Showing posts with label LoRaWAN. Show all posts
Showing posts with label LoRaWAN. Show all posts

Monday, 7 January 2019

The business case of densifying LoRaWAN deployments

LoRaWAN has recently emerged as one of the key radio technologies to address the challenges of Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) deployments, namely power efficiency, long range, scalable deployments, and cost-effectiveness.

The LoRa Alliance has had an exponential growth with 500+ members with the recent arrival of heavyweight members such as Google, Alibaba, and Tencent joining the alliance.

The first wave of LoRaWAN was primarily focused on large country-wide deployments led by operators such as KPN, Orange, Swisscom and many more. However, the next wave that is already coming is the arrival of private LoRaWAN deployments from large enterprises and enabling roaming for inter-connection amongst public/private networks (esp. for use cases which involve LPWAN Geolocation [8] [9]]). As the IoT deployments grow in both the densification and geographical footprint, it is inevitable that network design becomes one of the important factors ensuring long-term success and profitability of both operators and end-customers relying on LoRaWAN connectivity for their IoT use cases.


A typical example is the recent 3 million water meter contract awarded by Veolia Birdz to Orange [12]: such large-scale projects require careful network planning to achieve the required densification and quality of service while optimizing costs.

A Closer Look at Densification techniques for LoRaWAN


LoRaWAN deployments use a star topology with a frequency reuse factor of 1 which allows simplicity in network deployment and ongoing densification: there is no need for frequency pattern planning or reshuffling as more gateways are added to the infrastructure.

Compared to mesh technologies, the single hop to network infrastructure minimizes power consumption as nodes do not need to relay communication from other nodes. Another advantage is that gradual initial network deployment in sparse mode with low node density is possible, compared to mesh which requires minimum node density to operate. Even more importantly, LoRaWAN is immune from the exponential packet loss suffered by multi-hop RF mesh technologies in presence of increasing interferers and noise floor power.

Another unique feature of LoRaWAN networks is that messages in uplink can be received by any gateway (Rx macro-diversity), and it is the function of a network server to remove duplicates in uplink and select the best gateway for downlink transmission based on the uplink RSSI estimates. This allows enabling of features such as geolocation to be easily built into LoRaWAN deployment and enables uplink macro-diversity that significantly improves network capacity and QoS (Quality of Service).

LoRaWAN also supports features such as Adaptive Data Rate (ADR) that allows network server to dynamically change parameters of end-devices such as transmit power, frequency and spreading factor via downlink MAC commands. Optimization of theses settings is key to increase the capacity and reduce the power consumption of end-devices.

The optimization of LoRaWAN parameters along with densification can lead massive amounts of capacity increase in the network. In fact, the LoRaWAN capacity of the network can scale almost indefinitely with densification.

Figure 1: Actility Webinar - Designing LoRaWAN network for Dense Deployment  [1] [2] [3]


The future of LoRaWAN networks, particularly in urban environments where the noise floor is expected to get higher due to increased traffic, goes towards micro-cellular networks

How does densification lead to lower TCO for Enterprise deployment?


As the network is densified by deploying more LoRaWAN Gateways and adaptive data rate and power control algorithms are applied intelligently in the network, this leads in dramatic reduction of power consumption of end-device and thus reduction in Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of end devices. The figures below show clearly that densification can lead to upto 10X savings in both power consumption and overall reduction in 10-year TCO for enterprise deployment. Changing the batteries require manual labor and is the cost that can significantly dominate 10-year TCO of large-scale enterprise deployment (for ex. Smart gas/water meters).

Figure 2: Battery Lifetime Improvement with densification [1] [2] [3]


Figure 3: Impact on 10-year TCO due to densification [1] [2] [3]



Densification leads to very dramatic reduction in power consumption of the end-devices thus reducing overall Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)


LoRaWAN offers disruptive Deployment Models


LoRaWAN is generally deployed in unlicensed spectrum which allows anyone to roll-out IoT/LPWAN network based on LoRaWAN. This allows three deployment models:


1. Public Operator Network: In this traditional model, the operator invests in a regional or nation-wide network and sells connectivity services to its customers.


2. Private/Enterprise Network: In this model, enterprise customers typically setup LoRaWAN gateways on private premises (e.g. an airport), and either have these gateways managed by an operator, or use their own LoRaWAN network platform.


This mode of deployment is a game changer for dense device use cases, as network capacity and enhanced QoS can be provided at marginal increased cost. It becomes possible because LoRaWAN runs in unlicensed spectrum and gateways are quite inexpensive and easy to deploy.


3. Hybrid model: This is the most interesting model that LoRaWAN allows due to its open architecture.

This is not possible or rather difficult in other competing LPWA technologies or Cellular IoT (due to licensed spectrum and absence of roaming/peering model between private and public networks). There are initiatives like CBRS and MulteFire from 3GPP Players but they are still in progress and far from maturity for large scale IoT deployments (esp. for use cases that demand 10-15 years+ battery lifetime).

