1 and NB-IoT, to ensure that it can efficiently comply with differing environments,” the company said in a press release.

Moreover, SoftBank isn’t the only wireless carrier to make use of LoRa. SK Telecom in Korea and Orange in France also plan to deploy LoRa networks for low-power IoT offerings. SK, for its part, has also said that it expects to make use of other IoT-style networks like LTE M.

If SoftBank does indeed eventually bring LoRa to the United States through Sprint, it won’t be the first LoRa network provider here. Senet, a startup founded in 2009, has built a LoRa-based IoT network that covers 125,000 square miles of geography today across 100 U.S. cities, said it currently counts 50-60 customers connecting over 100,000 devices to the company’s network.

Of course, Sprint already operates a machine-to-machine (M2M) business over its existing wireless network.

For more:
- see this SoftBank release

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