Korean operator SK Telecom and Dutch telecom provider KPN are betting on low-power, low-range, wide-area network (LoRa, also referred to as LoRaWAN) technology for enabling Internet of Things (IoT) applications. Both operators have announced nationwide deployments of LoRa in the past week.
SK Telecom said that it finished its LoRa network at the end of June, six months earlier than anticipated. The operator said the LoRa network will compliment its LTE-M network, which is also intended for IoT applications. SK plans to have 4 million IoT devices on its networks by the end of 2017.
Likewise, KPN said that its LoRa network will supplement its 2G, 3G, and 4G LTE networks. The company said it took about eight months to complete the network, which included equipping its installed towers with LoRa antennas and gateways.
The LoRa network architecture uses a star-of-stars topology in which gateways connect to the network server via standard IP connections while end-devices uses a single-hop wireless communications to one of many gateways. LoRa operates on unlicensed spectrum, unlike the LTE-M and narrowband-LTE cellular technologies that use licensed spectrum.
Interestingly, both KPN and SK Telecom are members of the LoRa Alliance, a non-profit group that promotes interoperability of LoRa networks.
Cisco, also a member of the LoRa Alliance, recently announced that it has a LoRa offering that includes Cisco modules and industrial routers and is intended for industrial IoT deployments like asset tracking, logistics, and more.
LoRa & LTE Will Coexist
The fact that large cellular operators such as SK Telecom and KPN are deploying large-scale LoRa networks suggests that telecom players will be deploying low-power wide area networks in unlicensed spectrum alongside low power cellular-based networks like LTE-M and narrowband IoT.
Deutsche Telekom announced last week that it would be using narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) for its IoT applications. The German operator said it’s working with the 3GPP and GSMA to promote global standardization of NB-IoT.
NB-IoT is another low-power, wide-area technology, but it runs on existing operator networks in licensed spectrum. It is especially optimized for sensors with low bandwidth requirements, up to a few kilobits per second.