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Showing posts with label LoRa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label LoRa. Show all posts

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Cellular IoT (CIoT) or LoRa?

Back in September, 3GPP reached a decision to standardise NarrowBand IOT (NB-IOT). Now people familiar with the evolution of LTE-A UE categories may be a bit surprised with this. Upto Release-11, the lowest data rate device was UE Cat-1, which could do 10Mbps in DL and 5Mbps in UL. This was power hungry and not really that useful for low data rate sensor devices. Then we got Cat-0 as part of Release-12 which simplified the design and have 1Mbps in DL & UL.

Things start to become a bit complex in Release-13. The above picture from Qualcomm explains the evolution and use cases very well. However, to put more details to the above picture, here is some details from the 4G Americas whitepaper (embedded below)


In support of IoT, 3GPP has been working on all several related solutions and generating an abundance of LTE-based and GSM-based proposals. As a consequence, 3GPP has been developing three different cellular IoT standard- solutions in Release-13:
  • LTE-M, based on LTE evolution
  • EC-GSM, a narrowband solution based on GSM evolution, and
  • NB-LTE, a narrowband cellular IoT solution, also known as Clean Slate technologies
However, in October 2015, the 3GPP RAN body mutually agreed to study the combination of the two different narrowband IoT technical solutions, EC-GSM and NB-LTE, for standardization as a single NB-IoT technology until the December 2015 timeframe. This is in consideration of the need to support different operation modes and avoid divided industry support for two different technical solutions. It has been agreed that NB-IoT would support three modes of operation as follows:
  • ‘Stand-alone operation’ utilizing, for example, the spectrum currently being used by GERAN systems as a replacement of one or more GSM carriers,
  • ‘Guard band operation’ utilizing the unused resource blocks within a LTE carrier’s guard-band, and
  • ‘In-band operation’ utilizing resource blocks within a normal LTE carrier.

Following is a brief description of the various standard solutions being developed at 3GPP by October 2015:

LTE-M: 3GPP RAN is developing LTE-Machine-to-Machine (LTE-M) specifications for supporting LTE-based low cost CIoT in Rel-12 (Low-Cost MTC) with further enhancements planned for Rel-13 (LTE eMTC). LTE-M supports data rates of up to 1 Mbps with lower device cost and power consumption and enhanced coverage and capacity on the existing LTE carrier.

EC-GSM: In the 3GPP GERAN #62 study item “Cellular System Support for Ultra Low Complexity and Low Throughput Internet of Things”, narrowband (200 kHz) CIoT solutions for migration of existing GSM carriers sought to enhance coverage by 20 dB compared to legacy GPRS, and achieve a ten year battery life for devices that were also cost efficient. Performance objectives included improved indoor coverage, support for massive numbers of low-throughput devices, reduced device complexity, improved power efficiency and latency. Extended Coverage GSM (EC-GSM) was fully compliant with all five performance objectives according to the August 2015 TSG GERAN #67 meeting report. GERAN will continue with EC-GSM as a work item within GERAN with the expectation that standards will be frozen by March 2016. This solution necessarily requires a GSM network.

NB-LTE: In August 2015, work began in 3GPP RAN Rel-13 on a new narrowband radio access solution also termed as Clean Slate CIoT. The Clean Slate approach covers the Narrowband Cellular IoT (NB-CIoT), which was the only one of six proposed Clean Slate technologies compliant against a set of performance objectives (as noted previously) in the TSG GERAN #67 meeting report and will be part of Rel-13 to be frozen in March 2016. Also contending in the standards is Narrowband LTE Evolution (NB-LTE) which has the advantage of easy deployment across existing LTE networks.

Rel-12 introduces important improvements for M2M like lower device cost and longer battery life. Further improvements for M2M are envisioned in Rel-13 such as enhanced coverage, lower device cost and longer battery life. The narrowband CIoT solutions also aim to provide lower cost and device power consumption and better coverage; however, they will also have reduced data rates. NB CleanSlate CIoT is expected to support data rates of 160bps with extended coverage.

