At Mobile World Congress 2019, we had the opportunity to interview Donna Moore, CEO & Chairwoman of the LoRa Alliance accompanied by Marc Pegulu, VP IoT Product Marketing & Strategy at Semtech, to discuss the latest developments of the Alliance and the LoRa technology.
IoT Business News: Can you share with our readers some of the key achievements of the LoRa Alliance in 2018?
Donna Moore: Within the last year, some of the biggest changes have been that:
LoRaWAN was named by multiple sources as the de facto LPWAN standard, the millions of devices we now have on the market, the global footprint with over one hundred countries and one hundred network operators supporting LoRaWAN, and the fact that our deployments, in particular over the last six months, are at scale and growing massively. One of them is the Veolia and Orange project with 3 million water meters to be connected to Orange’s LoRa network in France. And there are very large projects in many countries. So we are just globally now and the numbers are escalating in terms of mass deployments. These are some of the key announcements of last year.
What is interesting with LoRaWAN recently is that a venture capital fund called Momenta Ventures has launched a 25 to 50M$ fund for LoRaWAN companies because they believe that LoRaWAN is really the LPWAN winner. And they believe they are going to see tremendous return on their investments. I have never seen this for an open standard before, having a private equity ready to fund small startup companies. The typical investment should be 500k$ per project and exclusive to LoRaWAN companies. This means they do believe in our technology.
We have features such as the firmware update over the air (FOTA) which is a big differentiator for us. It guarantees the sustainability of the devices out in the field. Specifications of the FOTA have been released 6 months ago and the implementations are available now.
IoTBN: What is the view of the Alliance on 5G vs LoRaWAN in IoT?
DM: It is really application dependent. 5G is high-bandwidth, low latency, primarily for emergency services or entertainment services in the connected car for example. But this is not our space. Ours is wireless applications requiring long battery-life, availability and flexibility of private and public networks, with the possibility to easily densify coverage in urban areas by just adding a few gateways. We have CAPEX or service models.
IoTBN: What is the split in terms of volumes between LoRaWAN devices connected to private vs public networks?
DM: The Veolia and Orange project is 3 million devices for example so we have large deployments coming on public networks. We have the leading operators supporting both LoRaWAN and cellular technologies to allow all the different use cases with IoT. We see massive roll outs in progress on both types of networks.
IoTBN: What about roaming across public networks. Is it available now or still in trial phase?
DM: We already have operators with roaming agreements in place like Objenious, KPN, Swisscom…so it’s real. The technology is available and the operators are negotiating the agreements now, driven by the needs of their customers for applications like logistics for example.
IoTBN: What is the strategy of the alliance to expand?
In terms of marketing we are just launching a LoRaWAN showcase where our members can implement their certified devices into the showcase which is a kind of shopping place for customers to know where to find the devices they need.
We are also expanding our certification program which is designed to give full confidence in devices designed to be operating on the field for more than 10 years. In the program we are testing radio frequency as well as battery life for example. And we are launching this year a pre-certification tool allowing our members to pre-certify their devices on their own site. Then we have contracted with test houses all around the world so when they receive the pre-certified devices they only have to run a short test procedure. We then check the results at the Alliance and give the “LoRaWAN certified” logo. Usually the certification process takes a couple of days at the test house and with the pre-testing tool it will be even quicker, which also saves some money. The tool will be available mid-year. We are in the process of developing it right now. It will test compliance with the protocol as well as interoperability with different networks. This last part is the result of a focus group between operators where they have defined what they needed to guarantee interoperability. This is a huge step forward for us and for the market.
IoTBN: what are the regional dynamics in terms of LoRaWAN adoption?
DM: Asia and Europe are the strongest in terms of traction, but we are also seeing India where the government has just invested 150M$ in IoT development. The operators there are launching city wide LoRaWAN networks funded by the government.
Our footprint today comprises 101 operators worldwide and this number is increasing. 25% of those operators, claim they will keep LoRaWAN even when NB-IoT is ready, offering both solutions to their IoT customers. The reason for this is that they have benchmarked LoRaWAN against NB-IoT and for the use cases requiring extremely low-power, long range and deep indoor connectivity, LoRaWAN is the best. Therefore, LoRaWAN and NB-IoT are seen as complementary. An example is smart city applications: the utilities have meters located deep underground or behind concrete walls, but cellular cannot apply whereas LoRaWAN can. There are a lot of smart cities projects adopting LoRaWAN at the moment and therefore the coverage is extending quickly. There are also initiatives like the Fleet Space project which will offer a worldwide coverage through a combination of LoRaWAN and satellite. And when announcing their hybrid satellite-LoRa solution the company had 1 million sensors signed in less than 24 hours !
Marc Pegulu: In terms of volumes, we have shipped (cumlulative since LoRa exists) a bit more than 80 million LoRa devices in total worldwide. Some of them are still using proprietary protocols on top of the LoRa physical layer, but there is a very strong adoption of the LoRaWAN protocol, and most of them should convert to LoRaWAN in the years to come.
IoTBN: what are the solutions available in terms of LoRa chipsets and what is the cost of a LoRa module today?
MP: Semtech is licensing the LoRa technology to other chipset vendors and module makers such as ST, Murata, Microchip…And now we are seeing LoRa modules below 5$ for a complete modem function.
IoTBN: is there any event planned this year to present the LoRa Alliance to the public?
DM: We have an event scheduled in Berlin on the week of June 11, with a few days reserved for the Alliance members and one day fully open to companies wishing to learn more about LoRa Alliance’ s ecosystem called LoRaWAN Live, this one-day event open to everyone will take place on June 13. It will be a huge event with speaker tracks, government officials, service provider tracks, live demonstrations. Everyone is welcome to join and enjoy this special day and see by themselves the unique possibilities offered by the LoRaWAN technology…