Ingenu, Semtech Say Low-Power Wide Area Technology is the Best Match for IoT

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  October 13, 2015

Cellular networks that underlie many IoT deployments offer far more bandwidth than most of those applications require – so it’s like drinking from a fire hose. And the disparity between what IoT needs and what cellular delivers grows wider and wider as cellular network operators move from 2G and 3G networks to 4G LTE (News - Alert) and beyond. And that excess comes at a cost.

That was the word from John Horn, the new CEO of On-Ramp Wireless, who spoke at the recent IoT Evolution Expo. The former leader of RACO Wireless, which was recently acquired by KORE, was announced as On-Ramp’s new leader July 2.

As Horn explained, the costs include lower battery life for endpoints, high network infrastructure and spectrum investments, limited or non-existent coverage in remote areas, network sunsetting, and problems with signal penetration, to name just a few, he said. These cellular network challenges may all be worth it for smartphones and other manned devices, he indicated, but they signal that cellular is not the best match for IoT.

“The networks that were built on cellular technology were built for humans,” Horn commented. “There need to be networks that are built for machines.”

The better solution for IoT, he said, is low power wide area technology. It delivers at least 200 square miles per tower; allows for battery life up to 10 years; and enables On-Ramp Wireless – which owns all the IP, so controls the ecosystem – to ensure there will be no sunsetting, he said.

On-Ramp Wireless is providing connectivity for ELMAR, which is running a GE AMI solution to improve the efficiency of the power grid and leverage renewable energy sources on Aruba. Just eight access points cover the entire island. Horn said On-Ramp also is involved with WellAware in bringing connectivity to remote oilfields.

Semtech is another company that is selling the message that LPWAN is the best match for IoT.

The mid-sized semiconductor company invented LoRa, a low-power WAN architecture. It then formed the LoRa Alliance along with other vendors like Cisco (News - Alert) and IBM, and well as some service providers, to standardize it. The company is now in the process of licensing the technology to other semiconductor suppliers; alliance member Microchip is already a second source, Hardy Schmidbauer, director at Semtech, told me.

According to Schmidbauer, devices using LoRa networks have multiyear battery life and the cost of LoRa cellular modules are three to five times cheaper than those required by the technology On-Ramp Wireless owns and uses. Additionally, the prospect for interference with LoRaWAN, which operates in the sub gigahertz range, is much lower than it is for On-Ramp Wireless, which operates at 2.4 gHz, says Schmidbauer.

LoRa also has significant reach, he said, and is already selling at extremely high volumes compared to On-Ramp and other alternatives like Sigfox – making it the most deployed LPWAN technology solution out there today.

The alliance was announced early this year at Mobile World Congress (News - Alert), and already has 100 members, and expects to double that by the end of this year. And the company is working with 50 MNOs worldwide, and has made a handful of public announcements of customers – with Bouyges of France, FastNet of South Africa, KPN, Lace in Russia, Proximus/Belgacom (News - Alert), upstart Senet in the U.S., and Swisscom.

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere