What is RPMA and what role does it play in IIoT?
The fuel to IIoT: LPWAN
Low-power, wide-area networks (LPWAN) are the response to the need for reliable, efficient, easy to deploy connectivity to help unlock the potential of the internet of things. According to Ingenu, which licenses RPMA, 86% of all current IoT devices use less than 3 MB of data per month, so the need for a network that can sustain devices with such low requirements is necessary to sustain the billions of anticipated IoT devices.
What is RPMA?
RPMA is the only technology designed from the ground-up specifically for the IoT ecosystem. Unlike other low-power networks, RPMA uses the popular 2.4 GHz band, which is available as a continuous band around the world.
“It [RPMA] gives you the lowest offering cost of any technology that is alive on the planet today,” Ingenu CEO John Horn said in an interview with Industrial IoT 5G. “It gives you the opportunity to build one SKU and develop and deploy that device to every country on the planet because we use 2.4 spectrum and that spectrum is the only spectrum available in every country. It allows us to be very effective in our search to seek out a global footprint.”
Wide coverage, low cost
And that footprint is created with fewer resources and less money than cellular or its LPWA competitors. Ingenu covered Dallas/Ft. Worth with only 17 access points, and RPMA uses one access point (AP) per LoRa’s 18, cellular’s 30, and Sigfox technology’s 70, according to the company. A single one of Ingenu’s towers can cover up to 300 square miles.
“We would spend $24,000 to cover an area where it would cost cellular anywhere from $2 to$ 3 million dollars,” Horn said. “Cellular costs are astronomically higher. One of the challenge with that is – you are looking at LTE-M or NB-IoT, whatever you want to call the flavor of the month on the cellular side – whatever they are doing is going to run on the backbone of LTE, so they are not going to put towers somewhere just for machines because they already have the backend costs for LTE.”
The benefits of 2.4 GHz
According to Ingenu, the low-power network offers more than 20 years of battery life for some connected devices. A key aspect to achieving that efficiency is by adaptive data rates, which help minimize the transmitter on-time. Ingenu claims its technology has the most bandwidth available of any technology with 80 megahertz available worldwide, the result of which is that towers with RPMA infrastructure supports a factor of 60x to 1300x more devices per piece of network infrastructure than the other existing LPWA technologies. Other existing LPWA technologies have anywhere from 1.25% to 15% of that bandwidth availability, according to Ingenu.
“Our single biggest cost is tower rent, but even that has been a huge advantage because there are so many smart city applications running on our networks today that we have cities giving us tower space, building space, rooftop space for free to get earlier in our build schedule,” Horn told Industrial IoT 5G. “In the U.S. we are in the process of building, owning and operating the network specifically for the IoT ecosystem where clients interact with us like any other carrier. For the rest of the world we are licensing partners all over the planet. Today, we have 38 private networks that are operated throughout the world, now we have 52 countries and many more coming that are in the contract process.”
A potential interference problem
Of course, using the 2.4 GHz band means encountering huge amounts of interference. Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, cordless phones, and even baby monitors utilize the 2.4 GHz band so it is no surprise that the 2.4 GHz band has large amount traffic running through it. The nature of RPMA gives Ingenu flexibility with its network, allowing it to cut through the clutter, while still being a good neighbor.
“We knew that congestion and interference could potentially be a large problem in 2.4, so if you look at 2.4, everything that is in there – you get into large city urban areas and there is potential for a ton of interference,” Horn said. “We have networks running in Seoul, LA, Tokyo – you couldn’t get a more interference-rich environment. In those areas, our actual footprint shrinks because of congestion, but we are a really really good neighbors. We don’t create problems and we work really well in that space. In downtown LA we have an access point on a building and we are getting 30 square miles of coverage even in that congested environment where LTE can only get one square mile in that environment.”
RPMA’s current and future presence
Ingenu currently has a heavy presence in Texas, with networks in Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Houston, and large white space areas. The company provides connectivity to more 50% of the Texas state population, covering more than 8,300 square miles of major metropolitan areas, along with tens of thousands of square miles of existing rural coverage as well as all of the oil and gas production in Texas.
Three densely populated Texas markets are served by only 27 RPMA access points, much less infrastructure than would be required with cellular networks.
“Austin is a creative, innovative city where people come from all over the world to turn their good ideas into reality,” said Steve Alder, Austin City Mayor. “This type of machine-to-machine connectivity will get Austin that much closer to becoming a truly smart city.”
RPMA currently provides more than 100,000 square miles of wireless coverage for a host of IoT applications, and Ingenu will be expanding its coverage to dozens of cities in the next few years.
“Right now we average almost 2,000 inbound leads a month,” Ingenu’s CEO said. “I have a business development that does no outbound calling what-so-ever, all they do is support inbound leads to bring them onto the RPMA network. You have companies together that are on 2G or 3G on cellular and they know they are getting sunsetted and are going to have to replace all their infrastructure and they are looking for a less expensive, more long-term and stable solution than another technology that will get sunsetted as well.”