In hybrid model, operator provides light country-wide outdoor coverage, but different stakeholders such as private enterprises or individuals help in densifying the network further based on their needs on their premises, via managed networks. This model enables a win-win private/public partnership in sharing the costs and revenues from the network and densify the network where the applications and devices are most present.

This model is possible because multiple gateways can receive LoRaWAN messages and network server removes duplication. In the cases where different operators/enterprises run their networks, LoRa Alliance already has approved roaming architecture in “LoRaWAN Backend Interfaces 1.0 Specification” [6] [7] to enable network collaboration.

This model significantly reduces the operator investment and offers a disruptive business model to build IoT capacity where it is mostly needed.


Figure 4: LoRaWAN Hybrid Deployment Model (source : Actility)


LoRaWAN enables Public-Private deployment that allows disruptive model for cost/revenue sharing and densifying the network where it is needed most, depending on IoT application needs

LoRaWAN densification: A Key driver for reduction in Operator TCO

When designing and deploying a LoRaWAN network, the system operator must balance the cost of a dense network (and it's served sensors) against the cost of a sparse network (and it's served sensors).

Traditional vs Opportunistic network designs


In the traditional deployment model, the operator deploys LoRaWAN gateways on telecom towers. This entails leasing the space from the tower owner, purchasing a waterproof outdoor gateway, climbing the tower to hang the gateway, and perhaps paying for additional power, zoning, permitting, and backhaul. The operator does the detailed RF propagation study and hangs enough gateways to provide coverage for the sensor locations required to provide the services he wants to provide.


Another option is to opportunistically deploy “femto” gateways in devices that the operator is already fielding. The gateways are stateless, and thus do not add much complexity to the hosting device. An 8-channel LoRaWAN reference design is mated to the host device using either USB or I2C. The options here are quite diverse. The operator can embed a simple 8 channel gateway into ongoing WiFi hotspots, power supplies, amplifiers, cable modems, thermostats, virtual assistants, or any mass-produced device that already has backhaul. The Bill of Materials adder is quite modest, the power consumption and heat dissipation are less than 3 Watts, and the size delta is roughly 7 cm by 3 cm.


Calculating the number of opportunistic gateways to provide adequate coverage for a given deployment can be challenging. The height of the gateways has a large impact on the coverage of the gateway. A gateway deployed in a 20th story of an apartment building has a much better coverage pattern than the same gateway deployed in the basement of a single-family home. Gateways deployed in WiFi hotspots mounted on power poles have a different coverage area than a gateway deployed on light poles. So, the actual number of gateways deployed in each scenario varies widely. When you complete the detailed design of each network type, you typically find that an opportunistic deployment model allows the operator to cover a given area by deploying roughly 100 times as many gateways for roughly 1/10th of the cost (when compared to the traditional 3rd party leased tower model).

Example use-case with water meters


For the rest of this analysis, we will assume that the operator needs to deploy a LoRaWAN network to service 100K water meters. Water meters represent a difficult RF propagation model. They are installed at or below ground level, must last 20 years, and suburban meters tend to have accumulations of grass and dirt collect over time. Let’s assume a North American deployment model, and we have the option of using a high power (27dBm) or a low power (17dBm) meter.

One possible design is to use a tower-based approach. In a tower-based approach, the operator typically ends up deploying high power water meters in order to reduce the number of (expensive) tower leases. In order to run at high power, the North American regulations require the sensor to send across 50+ channels, which drives the operator to deploy 64 channel gateways. Let’s assume that the average distance between a water meter and a tower-based gateway is ~3km and the sensors need to send one reading per day. Many of the meters thus operate at SF10 at 27dBm. The sensor designer includes a high-power RF amplifier, calculates the energy requirements over the life of the sensor, and sizes the battery appropriately.

Another possible design is to opportunistically deploy thousands of femto gateways into the area. The question boils down to “How many femto gateways do I need to cover the desired area?”. Working backwards from the densest possible deployment, most MSOs (Multiple-System Operator) serve 1/3 of the households in their footprint. In many urban environments, the average distance between a given operator’s subscribers is 30 meters. If such an operator could opportunistically deploy in most of those sites, they would have inter-gateway distances as small as 30 meters. For the purposes of this analysis, let’s say that the average distance between the sensor and the closest gateway is reduced from 3000 meters to 100 meters. When a sensor is 100 meters from a gateway, it can typically operate at SF7 at 17dBm (or lower). Clearly, the network designer must account for a distribution of distances between a given sensor and its closest gateway, but the overall power savings is significant.

