As IoT continues to alter how we connect and interact with our gadgets, there are various network options for smart solutions to be built on. LoRaWAN and narrow band IoT are the dominant low power wide area networks (LPWANs) (NB-IoT).
Semtech’s LoRa technology is now the de facto wireless platform of IoT, enabling various solutions in various industries through a compelling combination of long-range and low power. NB-IoT, designed for long-distance communication between devices and the Cloud via cellular infrastructure, is compatible with LTE mobile networks. LoRaWAN uses unlicensed radio spectrum bands in the sub-gigahertz range to enable LPWAN communication between end nodes and Lora gateways connected to a network and application servers in the Cloud. The LoRaWAN standard, ratified as an International Telecommunications Union (ITU) standard, is built on LoRa technology.
- LoRaWAN is sponsored by the LoRa Alliance, an open, non-profit organization recognized by the International Telecommunications Union’s Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T). Its members worldwide work together to promote and accelerate the success of the LoRaWAN standard, which the ITU-T recognizes as an open worldwide standard for secure, carrier-grade IoT LPWAN connectivity.
- The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) and the GSMA, two telecommunications standards organizations with the common purpose of furthering the interests of cellular networks and devices, embrace NB-IoT. NB-IoT has primarily been deployed in China but is beginning to spread to other places.
- LoRaWAN is designed for low-power, long-range applications. LoRaWAN networks run in the unlicensed Industrial, Scientific, and Medical (ISM) sub-GHz spectrum, available to network operators and device manufacturers.
- NB-IoT operates in frequency licensed for cellular (LTE) networks and prioritizes spectrum efficiency over all other considerations. Cellular operators pay relatively high license costs to use these frequency bands, restricting the number of licensees who can afford to pay to run NB-IoT services.
- As of March 2022, 166 network operators provide LoRaWAN connectivity, with LoRaWAN private and public network deployments in 181 countries, over 240 million end nodes, and 3.2 million Lora gateways in operation.
- According to the GSMA, the group representing the interests of NB-IoT, LTE, and other mobile networks, 62 nations have rolled out NB-IoT as of February 2022.
- LoRaWAN networks provide extremely flexible deployment choices. It implies they can be put indoors or outdoors, in public, private, open communities, or hybrid networks. LoRaWAN has excellent signal propagation capabilities, enabling use cases in urban settings that demand deep in-building or underground connectivity and rural, open situations where networks can extend up to 30 miles per gateway.
- NB-IoT makes use of LTE cellular infrastructure. It signifies that the networks are public outdoor networks with 4G/LTE cellular towers. Expanding the LTE network for IoT use cases is prohibitively expensive. Even if sensors are out of range of the base station, base stations cannot be easily identified elsewhere.
- LoRaWAN has been designed from the ground up to consume very little energy. It increases the battery life of sensor devices in the field by up to ten years, lowering battery replacement expenses. The LoRaWAN standard permits data to be provided asynchronously, meaning that data is only sent when required.
- High-precision electronics, large device stacks, multi-band spectrum architecture, and end-to-end synchronized protocols contribute to rising energy usage. The wastes significant battery life in sensor devices, resulting in high battery replacement costs, which can be prohibitively expensive in many applications. NB-IoT maintains a synchronous connection to the cellular network even when no data is sent.
- The transmit current of LoRaWAN is 18mA at 10dBm and 84mA at 20dBm. Because of modulation differences, LoRaWAN can be powered by low-cost batteries such as coin cells.
- NB-IoT sensors consume about 220mA at 23dBm and 100mA at 13dBm, implying that they demand more power and require more frequent battery changes or larger batteries.
- LoRaWAN reduces sensor bill of materials (BOM) costs and increases battery life for remote sensors. LoRaWAN runs at 3-5 times lower total power with a received current of about 5mA.
- The received current of NB-IoT is roughly 40mA. On average, communication between the cellular network and the device consumes more than 110mA and lasts tens of seconds. Protocol overhead considerably impacts battery life for devices requiring 3, 5, or 10 years of operation.
The LoRaWAN standard dynamically changes data rate based on sensor distance from a gateway, maximizing time-on-air (saving power budget) and reducing collisions. LoRaWAN has a data rate ranging from 293 to 50kbps
- LoRaWAN’s maximum coupling loss (MCL) signal varies depending on area regulatory constraints. In the best scenario, the link budget is between 155dB and 170dB.
- NB-IoT requires substantial repetition at a low bit rate (increasing power budget) to enable remote sensors. The best-case link budget is 164dB.
Mobility & Satellite
Mobility: Mobile sensors can be supported by LoRaWAN and tracked as assets move from one area to another. It may be done without GPS and with sufficient accuracy for many purposes. NB-IoT is restricted to idle mode cell reselection, inefficient for mobile asset tracking using Lora Gateway.
Satellite: LoRaWAN (which supports LR-FHSS data rates) is ideal for direct device-to-satellite communications, limiting downlink communications to avoid interference with terrestrial devices, optimizing battery lifetime, and achieving a high link budget under difficult radio conditions. For device-to-satellite connections, NB-IoT frequent downlink communications and significant energy consumption owing to message repeats under adverse radio circumstances.
LoRa is a wireless modulation method based on Chirp Spread Spectrum (CSS). It uses chirp pulses to encode information on radio waves, similar to how dolphins and bats communicate! LoRa-modulated transmission is resistant to interference and can be received over long distances.
The possibilities for connecting our planet are endless. It comes down to awareness, cost, and complexity. Akenza thinks we can accelerate IoT adoption in the market by considerably reducing the work and complexity organizations encounter while designing IoT solutions.