LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Network) technologies have been rapidly developing in the IoT market in recent years, both technologically and commercially.
Their promise is clear and particularly relevant to address a large part of this market: to offer a low-cost, low-speed and low-power connectivity solution for all IoT applications that do not require high data rates or low latency but have strong constraints in terms of cost and autonomy.
The two dominant LPWAN technologies in the unlicensed spectrum category are Sigfox and LoRaWAN™, the latter being supported by a powerful alliance (the LoRa Alliance) with the objective of creating a large ecosystem of LoRaWAN-certified and compatible solution providers.
3GPP is also working on standardized solutions derived from LTE technology to provide LPWAN licensed spectrum connectivity: eMTC technology (LTE Cat M1) is already available and offered by many operators. The NB-IoT (Narrow Band IoT) version, designed for the most demanding low-speed IoT applications in terms of consumption and cost, is also being integrated and tested.
In this booming LPWAN IoT technology landscape, the LoRa Alliance and the LoRaWAN™ protocol are experiencing a strong acceleration with an impressive level of adoption (January 2018 figures):
- More than 500 members have joined the Alliance worldwide,
- The number of public operators offering LoRaWAN connectivity more than doubled: 62 operators active in 41 countries,
- Over 100 countries Worldwide have LoRaWAN networks (public or private).
- The LoRaWAN protocol is based on open and scalable standards, with freely accessible specifications,
- The LoRa Alliance has created an important ecosystem bringing together all the players in the IoT value chain in a “from Silicon to Solutions” logic: chipsets manufacturers, modules, devices, base stations, network servers, application servers, network operators and solution providers,
- The Alliance has set up a global certification program to ensure the conformity of products with the LoRaWAN standard placed on the market,
- Finally, the Alliance plays a business stimulating role by animating its large community of members.
According to Olivier Beaujard, Senior Director at Semtech and member of the LoRa Alliance Board:
“LoRa/LoRAWAN technology is establishing itself as an essential LPWAN connectivity standard throughout the world. This success is linked to the intrinsic qualities of the LoRaWAN technology and protocol that have enabled its adoption by major players in the IoT market, but it is also due to the strength of the Alliance.”
“The LoRa Alliance and its 500 members form a powerful global ecosystem that works continuously to adopt and evolve the standard. This is an important factor in the quality and sustainability of the technology.”
LoRa/LoRaWAN technology as such claims unique advantages such as :
- A high level of security of the LoRaWAN protocol,
- The ability to set up an easily scalable network coverage offering two-way communication and supporting broadcast,
- A particularly optimized energy efficiency, allowing the deployment of products powered by micro batteries and/or powered by energy harvesting,
- Advanced features such as very low power localization (indoor/outdoor) and roaming between networks which is currently being deployed.
To support the Alliance’s strong growth and accelerate the global adoption of LoRaWAN technology, the organization recently recruited a new Chairman, Ms Donna Moore.
The Alliance now intends to concentrate its efforts on marketing, focusing in particular on use cases in the main vertical markets. This is what we were able to see on the Alliance’s stand at the last Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, with the presentation of numerous LoRaWAN compatible products but above all many applications in fields such as intelligent public lighting, intelligent agriculture, location of assets…
On the ground, the battle of technologies and standards continues but with such a dynamic, both at the marketing and technical level, it seems that the LoRa Alliance and its LoRaWAN protocol are very well positioned to establish themselves sustainably in the IoT landscape…