It is also instructive to compare the overall capacity of a tower-based LoRaWAN network to the overall capacity of the opportunistic LoRaWAN network. Remembering that 100 eight channel opportunistic gateways cost about 1/10th of a single 64 channel gateway, we realize that we get ~13 times as much network capacity for 1/10th of the cost. As the sensor density increases, we could deploy additional opportunistic gateways and get ~130 times as much network capacity for the same cost as a tower-based network.

When we compare the cost to build a sensor designed to last 20 years using SF10 at 27dBm to the cost to build a sensor designed to last 20 years using SF7 at 17dBm, we find that we can save more than $10 per sensor by deploying the denser network.

So, in addition to saving a significant amount of capital by opportunistically deploying the gateways, the operator can save more than $10 per water meter by opportunistically deploying a dense network. This saves more than $1M on the 100K water meter deployment. When one layers in additional use cases, the dense LoRaWAN network provides sensor savings on each additional set of sensors. Most of the sensors do not have the 20 years requirement and thus do not save the same amount of money, but batteries are one of the primary drivers for any sensor’s cost.


Conclusion

This analysis is somewhat simplified, and a very large-scale deployment may require a certain amount of traditional gateway placement to provide an “umbrella” of coverage that is then densified using opportunistic methods. By densifying the network, the overall sensor power budget is decreased significantly. One could also envision a deployment model in which an opportunistic gateway is deployed in conjunction with a set of services. The operator would add IoT based services to an existing bundle (let’s say voice/video/data, thermostat control or personal assistant) and know that the sensors would be co-resident with the gateway.

What is the future of LoRaWAN?



LoRaWAN exhibits significant capacity gains and massive reduction in power consumption and TCO when ADR algorithms are used intelligently in the network. We showed how LoRaWAN networks are deployed for coverage and how network capacity can be scaled gracefully by adding more gateways.

There are already 16 channels in EU, but there have been recent modifications of the regulatory framework to relax the spectrum requirements and increase transmit power, duty cycle and number of channels [22].

Moreover, Semtech released the latest version of LoRa chipsets [23] with the following key features:
  • 50% less power in receive mode
  • 20% extended cell range
  • +22 dBm transmit power
  • A 45% reduction in size: 4mm by 4mm
  • Global continuous frequency coverage: 150-960MHz
  • Simplified user interface with implementation of commands
  • New spreading factor of SF5 to support dense networks
  • Protocol compatible with existing deployed LoRaWAN networks

The above LoRaWAN features and upcoming changes to EU regulations will allow significantly scaling of unlicensed LoRaWAN deployments for years to come to meet the needs of IoT applications and use cases. LoRaWAN capacity depends indeed on the regional and morphology parameters. As we have showed in the above results, if the network is deployed carefully and advanced algorithms such as ADR are used, there can be dramatic increase in network capacity and massive reduction in TCO. This will be one of the main factors that will determine the success of LoRaWAN deployments as the demands and breadth of IoT applications scale in future.

We also showed earlier how LoRaWAN offers innovative public/private deployment model in which operators can build capacity incrementally and supplement with extra capacity by leveraging gateways deployed from private individuals/enterprises. Typically, for cellular networks there can be anywhere from 5-10% IoT devices on cell-edge which are in outage [10]. This applies especially to deep indoor nodes (for example, smart meters with additional 30 dB penetration loss). Such nodes can only be covered by densification of cellular network which is expensive considering it is being done only for 5-10% of IoT devices. One way to address this problem is deploying private LoRaWAN on cell-edge and using multi-technology IoT platform that combines both LoRaWAN and Cellular IoT [11].

On the other hand, LoRaWAN offers a cost-effective way to augment network capacity where it's needed most. LoRaWAN gateways are very cost-effective and can be deployed using Ethernet/3G/4G backhaul with minimal investment in comparison to 3GPP small cells. This allows building IoT network in cost-effective manner and scale it progressively based on the application needs. We believe that his deployment model has dramatic effect on ROI for IoT connectivity based on LoRaWAN.

The LoRa Alliance has standardized the roaming feature, which enables multiple LoRaWAN networks to collaboratively serve IoT devices. Macro-diversity used across deployments enables operators/enterprises to jointly densify their networks, hence providing better coverage at lower costs. The future of LoRaWAN as shown below will be private/enterprise network deployments and disruptive business models through roaming with the public networks [4] [5] [6] [7].



Figure 5: Future of LoRaWAN deployments


LoRaWAN does provide horizontal connectivity solution to address wide-ranging needs for IoT applications for LPWAN deployments. However, these benefits are only possible with intelligent network server algorithms proprietary to network solution vendors

For any questions, contact the author below,

https://www.linkedin.com/in/rohit-gupta-2b51503a/



References:
[1] Actility webinar Replay: Designing a LoRaWAN Network for Dense Deployment,
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQOZWUQdvf0

[2] Actility webinar slides: Designing a LoRaWAN Network for Dense Deployment, https://www.slideshare.net/Actility/designing-lorawan-for-dense-iot-deployments-webinar.