Table 7.1 provides some comparison of the three options to be standardized, as well as the 5G option, and shows when each release is expected to be finalized.

Another IoT technology that has been giving the cellular IoT industry run for money is the LoRa alliance. I blogged about LoRa in May and it has been a very popular post. A extract from a recent article from Rethink Research as follows:

In the past few weeks, the announcements have been ramping up. Semtech (the creator of the LoRa protocol itself, and the key IP owner) has been most active, announcing that The Lace Company, a wireless operator, has deployed LoRa network architecture in over a dozen Russian cities, claiming to cover 30m people over 9,000km2. Lace is currently aiming at building out Russian coverage, but will be able to communicate to other LoRa devices over the LoRa cloud, as the messages are managed on cloud servers once they have been transmitted from end-device to base unit via LoRaWAN.

“Our network allows the user to connect to an unlimited number of smart sensors,” said Igor Shirokov, CEO of Lace Ltd. “We are providing connectivity to any device that supports the open LoRaWAN standard. Any third party company can create new businesses and services in IoT and M2M market based on our network and the LoRaWAN protocol.”

Elsewhere, Saudi Arabian telco Du has launched a test LoRa network in Dubai, as part of a smart city test project. “This is a defining moment in the UAE’s smart city transformation,” said Carlos Domingo, senior executive officer at Du. “We need a new breed of sensor friendly network to establish the smart city ecosystem. Thanks to Du, this capability now exists in the UAE Today we’ve shown how our network capabilities and digital know-how can deliver the smart city ecosystem Dubai needs. We will not stop in Dubai; our deployment will continue country-wide throughout the UAE.”

But the biggest recent LoRa news is that Orange has committed itself to a national French network rollout, following an investment in key LoRa player Actility. Orange has previously trialed a LoRa network in Grenoble, and has said that it opted for LoRa over Sigfox thanks to its more open ecosystem – although it’s worth clarifying here that Semtech still gets a royalty on every LoRa chip that’s made, and will continue to do so until it chooses not to or instead donates the IP to the non-profit LoRa Alliance itself.

It would be interesting to see if this LoRa vs CIoT ends up the same way as WiMAX vs LTE or not.

Embedded below is the 4G Americas whitepaper as well as a LoRa presentation from Semtech:






Further reading:


Saturday, 16 May 2015

Smart Homes of the Future and Technologies


Saw the above picture recently on Twitter. While its great to see how connected our future homes and even cities would be, it would be interesting to see what technologies are used for connecting these devices.

Cambridge Wireless had a smart homes event last month, there were some interesting presentations that I have detailed below.


The first of these technologies discussed is LoRa. As can be seen, its billed as ultimate long range (10 mile) and low power (10 year battery lifetime) technology. It uses spread-spectrum making it robust to channel noise. Here is the presentation:




The next technology is Zigbee 3.0. According to Zigbee Alliance:

The new standard unifies ZigBee standards found in tens of millions of devices delivering benefits to consumers today. The ZigBee 3.0 standard enables communication and interoperability among devices for home automation, connected lighting, energy efficiency and other markets so more diverse, fully interoperable solutions can be delivered by product developers and service providers. All device types, commands, and functionality defined in current ZigBee PRO-based standards are available to developers in the new standard.

ZigBee 3.0 defines the widest range of device types including home automation, lighting, energy management, smart appliance, security, sensors, and health care monitoring products. It supports both easy-to-use DIY installations as well as professionally installed systems. Based on IEEE 802.15.4, which operates at 2.4 GHz (a frequency available for use around the world), ZigBee 3.0 uses ZigBee PRO networking to enable reliable communication in the smallest, lowest-power devices. Current ZigBee Certified products based on ZigBee Home Automation and ZigBee Light Link are interoperable with ZigBee 3.0. A complete list of standards that have been merged to create ZigBee 3.0 can be seen on the website at www.ZigBee.org.

