Packetworx Rolls Out Nationwide IoT Network in Philippines

Published: August 11, 2023

With a goal to deploy more than 6,000 LoRaWAN base stations, the IoT company intends to help public and private enterprises leverage IoT solutions anywhere.

As a diverse and highly populated archipelago, the Philippines spans everything from highly connected urban centers to rural areas with limited Internet access. IoT connectivity provider Packetworx Inc. intends to leapfrog some of the connecting technology already available by rolling out a nationwide LoRaWAN network. The solution will make connecting sensors and other IoT systems easy and at low cost, the company says, nearly anywhere in the country. The company is working in partnership with Actility by employing its ThingPark Wireless Platform for health monitoring of the LoRaWAN gateway devices.

Once complete, 12 to 18 months from now, the rollout will include more than 6,000 base stations. This will make the network the largest nationwide LoRaWAN system in Asia Pacific, Packetworx reports. IoT applications such as asset tracking for logistics conditions monitoring, meter data capture, and wayfinding may be some of the early deployments. In fact, says Emerson Mangalili, the company’s Presale Engineer Lead, early applications for the network already include utilities to track meter data, mostly concentrated within metropolitan Manila and other urban areas. The new network is also used by local governments, private companies, schools, and companies within the agricultural sector.

The base stations are provided by Browan, each leveraging Semtech SX1303 chipsets. So far, 1,000 gateways have been deployed.

Packetworx Founder and CEO Arnold Bagabaldo

Packetworx’s goal is to drive digitalization, says Raisa Orbon, Packetworx’ Chief Marketing Officer. The company’s founder, Arnold Bagabaldo, had a vision of bringing connectivity to the Philippines that would enable development and IoT solutions. He was inspired to enable such connectivity when he noted parking sensors in a neighborhood mall could detect a vehicle’s presence but captured data in isolation. Bagabaldo posed the question. “What if all these meters were connected wirelessly to the Internet, and if I could see them and even book a parking space wherever I am?”

LoRaWAN offered a solution with long range, low power reliable access to small packets of data once a network was in place.

The company is collaborating with Converge ICT, one of the leading Internet service providers (ISPs) in the Philippines, so that data being captured can be forwarded and made available online. The Actility ThingWorks Platform monitors conditions for gateways to ensure the health of the network and provide maintenance support.

“Our aim is to accelerate the adoption of IoT in the Philippines, and we do this by developing the ecosystem,” says Orbon. This means building solutions within the network that can lead to more data used across that network.

City Deploys LoRaWAN Solutions

One major Philippine city, which has asked to be unnamed, is testing the technology for a variety of services. By using the network in its city hall, for example, it aims to connect sensors within the building to track assets, improve security and productivity, and even aid visitors in finding their way to an office they are seeking.

The city is also testing whether a wearable device could be used to track city personnel as they go about their work. They are planning to test an additional system in which senior citizens with dementia could wear a LoRaWAN-enabled wristband, so that they can go about an active lifestyle safely.

Sensors using LoRaWAN connectivity could also measure city conditions such as air quality and noise in downtown areas. The technology is also being used to monitor water and power consumption by capturing data from meters at schools and other public buildings, via LoRa enabled sensors.

Packetworx expects to see early rollouts of the system also for use in the agriculture sector. Farmers could deploy LoRaWAN-based moisture or other condition-tracking sensors to monitor the health of the soil and therefore adjust the watering and fertilizing scheduling to improve harvest production and quality.

Too often, points out Mangalili, farmers tend to make repetitive mistakes related to quantity of fertilizers and watering without knowing the details of soil conditions. With LoRaWAN sensors, he says “we can combine science with our current agriculture practices, and I think we can improve production quality moving forward.”

IoT Technology Hub

To support early pilots and customer solutions, Packetworx’s engineers provide in-house design and development of both sensors and applications that will fit a customer’s requirement.

“Philippines’ IoT [use] is still in the infancy stage so this is a learning process for our clients,” says Orbon. The company has its own manufacturing capability in Manila to build prototype sensors and to test a system before a company rolls out a full deployment.

This in-house development and testing – at what is called the IoT Technology Hub – also enables Packetworx to strategize the solutions it may offer in the future, she adds. “It’s actually a co-maker space.” For those developing their own solution, Packetworx provides APIs so users can access sensor data or make it available publicly.

The price for using the network is 15 Philippine pesos (25 US cents) per device.

Within the LoRaWAN spectrum, the network is employing one specific frequency (or channel) but will be expanding the channel options in the next quarter.

In June, Packetworx held an Internet of Things Conference, says Benjamin Mina III, the company’s Marketing Communications Manager, to bring together industry leaders, students, professionals, and the public sector to discuss the ways IoT can bring value. “We plan to have this annually so that the community will continuously have a sustained rally” around the technology, he says.

Key Takeaways

  • A network of LoRaWAN gateways is rolling out across the Philippines that will be available to companies, government agencies, and schools at a cost of a few pesos per device.
  • Technology company Packetworx is developing an ecosystem of Internet of Everything providers and users to roll out solutions nationwide that leverage the new network.