[3] Actility Whitepaper: Designing a LoRaWAN Network for Dense Deployment, https://www.slideshare.net/Actility/designing-lorawan-networks-for-dense-iot-deployments

[4] Actility webinar slides: Industrial IoT - Transforming businesses today with LoRaWAN, https://www.slideshare.net/Actility/actility-and-factory-systemes-explain-how-iot-is-transforming-industry

[5] Actility webinar Replay: Industrial IoT - Transforming businesses today with LoRaWAN, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRoEbWjffBA

[6] Actility webinar slides: LoRaWAN Roaming Webinar, https://www.slideshare.net/Actility/lorawan-roaming

[7] Actility webinar Replay: LoRaWAN Roaming webinar, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWP6VV1CKEg

[8] Actility webinar slides: Multi-technology IoT Geolocation, https://www.slideshare.net/Actility/multi-technology-geolocation-webinar

[9] Actility webinar Replay: Multi-technology IoT Geolocation, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YzFZqMBI2QA

[10] http://vbn.aau.dk/files/236150948/vtcFall2016.pdf

[11] Actility Whitepaper: How to build a multi-technology scalable IoT connectivity Platform, https://www.slideshare.net/Actility/whitepaper-how-to-build-a-mutiltechnology-scalable-iot-connectivity-platform

[12] https://www.orange.com/en/Press-Room/press-releases/press-releases-2018/Nova-Veolia-and-its-subsidiary-Birdz-choose-Orange-Business-Services-to-help-them-digitalize-Veolia-s-remote-water-meter-reading-services-in-France


Friday, 28 September 2018

Multi-technology :The future of IoT geolocation

In the big world of IoT, location tracking  is the  next  frontier!. Location tracking for humans is already an integral part of our lives especially for navigation. Traditional technologies enabling this are  not only expensive, they  have technical boundaries preventing scaling. For IoT geolocation to become a true reality, it is inevitable it has to be  extremely accurate, extremely low cost, and extremely low touch. 

Where is the market?


Research and Markets predict revenues from Geo IoT will reach $49 billion by 2021.

Just as location determination has become an essential element of personal communications, so shall presence detection and location-aware technologies be key to the long-term success of the Internet of Things (IoT). Geo IoT will positively impact many industry verticals. – Research and Market report about “Geo IoT Technologies, Services, and Applications Market Outlook: Positioning, Proximity, Location Data and Analytics 2016 – 2021.”

Connecting IoT objects is already a large market growing exponentially with the mix of unlicensed Low-Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) technologies such as LoRaWAN, and combined more recent introduction of Cellular IoT technologies such as NB-IoT and LTE-M. Adding Geolocation to this introduces a whole range of new applications not possible before. Some of these applications are:
  1. Asset Management
  2. Fleet Management
  3. Anti-theft scooter/bike rental
  4. Logistics/parcel bags tracking
  5. Worker safety for Oil and Gas
  6. Elderly and Disabled care
  7. Tracking solution for skiers
  8. Pets and Animal tracking

The above applications represent large existing market which can be only be enabled with extremely low cost and low power trackers. This is the reason why LPWAN-enabled geolocation is in fact a separate product category for large existing market.

The challenges involved (Asset tracking as an example case study)


Railway cars, truck trailers, containers: tracking valuable assets on the move is a pain point for most large distributed organizations involved in logistics and supply chain, typically relying on partners such as distributors to correctly register check-in and check-out events. This registration process at specific checkpoints is usually manual, intermittent and subject to human errors.  To tackle this issue, an IoT low power asset tracking system using LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Network) trackers brings a “timeless” checkpoint solution. Specifically, LoRaWAN™-based trackers, because of their low power, low cost and lightweight infrastructure, provide a first truly reliable tracking solution allowing to reduce downtime during transportation. 

In the logistics sector, many business cases involve additional costs due to inefficient utilization of assets. Transport companies need to invest in freight railway cars, car logistics companies need to invest in truck trailers, and of course there are the standard containers and pallets.

“The profitability of these business cases directly depends on the minimization of asset downtime: every day or hour lost in a warehouse, parking or rail station reduces the number of times the moving asset will generate profit in a year.”

However, measuring this downtime is also a challenge. Traditional solutions involved cellular or satellite trackers, which require significant CAPEX, but perhaps more importantly also ongoing OPEX due to battery replacements and connectivity costs. In some cases, trackers are located in hard to reach areas especially when mounted on railroad cars, or in oil and gas rigs, which makes it very costly to replace batteries especially if there are several hundreds of thousands of trackers deployed in the field. The battery replacement is done by humans and is one of the dominating OPEX factors in overall Total Cost of Ownership ( TCO) of the whole solution. These replacement costs actually made it difficult to justify the mass adoption of conventional geolocation solutions in the logistics sector.


