Follow the Money: Low-Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN)

Fractal Realms series. Backdrop of fractal elements, grids and symbols on the subject of education, science and technology


John Koon

While we are waiting for the coming of
5G, everyone is trying to cash in on LPWAN
using 3G and 4G (LTE), other technologies.
The question is not whether you can make
money. It is how fast. The growth of IoT and
LPWAN is unstoppable. So where are the

IoT Applications

It is interesting to note the top IoT applications,
as shown in the survey of 640 industrial
IoT projects done by IoT Analytics GmbH, a
Germany based IoT market research firm, to
be Connected Industry, Smart City and Smart
Energy. 44% of these projects are in America
while 34% are in Europe. The Asia / Pacific
region is particularly strong in Smart Energy
projects (25%).
IoT has become a worldwide phenomenon.
Why is everyone so enthusiastic? In short, it
makes us more productive in a meaningful
way. Using the cloud /wireless connectivity,
IoT provides users with insight which was not
available before. But why low power?

What is Low-Power IoT?

In many IoT applications it is important
for the remote devices to have long battery
life as in the case of wearable health devices,
smart agriculture, smart meter and industrial
applications in remote areas. There are many
names for LPWAN. Low-Power IoT, LPWA,
Low-Power WAN and more. What technologies
are behind LPWAN? Two types. Cellular
and non-cellular. Cellular technologies
include Low-Power LTE which has various
flavors (refer to the Digi article in this issue).
Behind the non-cellular technologies are the
LoRaWAN and SigFox. What is LPWAN and
who are the players? In short, it is a Low-Power
technology which enables devices to have
a battery life longer than 10 years in some
cases. Other features include very low cost for
low speed applications. Contrary to highspeed
network designed for video streaming,
LPWAN targets applications requiring kilobit
per second speed to send packets but cost is a
key consideration as IoT devices/sensors are
becoming cheaper by the day. There are three
popular entities supporting LPWAN today.
The first group includes the major carriers
like Verizon, ATT and T-Mobile in America.
Group 2 is LoRa Alliance. It is a non-profit
consortium promoting the open specification
on LoRaWAN (Long Range and Wide
Area Network) (see interview). The driving
force behind this group includes tech giants
like Cisco, IBM and Comcast. The last one is
SigFox which is a French-based company with
presence in 32 countries attempting to develop
an international “standard” to compete
with LoRa and the like.

What is the future like?

It has only just begun. Verizon launched
the M1 roll-out with partners. Members
of LoRa Alliance has now climbed to 450.
Opportunities promise to be great and competition
will be fierce. Challenges including
counter cyberattacks and increased security,
safety and privacy will be at the top. We
are constantly reminded how serious the
cyberthreats can be. As recent as May 2017,
the ransomware, code name WannaCry, has
attacked 150 countries, the worst attack ever.

What is next?

To give you a quick understanding of
this fast-growing market, the lead article
will discuss the Verizon M1 roll-out and its
mighty partner support. Additionally, we
have invited experts to explain the meaning
of various LTE network technical terms like
Cat M1, what LoRa is all about as well as
how to defend the network.