DT ties-up on dual-mode LTE-M/LoRaWAN, as LoRa 2.4GHz catches sail
Deutsche Telekom is working with The Things Industries (TTI), the industrial solutions division of LoRaWAN network provider The Things Network (TTN), to combine licensed and unlicensed low-power wide-area (LPWA) technologies LTE-M and LoRaWAN into a single IoT connectivity solution.
The partnership is a major statement from the German carrier, promoting licensed cellular technologies, and milestone for the LoRaWAN community, which has started to pitch unlicensed LoRaWAN as a complement in hybrid IoT solutions to standard connectivity technologies, notably Wi-Fi and cellular. The pair are promising an “out-of-the-box” IoT connectivity solution, described as “easy… and secure”, where LTE-M is being used to backhaul data garnered from LoRaWAN-based sensor arrays.
T-Mobile has developed a dual-mode LoRaWAN/LTE-M gateway, from manufacturer Mikrotik; the unit comes with “no-touch” provisioning and connects to TTN’s device and data platform. It is pitching the solution for enterprise-based smart building controls, as a “smart building starter kit”. The gateway supports LoRa 2.4GHz for global deployments, as well.
Mangal Afzal, head of IoT strategy and execution at Deutsche Telekom, commented: “This collaboration is a further step on our way to an open IoT network. New interfaces allow us to unlock the full potential of IoT.”
The deal with T-Mobile comes as Amsterdam-based TTN / TTI, responsible for the largest community of LoRaWAN developers out there, made a flurry of announcements during its annual meetup, The Things Conference, last week. Among them, it announced support for LoRa 2.4GHz in its public TTN network and open-source TTN stack. Semtech, which licences LoRa chips, introduced LoRa 2.4 GHz at the same event a year ago; previous implementations only worked in sub-GHz spectrum, at 900 MHz and 868 MHz.
The 2.4GHz frequency band works the same in every country, which means LoRa-based IoT devices will work globally – although they may also have to contend with chatter and congestion from Wi-Fi and other short-range technologies. As yet, the LoRaWAN protocol, which utilises the same LoRa-based hardware layer, is not yet optimised for the 2.4 GHz band, and remains locked into various sub-GHz bands in different regions.
Last year, the LoRa Alliance, promoting the LoRaWAN standard for IoT use cases, said it had prioritised 2.4 GHz compatibility in its working groups, and was looking to standardize LoRaWAN in the band. So far, however, nothing has come of it, and there was no mention of 2.4 GHz from the alliance this time out. But LoRa 2.4GHz has seen “steady adoption”, according to the TTN crowd, including gateways from Multitech, Mikrotik, and IMST and devices from Miromico, mcf88, Embit, and Vicotee.
Norwegian maritime group Wilhelmsen, which deployed a LoRa-based IoT solution a year ago, with help from TTN / TTI, said in Amsterdam its new ‘IoT of the Seas’ establishes a platform for “cost-effective, robust, and proven” IoT solutions based on LoRa 2.4GHz, at both land and sea. Wilhelmsen is using the technology to track maritime assets, monitor the condition of machinery and engines, and to check for leaks and other environmental readouts.
Johan Stokking, tech lead at TTN and chief technology officer at TI, said: “We already see great interest from the maritime and logistics sector to adopt the new global frequency, enabling low power, long-range communication using the standardized 2.4 GHz channels. We are excited to enable new use cases by supporting 2.4 GHz LoRa in both our open source as well as our enterprise LoRaWAN stack.”
As well, TTI said last week it is offering LoRaWAN-based hardware installation and maintenance services to IoT providers in 50-odd countries, starting with Europe and the US. It said the package covers device management, LoRaWAN (and LTE-M) connectivity management, network performance SLAs, equipment swaps, battery swaps, logistics and warehousing, 24/7 monitoring and alerting, plus e-waste compliant end of life service.
TTI said a five-year wholesale contract for a single site, based on one indoor gateway and six devices, will cost about €45 per month; the whole deal will allow IoT solution providers to “deliver the last mile of IoT without the headache”. It said the service will “drastically” lower the total cost of ownership of large sensor deployments.
Meanwhile, TTN has said developers using its international network of public LoRaWAN networks now have access to the latest version of the LoRaWAN network server, The Things Stack. TTN supports about 135,000 IoT developers, globally, managing about 20,000 LoRaWAN gateways, it claims. The new stack upgrade will allow them to prototype LoRaWAN applications “faster and more conveniently, [and] with new features, out-of-the-box integrations, extended coverage, and improved user experience”.