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Out of chaos comes more LPWANs

Don Dingee

I sat in on a session by Ingenu last night. Interesting company, they have Andrew Viterbi sitting on their board of directors. They are the only one of the major LPWAN solutions talking about 2.4 GHz.

Plus side:
Coverage of a metro is cost-effective - Austin done in only 8 towers
Throughput is much better than SIGFOX, comparable to LoRa
RESTful API for data, middleware is easy

Minus side:
M2M-like proprietary ASIC solution currently, working on securing IP deals for silicon
Security keys are burned in at factory (anybody reading my Sidense posts? fixed IoT keys are asking for trouble)
Lots of skepticism on 2.4 GHz propagation and interference versus sub-GHz bands

Ingenu focused the conversation on SIGFOX and LoRa. I asked about Weightless (particularly the -P variant), which is clearly behind in implementations but perhaps ahead in standardization - and is backed by ARM. There is also the looming development of LTE Cat-M and NB-IOT coming soon.

First the fight, then the standards: Weightless and ETSI to work on UNB standard | TelecomTV

I just don't see a clear winner here yet. This is way more complicated than RF technology alone - chipset support, carrier models, application ecosystems. Some folks are advocating a tri-mode IoT module chipset, with ultra-narrow band, something like LoRa, and NB-IOT all in one part. That would be news if and when it happens.
>> This is way more complicated than RF technology alone

One simple way to look on that:assume most of the tech is "good enough", let's start looking at business models. Which one wins ? well the ideal is:

1. No subscription - subscription management is expensive and complicated so , and subscription sucks for users in general.

Doesn't fit the worldview of carriers. And sigfox also requires subscription.

2. Sub-dollar per chip for connectivity - cheap rules in embedded, and the value of many sensors is tiny, only large in aggregate.

Can the NB-IOT get there ? Sigfox could. Lora could - if they decide to do so(maybe with volume).

3. Economical stability of supply chain - the industrial IOT needs that.

Can sigfox a startup with world domination plans offer that ? risky.

Lora is just making chips(or licensing IP) and the embedded industry knows how to provide longevity to chips. And you(or any other 3rd party) could just buy a base-station for cheap and be your own "carrier" which is the ultimate stability.

As for the NB-IOT, you depend on the long term kindness of carriers, and they've already shown that they are willing to break support(by removal of 2G data, to reuse spectrum).

So from the business model view Lora seems ideal. The only question, is the assumption that it's "good enough" technically correct ?
Excellent points.

1) From what I'm seeing, the service agreements (subscriptions) are aimed at IIoT types. I don't think any of these regional networks are targeting consumers yet. Big lesson learned from WiMAX.

2) Again, I'm not sure sub-dollar is a requirement in IIoT, especially if someone comes up with multi-mode. Current cellular M2M modules start at more like $15. Folks like SiliconLabs and Microchip are driving MCUs with LoRa radios down - but you're locked in. I know SiliconLabs is looking hard at multi-mode.

3) The big hammer behind NB-IOT is Huawei - it's their version of the spec moving forward in 3GPP. I suspect the biz model may come from China Unicom before it comes from AT&T.

I like what I'm seeing on LoRa and their main network in the US, Senet, more than I like SIGFOX right now, and it's not just the SIGFOX throughput numbers but the cost of the number of towers to cover a geography - I'm hoping to get the Ingenu slide showing that. However, I think we're very early in this game.
Good points.

Maybe my price prediction we're aggressive. And multi-mode is very valuable, and serious people are working on it.

Maybe the strategy for now, until multimode is ready, is to stick with LoRa, but add a socket for an easy to install radio module, something like a microsd card(at least for business where deployment is cheap). That should also keep LoRa in check and prevent monopolistic abuses.

Here's another interesting link about IOT and 5G, especially their claim that 5G will break the current mobile carrier business model:

IoT won't be a source of revenue for telcos: New Street Research | ZDNet