LPWAN trackers: a game changer

LoRaWAN  is LPWAN connectivity standard developed by LoRa Alliance primarily for unlicensed ISM spectrum, to create disruption in both the technology and business models. On the technology front, the main impact is on drastic reduction of power consumption, which reduces battery usage and ultimately also OPEX related to ongoing maintenance. It also creates new opportunities for more dynamic tracking, as communication events are less costly. On the business model side, logistics companies can now trade off between CAPEX and OPEX: most LPWAN systems operate on an unlicensed band, for example the leading LoRaWAN™  technology operates in the 915MHz band in the US, the 868MHz band in Europe and equivalent ISM bands in other parts of the world. This means that logistics companies can invest in their own wireless networks to reduce or eliminate variable connectivity costs.

“The cost of LPWAN radio network gateways has decreased due to higher production volumes and are now affordable even to very small logistic centers, such as a car distributor. “

 Next generation LPWAN trackers


The potential of LPWAN-enabled tracking requires a new generation of hardware. The lower radio frequency power consumption is only a part of a massive effort to decrease overall power consumption of the whole system. This requires developing a multi-technology geolocation tracker platform that can combine GPS, Low-Power GPS, WiFi Sniffing, WiFi fingerprinting and Bluetooth with the goal of reducing power consumption and provide location information opportunistically in variety of scenarios such as (indoor/outdoor, urban/rural, slow/fast moving and so on). 

Another key factor is the usage of LPWAN technologies such as (LoRaWAN, NB-IoT, LTE-M) for transporting geolocation data back to the cloud. This is the key as traditional cellular technologies such as 2G/3G/4G are just too power hungry to meet the target goal of 5-10 year battery lifetime. However, there will be licensed Cellular IoT options based on NB-IoT/LTE-M that will be also be used for some of the applications.

IoT geolocation asset tracking, logistics, rolling stock tracking, containers tracking, trucks tracking, supply chain, internet of things, LoRa

LoRaWAN and Low Power GPS significantly increases battery lifetime

IoT geolocation asset tracking, logistics, rolling stock tracking, containers tracking, trucks tracking, supply chain, internet of things, LoRa

Merging an IoT network solution such as LoRaWAN with  multi-mode geolocation technologies for outdoor and indoor positioning increase by at least a factor of 10 the battery lifetime compared to the standard cellular solution using GSM/AGPS. Source: Actility

The Road Ahead:


The next frontier in IoT geolocation will be two fold. The first will be the multi-technology cloud platform that will combine intelligently Over-The-Top (OTT) geolocation technologies such as GPS, Low-Power GPS, WiFi and Bluetooth with network based TDoA geolocation technologies using LoRaWAN and/or Cellular. This requires close cooperation between public network operators with geolocation service providers.

Webinar: MULTI-TECHNOLOGY IOT GEOLOCATION
The future of IoT geolocation is multi-technology


In order to shed some light on the above mentioned points, we are hosting a webinar that explains where  we will explore the challenges of network-based geolocation and how it can be combined with other geolocation technologies such as GPS, WiFi and Bluetooth. We will explain how multi-technology geolocation differs from traditional cellular+GPS based geolocation, and show how it opens up an entirely new market and product category. We’ll also explore how multi-technology geolocation meets the requirements and use cases for connecting small sensors which are low-cost with very long battery lifetime. A guest speaker from KPN will share selected case studies demonstrating IoT geolocation deployments and discuss real-world experience. The webinar will conclude with outlook for technological evolution in the field, and give an overview of our Location portfolio.

What will you learn from this webinar?
  1. What are the market opportunities and use cases enabled by IoT Geolocation?
  2. What are the benefits of multi-technology geolocation?
  3. What are the benefits of using LPWAN technologies(LoRaWAN, NB-IoT, LTE-M) for connectivity?
  4. How LPWAN-enabled Geolocation will evolve in the future?
  5. How is Actility building multi-technology geolocation platform?

Follow the link below for registration to the webinar,

For any questions, contact the author below,

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

LoRa is quietly marching on...


During the mobile world congress, I was pleasantly surprised to see how LoRa ecosystem keeps getting larger. There was also an upbeat mood within the LoRa vendor community as it keeps winning one battle after another. Here is my short take on the technology with an unbiased lens.


To start with, lets look at this short report by Tom Rebbeck from Analysys Mason. The PDF can be downloaded after registering from here.

