HomeConnectivityLoRaWAN initiatives combine to create UK’s largest free-to-use LPWA network

LoRaWAN initiatives combine to create UK’s largest free-to-use LPWA network

UK tech incubator Digital Catapult has meshed its Things Connected LoRaWAN network in with the UK footprint of Amsterdam-based LoRaWAN project The Things Network (TTN). The result is the UK’s largest free-to-use low-power wide-area (LPWA) network deployment and innovation community, according to its architects.

UK innovators will be able to develop and build internet of things (IoT) solutions on a network with over 400 base stations across the country, they said.
Things Connected, set up in 2016 by Digital Catapult, in conjunction with BT, Everyone and Beecham Research, is an initiative to support UK businesses using LPWAN technologies. It is a free-to-use network for the experimenting and prototyping of new IoT products and services that can benefit from the features of LoRaWAN and Sigfox.

The Things Network claims an open and decentralised data network across 90 countries worldwide.

The Digital Catapult deal with TTN unites Things Connected’s LoRaWAN regions in London, the North-East, and Northern Ireland with 63 local The Things Network communities, with over 700 members and 300 base stations. The move makes unlicensed IoT connectivity available, free of charge, for more UK tech entrepreneurs, said Digital Catapult.

Peter Karney, head of product innovation at Digital Catapult, said: “UK innovators can now deploy LoRaWAN solutions more seamlessly across the region and fuel further collaboration to benefit the UK economy. Companies too will also be able to demonstrate their services globally, with The Things Network nodes available across the six continents.”

Wienke Giezeman, from The Things Network, added: “The combined network is expected to be self-sustaining and continue to grow through community-support, as both TTN in the UK and Things Connected have shown over the past two years.”

The choice between licensed and unlicensed LPWA connectivity technologies is about use cases, concurred a panel of IoT operators at LPWA World in London last month. If both technologies fit, however, as they do in most cases, the choice comes down to cost, and Sigfox does it better, according WND, a conglomerate of Sigfox operators rolling out in Latin America and the UK.

“If you want to make money in this business, you have to focus on one niche and do it well – and the only way to do that is to do it cheaply. From a sensor in a Tesla car to a sensor in a field – you can’t solve both problems with the same solution. So we decided we would be mass market, connectivity only,” said Chris Bataillard, chief executive of WND.

That said, momentum is building behind licensed LPWA technologies, notably LTE-M and NB-IoT. Twenty-four mobile operators have commercially launched 48 mobile IoT networks worldwide across both NB-IoT and LTE-M, according to the GSMA. The GSMA forecasts 1.8 billion licensed LPWA connections by 2025.

Ericsson thinks the number will be twice that, doubling its own forecast last week for cellular-based IoT connections to 3.5 billion by 2023, from around 0.6 billion million today. It had said at the end of 2017 there would be 1.8 billion in the period, in line with the GSMA’s forecast.

ABI Research reckons the rate of growth of licensed LPWA network connections will outpace their unlicensed equivalents as the LPWA market swells by 53 per cent per year over the next five years. NB-IoT and LTE-M will capture more than 55 per cent of LPWA connections by 2023, it said, as Sigfox and LoRa cede market dominance for the first time. Growth will be spurred by smart meters and asset trackers, it said.

LoRaWAN, distinctive from LoRa, provides the data link layer for LPWA connections; LoRa is the PHY layer, LoRaWAN. Together, the two comprise the LPWA networking technology stack.

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