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LPWAN Technology: Not One or the Other, But Both
As the public and private sectors adopt 3GPP cellular IoT technologies and LoRaWAN in tandem, it's best to begin by considering the appropriate use cases for both and the separate benefits of each.
Apr 09, 2017—
The Internet of Things is quickly gaining momentum all around the world—from the Netherlands to China to Australia to the United States—with governments, private companies and large public agencies all taking part. The IoT, offering capabilities to measure, monitor and control processes, products and activities at the most granular scale, can deliver a vast array of applications and benefits in many different industries, particularly in industrial and consumer settings.
The core wireless technology enabling the IoT for industrial and citywide applications (rather than in consumers' living rooms) is developing as quickly as new uses are being identified. Some major network operators are beginning to deploy the LTE cellular IoT (3GPP) standards, CatM1 and NB1, for their IoT needs. The most visible 3GPP deployment is definitely Verizon, which recently announced a partnership with Qualcomm to use CatM1 LTE modems in an IoT network. With these cellular technologies on the rise, some have suggested that other already-deployed low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) technologies, such as LoRaWAN, will fall out of favor. LoRaWAN is an existing, open-standard technology designed to connect things wirelessly over long ranges (up to 15 kilometers) with a battery life of up to ten years when deployed in regional, national or global networks.
LPWAN: Lower Cost Lower Power
Because it transmits over unlicensed radio spectrum, LPWAN technology is also available as an alternative to the national telco operators making headlines recently. Most IoT applications, particularly for industrial IoT, do not demand a national public communications network. These applications, in what is known as "campus" scenarios, include smart factories, smart buildings, smart streets and even smart agriculture, in which there are dense deployments of thousands of sensors in a small area connected by onsite dedicated LPWAN base stations. These campus scenarios are much simpler to deploy and manage with unlicensed spectrum technologies, including LPWAN.
3GPP Technologies: Consumer-Friendly
3GPP technologies can also help network providers like Verizon expand their business services to offer better connectivity through IoT technology and computing capabilities. These new capabilities can help network providers create a foothold in new sectors, including retail point of sale and asset tracking, among many others. For telco operators, 3GPP LPWAN is simultaneously familiar and a transformative step toward new business models and new opportunities.
Mixing the Two Together
Olivier Hersent is the founder and CTO of Actility, an IoT platform provider that, through its ThingPark Wireless platform, supports low-power wide-area networks for a range of smart-city applications. Prior to founding Actility, he founded NetCentrex, a leading provider of VoIP infrastructure for service providers, then became CTO of Comverse after the acquisition of NetCentrex in 2006. Hersent is a recognized thought leader in the telecommunications and energy markets and is the author of several books on networking technology, VoIP, M2M, the IoT and the smart grid. He graduated from Ecole Polytechnique.
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