As can be seen, all major IoT technologies (LoRa, NB-IoT, Sigfox & LTE-M) gained ground in 2017. Most of the LoRa and all of Sigfox networks are actually not deployed by the mobile operators. From the article:

These points lead to a final observation about network deployments – many operators are launching multiple technologies. Of the 26 operators with publicly-announced interest in LTE-M networks, 20 also have plans for other networks;
• 14 will combine it with NB-IoT
• four will offer LTE-M and LoRa and
• two, Softbank and Swisscom, are working with LoRa, LTE-M and NB-IoT.

We are not aware of operators also owning Sigfox networks, though some, such as Telefónica, are selling connectivity provided by a Sigfox network operator.

The incremental cost of upgrading from NB-IoT or LTE-M to both technologies is relatively small. Most estimates put the additional cost at less than an additional 20% – and sometimes considerably less. For many operators, the question will be which technology to prioritise, and when to launch, rather than which to choose.

The reasons for launching multiple networks appear to be tactical as much as strategic. Some operators firmly believe that the different technologies will match different use cases – for example, LoRa may be better suited to stationary, low bandwidth devices like smart meters, while LTE-M, could meet the needs of devices that need mobility, higher bandwidth and support for voice, for example a personal health monitor with an emergency call button.

But, a fundamental motive for offering multiple networks is to hedge investments. While they may not admit it publicly, operators do not know which technology will gain the most traction. They do not want to lose significant, lucrative contracts because they have backed the wrong technology. Deploying both LTE-M and NB-IoT – or LoRa – adds little cost and yet provides a hedge against this risk. For operators launching LoRa, there has been the added benefit of being early to market and gaining experience of what developers want and need from LPWA networks. This experience should help them when other technologies are deployed at scale.

The following is from MWC 2018 summary by ABI Research:

LPWA network technologies continue to gather momentum with adoption from a growing ecosystem of communications service providers (CSPs), original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and IoT solution providers. LPWA networks are central to the connectivity offerings from telcos with support for NB-IoT, LTE-M, LoRaWAN, and SIGFOX. Telefonica highlighted SIGFOX as an important network technology along with NB-IoT and Cat M in its IoT connectivity platform. Similarly, Orange and SK Telecom emphasized on their continued support for LoRaWAN along with Cat M in France and South Korea. On the other hand, Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom, while aggressively pursuing deployment of NB-IoT networks, currently have mostly large scale POCs on their networks. 

...
Smart meters — Utilities are demanding that meter OEMs and technology solution providers deliver product design life of at least 15 years for battery operated smart water and gas meters. LPWA technologies, such as NB-IoT, LoRaWAN, SIGFOX and wireless M-bus, that are optimized for very low-power consumption and available at low cost are clearly emerging as the most favored LPWA solutions.

The following picture is from Ovum post MWC-2018 Webinar:

Here is a short video from MWC by yours truly looking at LoRa Gateways


There are also few announcements / news from LoRa world just to highlight how the ecosystem is thriving:


Source: SenRa

So someone recently asked me is LoRa is the new WiMax? The answer is obviously a big NO. Just look at the LoRa alliance members in the picture above. Its a whole ecosystem with different players having different interests, working on a different part of the ecosystem.

NB-IoT & LTE-M will gain ground in the coming years but there will always be a place for other LPWA technologies like LoRa.

Finally, here is a slide deck (embedded below) that I really like. The picture above very nicely illustrates that LoRaWAN and Cellular complement each other well. Maybe that is the reason that Orange is a big supporter of LoRa.



So for operators who are just starting their IoT journey or smaller operators who are unsure of the IoT potential, may want to start their journey with LoRa to play around and understand the business cases, etc. In the meantime LTE-M and NB-IoT ecosystem will mature with prices coming down further and battery time improving. That may be the right time to decide on the way forward.


Further Reading:

Friday, 7 July 2017

Wireless Smart Ubiquitous Network (Wi-SUN) - Another IoT Standard


While we have been discussing IoT these last few weeks, here is another one that I came across. This picture above from a recent Rethink research shows that Wi-SUN is going to enjoy more growth than LoRaWAN or Sigfox. Another recent report by Mobile Experts also makes a mention of this IoT technology.

I am sure most of the readers have not heard of Wi-SUN, so what exactly is Wi-SUN technology?


From Rethink Research, The Wi-SUN Alliance was formed in 2011 to form an organization to push adoption of the IEEE 802.15.4g standard, which aimed to improve utility networks using a narrowband wireless technology. The peer-to-peer self-healing mesh has moved from its initial grid focus to encompass smart city applications (especially street lighting), and we spoke to its Chairman, Phil Beecher, to learn more.

Beecher explained that the non-profit Alliance set about defining subsets of the open standards, testing for interoperability, and certifying compatible products, and soon developed both a Field Area Network (FAN) and a Home Area Network (HAN), which allowed it to move into Home Energy Management Systems (HEMS) in Japan – a country that is leading the curve in HEMS deployments and developments.


