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What are LoRa and LoRaWAN?

Did you know that market for LoRa and LoRaWAN devices is estimated to grow at a mindblowing CAGR of 36.5% from 2021 to 2026? This growth would lead to an estimated market size of $6.2 billion LoRa and LoRaWAN devices by 2026. The growth of Low-power Wide Area Networks is undeniable, and so is LoRaWAN’s popularity. This blog covers why LoRaWAN is one of the most popular LPWAN technologies available today.

What is LoRa?

LoRa is the radio layer of LoRaWAn technology which is based on a wireless modulation method of Chirp Spread Spectrum (CSS), it was developed by Cycleo, a French company that was later acquired by Semtech. The technology uses chirp pulses of radio waves to transmit information from devices to lorawan gateways. The key ability of LoRa is the ability to cover a long range of communication at much lesser power consumption compared to non-LPWAN communications.

These radio waves cover excellent indoor or outdoor distances and can withstand substantial disturbances along the way. The technology allows the transmission of tiny data at a lesser data rate. As such, it has the right characteristics for IoT devices, where data is exchanged primarily for sensor monitoring and device control. As a communication methodology, LoRa provides more range at less power consumption than 4G, 5G, WiFi, ZigBee, or Bluetooth.

What is LoRaWAN?

LoRaWAN stands for Long Range Wide Area Network, and it is built upon the radio layer LoRa. It acts as the MAC layer (Media Access Layer) that works on the wireless modulation method. This layer defines the network’s functionality and operations, including the transmission frequency, capacity, and data formation.

Built by LoRa Alliance, LoRaWAN is now established in 180+ countries and has several wide partners in those countries, building a vast ecosystem. LoRaWAN was first defined in January 2015 with its first specifications; since then, they have been updated half a dozen times.

What is The LoRa Alliance?

The LoRa Alliance is the main organization and community that is behind the development and innovation of the whole LoRaWAN ecosystem. It is a non-profit organization established in 2015 and has a global community of innovators and engineering enterprises focused on building LoRaWAN products and solutions.

The alliance now has more than 500 members from different countries. These companies are also responsible for building standards for solutions and interoperability between the whole ecosystem. As such, the alliance provides LoRaWAN certification for such IoT devices from different member manufacturers. The standardizations make the technology formidable and trustworthy for industrial and smart city applications.

The difference between LoRa and LoRaWAN

Firstly, LoRa and LoRaWAN are part of the same network ecosystem and thus do not fall under an apple-to-apple comparison. However, both definitions are quite distinct and serve different purposes.

As covered above, LoRa is the radio layer that modulates wireless signals and transmits information from one device to another. On the other hand, LoRaWAN is a MAC layer that is responsible for defining how and when the network communicates that information.

In other words, LoRa provides the physical layer for the wireless network transport for node devices. However, LoRaWAN defines the network protocols for the exchange of data and managing network communication between devices.

Key characteristics of LoRaWAN

Now that we have covered different terminologies and workings of LoRaWAN, it is important to understand what makes this particular wireless network so special in the field of the internet of things. Here are some of the key characteristics of LoRaWAN:

  • Ecosystem

LoRaWAN has a well-established ecosystem through a standardized set of protocols and a global member network with LoRaWAN certifications. On top of that, the alliance insurance that the ecosystem is built innovative and progressive over time.

  • Network bandwidth

LoRaWAN is built particularly for IoT applications, and as such, it has a limited bandwidth capacity. It operates at the bandwidth of 125KHz and 250KHz. For a sensor-based application, such bandwidth is quite sufficient.

  • Operating frequency

Being an open network, LoRaWAN does not need any licensing. It operates in the ISM frequencies (Industrial, Scientific, & Medical). Thus, it significantly simplifies IoT implementations for new implementations. LoRaWAN operates in Europe at 868MHz, in North America at 915MHz, and in Asia at 433MHz frequency.

  • Maximum data rate

As covered earlier, LoRaWAN is more suited for IoT applications where sensor monitoring and node device control are the primary goals of the solution. To be precise, LoRaWAN offers a maximum data rate of 50 kbps.

  • Payload length & messages

LoRaWAN allows a payload of 234 bytes in a day, and it also allows unlimited messages in a day. Allowing one to create a sensor network with plenty of devices transmitting bits of data every now and then.

  • Extended communication coverage

LoRaWAN’s strongest characteristic for smart city and industrial IoT implementations is its communication range. The LPWAN front-runner can provide a 20km range in rural areas and a 5km range in urban areas.

  • Disturbances and interference

With IoT applications, there is a huge possibility of network interferences and disturbances along the way. However, LoRaWAN can build a long-range network that can withstand such radio interference and work flawlessly.

  • ADR (Adaptive Data Rate)

LoRaWAn is unique among LPWAN technologies such as NB-IoT and Sigfox. It offers the provision of ADR (Adaptive Data Rate), allowing the LoRaWAN network server can control transmission, data rate, and such communication parameters. Therefore, increases the battery life of IoT applications.

Most popular use cases of LoRaWAN

LoRaWAN has an immense number of IoT applications, which proves its worth to fare very well among other IoT networks. It is suited for long range low cost M2M applications, to give you a clear idea of what it can achieve, here are some popular IoT use cases of LoRaWAN:

  • City-wide waste collection and management
  • Energy and Gas metering solution for smart cities
  • Smart parking solutions across a wide range
  • Street light solution for smart cities
  • IoT connected next-generation transportation

LoRaWAN vs. other LPWAN technologies

While there are many close competitors of LoRaWAN, there are some significant advantages and disadvantages of LoRaWAN. To give you an idea, LoRaWAN offers one of the highest communication ranges among LPWAN technologies. It also reduces power consumption significantly while offering sufficient bandwidth as well.

In general, LoRaWAN is among the simplest technologies to implement within LPWAN technologies. Being non-licensed technology with a wide community and low-cost implementations can make it a first and perfect choice for many different use cases. The key challenge here arises when it comes to low-latency applications, here, LoRaWAN can fall behind the NB-IoT technology and we have introduced the difference between LoRa and NB-IoT in details before.

Conclusion

The growth of IoT is eminent, and such growth would result in leading similar effects to the LoRaWAN market. It is quite crucial to pick the right technology stack and devices as you choose to build your own LPWAN technologies. If you have any further questions, please them with us, and we can take it forward from there!

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