“The ZigBee Alliance has always believed that true interoperability comes from standardization at all levels of the network, especially the application level which most closely touches the user,” said Tobin J. M. Richardson, President and CEO of the ZigBee Alliance. “Lessons learned by Alliance members when taking products to market around the world have allowed us to unify our application standards into a single standard. ZigBee 3.0 will allow product developers to take advantage of ZigBee’s unique features such as mesh networking and Green Power to deliver highly reliable, secure, low-power, low-cost solutions to any market.”



Finally, we have Bluetooth Smart mesh.

CSRmesh enables Bluetooth® low energy devices not only to receive and act upon messages, but also to repeat those messages to surrounding devices thus extending the range of Bluetooth Smart and turning it into a mesh network for the Internet of Things.



While the CW event was not able to discuss all possible technologies (and believe me there are loads of them), there are other popular contenders. Cellular IoT (CIoT) is one if them. I have blogged about the LTE Cat-0 here and 5G here.

A new IEEE Wi-Fi standard 802.11ah using the 900MHz band has been in works and will solve the need of connectivity for a large number of things over long distances. A typical 802.11ah access point could associate more than 8,000 devices within a range of 1 km, making it ideal for areas with a high concentration of things. The Wi-Fi Alliance is committed to getting this standard ratified soon. With this, Wi-Fi has the potential to become a ubiquitous standard for IoT. See also this article by Frank Rayal on this topic.

Finally, there is SIGFOX. According to their website:

SIGFOX uses a UNB (Ultra Narrow Band) based radio technology to connect devices to its global network. The use of UNB is key to providing a scalable, high-capacity network, with very low energy consumption, while maintaining a simple and easy to rollout star-based cell infrastructure.

The network operates in the globally available ISM bands (license-free frequency bands) and co-exists in these frequencies with other radio technologies, but without any risk of collisions or capacity problems. SIGFOX currently uses the most popular European ISM band on 868MHz (as defined by ETSI and CEPT) as well as the 902MHz in the USA (as defined by the FCC), depending on specific regional regulations.

Communication on SIGFOX is secured in many ways, including anti-replay, message scrambling, sequencing, etc. The most important aspect of transmission security is however that only the device vendors understand the actual data exchanged between the device and the IT systems. SIGFOX only acts as a transport channel, pushing the data towards the customer's IT system.

An important advantage provided by the use of the narrow band technology is the flexibility it offers in terms of antenna design. On the network infrastructure end it allows the use of small and simple antennas, but more importantly, it allows devices to use inexpensive and easily customizable antennas.


Sigfox is also working on project Mustang, a three-year effort to build a hybrid satellite/terrestrial IoT (internet of things) network. According to Rethink Research:

The all-French group also contains aerospace firm Airbus, research institute CEA-Leti and engineering business Sysmeca. The idea is to use Sigfox as the terrestrial data link, with satellite backhaul and connections to planes and boats provided by a low-earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation.
...
The satellite link could be added to either the end devices or the base station, so that if a device was unable to connect to the terrestrial Sigfox network, it could fall back to the satellite.

While the power requirements for this would be prohibitive for ultra-low power, battery-operated devices, for those with a wired power supply and critical availability requirements (such as smart meters, alarms, oil tankers and rigs) the redundancy would be an asset. These devices may transmit small amounts of data but when they do need to communicate, the signal must be assured.

The Sigfox base station could be fitted with a satellite uplink as a primary uplink as well as a redundancy measure in some scenarios where terrestrial network reach cannot be achieved. With a three-year lifecycle, Mustang’s participants are looking to create a seamless global network, and note that the planned dual-mode terrestrial/satellite terminal will enable switching between the two channels in response to resource availability.

The group says that the development of this terminal modem chipset is a priority, with later optimization of the communication protocols being the next step before an application demonstration using an airplane.

The project adds that the full potential of the IoT can only be achieved by offering affordable mobile communications at a global scale and reach. Key to this is adapting existing networks, according to the group, which explains why Sigfox has been chosen – given that the company stresses the affordability of its system.

Well, there are a lots of options available. We just have to wait and see which ones work in what scenarios.