As can be seen in the picture above:

  • Develops technical specifications of Physical Layer (PHY) and Medium Access Control (MAC) layers, with Network layer as required
  • Develop Interoperability test programs to ensure implementations are interoperable
  • Physical layer specification is based on IEEE802.15.4g/4u/4v
  • MAC layer may use different options depending on the application
  • Profile specifications are categorized based on application types

Picture source for the last three pics, Wi-SUN presentation here.


A new whitepaper from Wi-SUN Alliance provides comparison of Wi-SUN, LoRaWAN and NB-IoT.

A recent presentation by Dr. Simon Dunkley in Cambridge Wireless is embedded below:



Further reading:



Sunday, 7 May 2017

10 years battery life calculation for Cellular IoT

I made an attempt to place the different cellular and non-cellular LPWA technologies together in a picture in my last post here. Someone pointed out that these pictures above, from LoRa alliance whitepaper are even better and I agree.

Most IoT technologies lists their battery life as 10 years. There is an article in Medium rightly pointing out that in Verizon's LTE-M network, IoT devices battery may not last very long.

The problem is that 10 years battery life is headline figure and in real world its sometimes not that critical. It all depends on the application. For example this Iota Pet Tracker uses Bluetooth but only claims battery life of  "weeks". I guess ztrack based on LoRa would give similar results. I have to admit that non-cellular based technologies should have longer battery life but it all depends on applications and use cases. An IoT device in the car may not have to worry too much about power consumption. Similarly a fleet tracker that may have solar power or one that is expected to last more than the fleet duration, etc.


So coming back to the power consumption. Martin Sauter in his excellent Wireless Moves blog post, provided the calculation that I am copying below with some additions:

The calculation can be found in 3GPP TR 45.820, for NB-IoT in Chapter 7.3.6.4 on ‘Energy consumption evaluation’.

The battery capacity used for the evaluation was 5 Wh. That’s about half or even only a third of the battery capacity that is in a smartphone today. So yes, that is quite a small battery indeed. The chapter also contains an assumption on how much power the device draws in different states. In the ‘idle’ state the device is in most often, power consumption is assumed to be 0.015 mW.

How long would the battery be able to power the device if it were always in the idle state? The calculation is easy and you end up with 38 years. That doesn’t include battery self-discharge and I wondered how much that would be over 10 years. According to the Varta handbook of primary lithium cells, self-discharge of a non-rechargable lithium battery is less than 1% per year. So subtract roughly 4 years from that number.

Obviously, the device is not always in idle and when transmitting the device is assumed to use 500 mW of power. Yes, with this power consumption, the battery would not last 34 years but less than 10 hours. But we are talking about NB-IoT so the device doesn’t transmit for most of the time. The study looked at different transmission patterns. If 200 bytes are sent once every 2 hours, the device would run on that 5 Wh battery for 1.7 years. If the device only transmits 50 bytes once a day the battery would last 18.1 years.

So yes, the 10 years are quite feasible for devices that collect very little data and only transmit them once or twice a day.

The conclusions from the report clearly state:

The achievable battery life for a MS using the NB-CIoT solution for Cellular IoT has been estimated as a function of reporting frequency and coupling loss. 

It is important to note that these battery life estimates are achieved with a system design that has been intentionally constrained in two key respects:

  • The NB-CIoT solution has a frequency re-use assumption that is compatible with a stand-alone deployment in a minimum system bandwidth for the entire IoT network of just 200 kHz (FDD), plus guard bands if needed.
  • The NB-CIoT solution uses a MS transmit power of only +23 dBm (200 mW), resulting in a peak current requirement that is compatible with a wider range of battery technologies, whilst still achieving the 20 dB coverage extension objective.  

The key conclusions are as follows:

  • For all coupling losses (so up to 20 dB coverage extension compared with legacy GPRS), a 10 year battery life is achievable with a reporting interval of one day for both 50 bytes and 200 bytes application payloads.
  • For a coupling loss of 144 dB (so equal to the MCL for legacy GPRS), a 10 year battery life is achievable with a two hour reporting interval for both 50 bytes and 200 bytes application payloads. 
  • For a coupling loss of 154 dB, a 10 year battery life is achievable with a 2 hour reporting interval for a 50 byte application payload. 
  • For a coupling loss of 154 dB with 200 byte application payload, or a coupling loss of 164 dB with 50 or 200 byte application payload, a 10 year battery life is not achievable for a 2 hour reporting interval. This is a consequence of the transmit energy per data bit (integrated over the number of repetitions) that is required to overcome the coupling loss and so provide an adequate SNR at the receiver. 
  • Use of an integrated PA only has a small negative impact on battery life, based on the assumption of a 5% reduction in PA efficiency compared with an external PA.

