LoRa Looks to Leverage Options Before NB-IoT Proliferates
Quant said the technology’s flexibility to support multiple service classes and different applications across many industries is key to LoRa’s appeal. “LoRa’s agility is phenomenal,” he said. “It’s thought of mostly for very low-bit-rate applications, but you can also do audio, images, payment transactions. You can go much greater distances if you really want to pump up the power, and you can use it at different frequencies.”
LoRaWAN architectures are designed to work in unlicensed spectrum (915 MHz in the U.S., 433 MHz and 868 MHz in Europe, 430 MHz in Asia), though they also can be operated at other frequencies, such as 2.4 GHz; or in licensed spectrum; as part of hybrid unlicensed/licensed deployments. The cost of licensed spectrum makes it unlikely that LoRa would be used in licensed frequencies by most companies, according to Bruce Chatterley, chief executive officer of LoRaWAN network operator Senet, with the potential exception of cellular operators that already own spectrum and have business models and services — NB-IoT included — that are tied to licensed spectrum.
“That requirement to have licensed spectrum for NB-IoT is basically a barrier to entry for a lot of different companies like cable TV companies,” Chatterley said. “With LoRa, they don’t need licensed spectrum to get into LPWANs in a big way.”
That means network and service providers outside the cellular industry potentially could use LoRa to compete against cellular companies and their emerging NB-IoT offerings for enterprise LPWAN deployment opportunities. While the majority of LoRa deployments thus far have been for private networks, Chatterley sees this model as a nascent trend and an area in which other companies can partner with Senet to maximize their own LoRa coverage potential.
Senet operates what is essentially a “crowd-sourced global IoT network,” Chatterley said. Any LoRa gateway activated by any company can become visible as a node on Senet’s cloud-based network, and gateway owners can let any other device connect to their gateway, and get a share of the revenue from that connection. While that may sound like a potential security nightmare, LoRaWAN standard networks feature end-to-end encryption.
An open network model with strong security can help LoRa availability expand globally even as cellular companies start rolling out NB-IoT in many markets all at once. “The Senet platform is equipped to be deployed in more than 80 countries worldwide. You can drop a gateway down in any of those countries and it will work on our network,” Chatterley said.
He added that individual enterprises and service providers are not the only ones interested in LoRa. Application developers have started to buy LoRa themselves to get them up and running on Senet’s network to accelerate their ability to get what are often industry-specific apps in front of customers in the form of cloud-based services. For that matter, even cellular providers — the very same ones deploying NB-IoT — could use the Senet network and LoRa technology to address individual customer needs.