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Low-power, long-distance WAN drives IoT connections

Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) spectrum does not require providers to have a telecommunications license. Being able to operate without a license significantly lowers the financial and logistical barrier to entry. It also opens the door to different approaches to providing Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity.

Test 1

In their report, “Gigaom Radar for Global LPWAN Network Providers,” Logan Andrew Green and Chris Grundemann identify four types of IoT connectivity providers that operate within the realm of unlicensed LPWAN network providers:

  • Network operators: These operate in a very similar way to classic mobile network operators. Verizon or AT&T installs, owns and manages the core infrastructure and provides new gateways to expand coverage.
  • Satellite-based connectivity: More providers are offering ubiquitous connectivity through satellite relays. These connect devices with satellites either directly or indirectly through lightweight, portable gateways. You can expect more from these types of providers in the future.
  • Community-based open network: In this model, a central provider manages the network servers and third parties run the gateways that provide the coverage. Building IoT solutions on these community-based networks is low to no cost and very flexible.
  • Blockchain-based decentralized network: Like the open network model, a central provider maintains the infrastructure while third parties operate the gateways. By operating on a blockchain network, there are tamper-resistant shared transaction records, so companies can share and access IoT data without any centralized regulation.

test 2

One of the report’s authors, Chris Grundemann, says that this type of low-power spectrum IoT communications technology is ideal for small data transfers over long distances with minimal power consumption. You can connect organizations with many geographically diverse locations but only little data capacity.

test 3

Furthermore, he states that since LPWAN data transfers are somewhat limited in capacity, these types of communications work well for applications such as sensors and trackers. It would not be suitable for high-bandwidth requirements, such as streaming video or autonomous vehicle guidance.

Table 1: Impact of features on metrics
[chart id=”1001476″ show=”table”]

For now, Grundmann and his co-author Logan Andrew Green recommend evaluating these providers through the following lens for the following deployment scenarios:

  • For a simple proof of concept, take one of the community networks for a test drive. While its capacity is somewhat limited, this would be a low-cost, low-risk way to validate the technology.
  • If your organization has the in-house expertise to do so, give blockchain-based networks a try. These networks work best for non-critical operations with low data transfers.
  • If you need full enterprise-grade connectivity, you should stick to standard network operators who can guarantee connectivity and support.
  • If you only need to connect a few devices, you can try IoT satellite providers to get coverage just about anywhere.

In the future, Grundemann says we may look to LPWANs to support edge computing and infrastructure sharing. But for now, it is more suitable for low-capacity, long-distance applications.

Learn more here: Key Criteria for Evaluating Global LPWAN Providers and the Gigaom Radar for Global LPWAN Providers

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