Cable heavyweight Comcast is working with Semtech to test a low-power wide-area (LoRa) Internet of Things (IoT) network using the LoRaWAN protocol in Philadelphia and San Francisco. The trials will be conducted through a new Comcast business venture, called machineQ, and will start later this year.
The trials will focus on IoT applications such as utility metering, environmental monitoring, and asset tracking. If successful, Comcast said it will commercially deploy LoRaWAN in an additional 28 markets within the next 18 to 30 months.
Commercial deployment would pit Comcast’s machineQ IoT business against AT&T and Verizon’s IoT divisions, which use 2G, 3G, and LTE networks and have been going after similar enterprise vertical markets for the past several years. In addition, it will compete with France’s SigFox, which has said it plans to be in 100 markets in the United States by year-end.
Semtech has deployed LoRa networks in other parts of the globe and said during a call with investors yesterday that this deal will give LoRaWAN more visibility in the United States. “If all goes well, we will become pervasive across the U.S.,” said Semtech CEO Mohan Maheswaran.
As part of the deal, Semtech has granted Comcast a warrant to purchase about 1.1 million shares at a purchase price per share equal to $0.01. The warrant is expected to vest over a period of 30 months and is valued at approximately $30 million, according to Semtech.
Comcast is Semtech’s first deal with a cable operator; however, Maheswaran said that the Comcast agreement is not exclusive. The company is also in contact with other cable providers, mobile network operators, and even private enterprises. “LoRa is so cost effective that large private companies can also deploy their own network,” he said.
Japan’s SoftBank is also deploying a LoRaWAN network this year to supplement its narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT) network.