IoT gateways combine LoRaWAN with cellular
IoT gateways have the potential to connect cellular networks with the low-power wide-area networks that promise to make connectivity affordable for billions of devices. Low-power wide-area networks (LPWANs) transmit data at much lower rates than current LTE networks, meaning that they can use less expensive modems with longer-lasting batteries.
“The costs will be quite low for this form of connectivity and it will cover a whole range of new applications that have not been cost effective to cover before, so it’s a way of opening up the market,” said analyst Robin Duke-Woolley of Beecham Research, who recently completed a report on low-power wide-area networks.
Some mobile operators are investing in low-power wide-area networks through LoRa, which stands for long range radio. LoRa is a physical layer modulation based on spread-spectrum techniques.
LoRa networks can transmit up to 22 kilometers when there is no obstruction, and up to 2 kilometers in obstructed environments. LoRa radios transmit at 0.30 to 50 kilobits per second at frequencies between 150 MHz and 1 GHz (usually between 850 MHz and 1 Ghz).
Carrier interest in this technology has been strongest outside the United States. Orange is an investor in Actility, an IoT service platform provider and sponsor member of the LoRa Alliance. The LoRa Alliance is a nonprofit group of dozens of companies, including KPN, SK Telecom, IBM, Cisco and Semtech, the company that developed chips that use the LoRa modulation technique.
LoRaWAN is a protocol that the LoRa Alliance is standardizing for low-power wide-area networks. According to Semtech, the LoRaWAN protocol is optimized for low-cost, battery-operated sensors and includes different classes of nodes to optimize the tradeoff between network latency and battery lifetime.
LoRa IoT gateways are multi-modem transceivers that can demodulate on multiple channels simultaneously. The gateways serve as a bridge between endpoints and network servers. Gateways can be installed on towers or on other structures that are in range of a cell tower.
“LoRaWAN is a great choice for protocol if you want to build on carrier-owned and operated public networks,” according to LinkLabs, which builds LoRa gateways. The gateways are priced at roughly $1,000 each and can connect to Wi-Fi, cellular, or Ethernet.
Mike Krell, IoT practice lead at Moor Insights & Strategy, sees IoT gateways as an important opportunity for the semiconductor industry. He expects some of the same companies that make processors and modems for today’s non-IoT gateways to manufacture these components for IoT gateways as well.
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