LoRaWAN: The De Facto LPWAN Technology for Enterprise IoT

LoRaWAN: De Facto LPWAN Technology for Enterprise IoT

February 25, 2022

Chrissy Bullock

There are several low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) technologies in the market today, but the network standard gaining the most traction globally is LoRaWAN®.

To better understand why, let’s take a look at how LoRaWAN works. LoRaWAN was designed from the ground up for optimal performance in low-power IoT networking. The protocol boasts:

  • Virtually unbreakable AES security for reliable protection of sensitive data
  • Long transmission range, providing greater coverage with less hardware
  • Extremely low power consumption, a significant advantage wherever battery-operated sensors are installed
  • An open standard for maximum interoperability

For the physical layer, the LoRaWAN protocol leverages LoRa® radio modulation technology, which is the wireless modulation that enables its long-range communications links.

LoRa leverages a chirp spread spectrum modulation. This modulation has been used in military and space communications for decades, but LoRa represents its first low-cost implementation in commercial applications. Of the four different types of spread spectrum signal transmission techniques, chirp spread spectrum is the option that operates best at very low power. For these and other reasons, it is ideally suited for wide area IoT networks where sensors transmit small data packets intermittently.

Unlike mesh network technologies, LoRaWAN employs a long-range star architecture that enables long-range connectivity while preserving battery life.

In a mesh network (e.g., Zigbee, Thread), devices act as sensors as well as repeaters that pass information from one device to another and ultimately reach a gateway. While the mesh strategy increases communications range, it suffers from added complexity, reduced capacity, and only powered devices or nodes can receive and pass along information from other nodes.

In a LoRaWAN network, data transmitted by a node is received by any gateway close enough to hear the transmission. Each gateway will then forward the received packet from the end-node or device to the cloud-based network server via some backhaul (either cellular, ethernet, satellite, or Wi-Fi). The intelligence and complexity are pushed to the network server, which manages the network, filters redundant received packets and performs security checks.

enterprise IoT adoption

LoRaWAN networks offer a variety of benefits, making them well-suited for enterprise IoT deployments.

Expanding on the benefits of LPWAN technologies outlined in part two of this series, LoRaWAN networks have additional advantages that make them especially well-suited for scaled enterprise IoT deployments.

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Simple Implementation: LoRaWAN’s radio protocol is simple to implement compared to other networks. This simple implementation means that sensors can be easily incorporated into IoT hardware solutions and lower complexity equals less cost and longer battery life.

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Efficient Deployment and Management: The LoRaWAN standard and technology roadmap drive towards increased levels of integration and decreased chip geometries, all of which contribute to reduced power consumption, device sizes, battery use, and ultimately, costs.

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Optimized for Connectivity: LoRaWAN technology has been optimized to work within specific unlicensed spectrums with tools available to avoid network congestion and interference. 900 MHz radio signals and backhaul to the cloud are independent of an enterprise corporate network. Additionally, LoRa radio transmissions operate below the noise floor. As such, areas with highly congested Wi-Fi and BLE signals will not impact the LoRa IoT devices and the LoRa radio signal won’t impact the corporate wireless network.

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Secure: With embedded end-to-end AES 128 encryption of data, LoRaWAN networks are designed for the highest level of security. Sensor data is only accessible and visible to the end user who holds the encryption keys.

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Standards-Based: LoRaWAN is an open, global standard ensuring interoperability and streamlined adoption. LoRaWAN is supported globally by the LoRa Alliance, the international non-profit standards body with over 500 members. Unlike other technologies, LoRa’s viability does not depend on the financial success of any single company.

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Global Ecosystem: There are 166 network operators globally operating in open frequency ranges – which do not require a government license to transmit – as well as within license-free bands such as 415 Mhz, 868 Mhz, and 915 Mhz, depending on geographic location. Plus, with an already-established worldwide ecosystem of application and device developers, enterprises seeking a low-power IoT solution can readily access and draw upon these resources, making it a dominant LPWAN technology on the market today.

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Complementary Nature: LoRaWAN works alongside other existing protocols in a complementary way. It enables enterprises to change, adapt or enhance their IoT solution to meet evolving business needs. Whether it’s to extend range, reduce power consumption, decrease hardware costs, or increase battery life, the complementary nature of LoRaWAN lowers total cost of ownership for enterprises and provides flexibility regarding connectivity options.

The benefits of LoRaWAN are clear. What’s not always clear is how to evaluate and select from the growing number of LoRaWAN providers.

For enterprises, selecting the right LoRaWAN network provider involves finding a partner that has the technical expertise, experience, and resources to deliver secure, reliable connectivity that can scale and support their continuously expanding requirements.

To learn more about how to select the best network connectivity service provider for your enterprise, contact us.