Further improvements in battery life, especially for the case of high coupling loss, could be obtained if the common assumption that the downlink PSD will not exceed that of legacy GPRS was either relaxed to allow PSD boosting, or defined more precisely to allow adaptive power allocation with frequency hopping.

I will look at the technology aspects in a future post how 3GPP made enhancements in Rel-13 to reduce power consumption in CIoT.

Also have a look this GSMA whitepaper on 3GPP LPWA lists the applications requirements that are quite handy.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Variety of 3GPP IoT technologies and Market Status - May 2017



I have seen many people wondering if so many different types of IoT technologies are needed, 3GPP or otherwise. The story behind that is that for many years 3GPP did not focus too much on creating an IoT variant of the standards. Their hope was that users will make use of LTE Cat 1 for IoT and then later on they created LTE Cat 0 (see here and here).

The problem with this approach was that the market was ripe for a solution to a different types of IoT technologies that 3GPP could not satisfy. The table below is just an indication of the different types of technologies, but there are many others not listed in here.


The most popular IoT (or M2M) technology to date is the humble 2G GSM/GPRS. Couple of weeks back Vodafone announced that it has reached a milestone of 50 million IoT connections worldwide. They are also adding roughly 1 million new connections every month. The majority of these are GSM/GPRS.

Different operators have been assessing their strategy for IoT devices. Some operators have either switched off or are planning to switch off they 2G networks. Others have a long term plan for 2G networks and would rather switch off their 3G networks to refarm the spectrum to more efficient 4G. A small chunk of 2G on the other hand would be a good option for voice & existing IoT devices with small amount of data transfer.

In fact this is one of the reasons that in Release-13 GSM is being enhanced for IoT. This new version is known as Extended Coverage – GSM – Internet of Things (EC-GSM-IoT ). According to GSMA, "It is based on eGPRS and designed as a high capacity, long range, low energy and low complexity cellular system for IoT communications. The optimisations made in EC-GSM-IoT that need to be made to existing GSM networks can be made as a software upgrade, ensuring coverage and accelerated time to-market. Battery life of up to 10 years can be supported for a wide range use cases."

The most popular of the non-3GPP IoT technologies are Sigfox and LoRa. Both these technologies have gained significant ground and many backers in the market. This, along with the gap in the market and the need for low power IoT technologies that transfer just a little amount of data and has a long battery life motivated 3GPP to create new IoT technologies that were standardised as part of Rel-13 and are being further enhanced in Rel-14. A summary of these technologies can be seen below


If you look at the first picture on the top (modified from Qualcomm's original here), you will see that these different IoT technologies, 3GPP or otherwise address different needs. No wonder many operators are using the unlicensed LPWA IoT technologies as a starting point, hoping to complement them by 3GPP technologies when ready.

Finally, looks like there is a difference in understanding of standards between Ericsson and Huawei and as a result their implementation is incompatible. Hopefully this will be sorted out soon.


Market Status:

Telefonica has publicly said that Sigfox is the best way forward for the time being. No news about any 3GPP IoT technologies.

Orange has rolled out LoRa network but has said that when NB-IoT is ready, they will switch the customers on to that.

KPN deployed LoRa throughout the Netherlands thereby making it the first country across the world with complete coverage. Haven't ruled out NB-IoT when available.

SK Telecom completed nationwide LoRa IoT network deployment in South Korea last year. It sees LTE-M and LoRa as Its 'Two Main IoT Pillars'.

Deutsche Telekom has rolled out NarrowBand-IoT (NB-IoT) Network across eight countries in Europe (Germany, the Netherlands, Greece, Poland, Hungary, Austria, Slovakia, Croatia)

Vodafone is fully committed to NB-IoT. Their network is already operational in Spain and will be launching in Ireland and Netherlands later on this year.

Telecom Italia is in process of launching NB-IoT. Water meters in Turin are already sending their readings using NB-IoT.

China Telecom, in conjunction with Shenzhen Water and Huawei launched 'World's First' Commercial NB-IoT-based Smart Water Project on World Water Day.

SoftBank is deploying LTE-M (Cat-M1) and NB-IoT networks nationwide, powered by Ericsson.

Orange Belgium plans to roll-out nationwide NB-IoT & LTE-M IoT Networks in 2017

China Mobile is committed to 3GPP based IoT technologies. It has conducted outdoor trials of NB-IoT with Huawei and ZTE and is also trialing LTE-M with Ericsson and Qualcomm.

Verizon has launched Industry’s first LTE-M Nationwide IoT Network.

AT&T will be launching LTE-M network later on this year in US as well as Mexico.

Sprint said it plans to deploy LTE Cat 1 technology in support of the Internet of Things (IoT) across its network by the end of July.

Further reading:

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: