Weightless SIG Hopes to Drive LPWA Standard in ETSI; Ubiik as IoT Game Changer?

The Weightless Special Interest Group (SIG) is expanding its effort to drive open standards in low-power, wide-area (LPWA) networks for the Internet of Things (IoT).   That area is one of many where there are a plethora of competing standards which results in IoT wide area connectivity market fragmentation.

Three different Weightless specifications are available for LPWA networks: Weightless-N, Weightless-P and Weightless-W.

Each spec is designed to be deployed in different use cases depending on a number of key priorities. These are summarized in the table below:

  Weightless-N Weightless-P Weightless-W
Directionality 1-way 2-way 2-way
Feature set Simple Full Extensive
Range 5km+ 2km+ 5km+
Battery life 10 years 3-8 years 3-5 years
Terminal cost Very low Low Low-medium
Network cost Very low Medium Medium

 

  • If low cost is the priority and 1-way communication is adequate for your application, use Weightless-N
  • If high performance is the priority, or 2-way communication is required, use Weightless-P
  • If TV white space spectrum is available in the location where the network will be deployed and an extensive feature set is required, use Weightless-W

Source: http://www.weightless.org/about/which-weightless-standard

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In a November 1, 2016 press release,  the Weightless SIG said “Ubiik emerges as IoT game changer.”

“Operating out of Taiwan and Japan, Ubiik. is creating the next wave of smarter LPWAN products and is bringing substantive disruption to this dynamic technology space.

Showcased recently at CTIA in Las Vegas, Weightless offered an early insight into Ubiik’s revolutionary LPWAN technology offering a step change in performance expectations. Formed from the core team responsible for the groundbreaking LPWAN technology behind the Weightless-P open standard, Ubiik is set to deliver transformative change in every one of the key parameters that define IoT performance. Integrating cutting edge design philosophy with established, best in class cellular approaches Ubiik is building the high performance, carrier grade, industrial IoT infrastructure of the future.”

Ubiik hopes to roll out hardware in February for Weightless-P, the Weightless SIG’s third effort at defining a spec for LPWA networks. Fabien Petitgrand, chief technologist at Ubiik said that technology has an edge over current market leaders, Sigfox and LoRa, that will help it find traction in the still-emerging sector of IoT LPWA networks.

“We don’t expect significant revenue from meaningful deployment [of Weightless-P] for the next potentially two years,” he said. “Weightless-P is coming later to the game, but we are only at the beginning of this LPWA market.”

In a white paper, Ubiik makes the case that Weightless-P is the lowest-cost approach to applications such as smart meters. The technology could serve an area the size of San Diego with 542 base stations at a total cost of about $2.7 million per year. By contrast, Sigfox and LoRa would need 1,900 and 29,000 base stations and cost $9.5 million and $14.4 million a year, respectively, it said.

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Weightless SIG chief executive William Webb makes the case that it’s still in the early days for a highly fragmented sector of LPWA networks. To realize predictions of 50 billion IoT nodes by 2020, vendors need to deploy nearly 13 million a day, but so far, market leaders in LPWA such as Sigfox and LoRa each have connected an estimated 7–10 million total to date.

“The message we are hearing very strongly is that the biggest problem in LPWA is the fragmentation of the industry,” said Webb. “If you are making a sensor what wireless chip do you put in it? Most people stop because they don’t want to use the wrong one. We are bumbling along the bottom,” Webb added.

Machina Research estimates that Sigfox now has public networks in the works or running in 26 countries, with LoRa following at 19 and Ingenu at 10. At CES, many top cellular carriers and module makers announced that they were ready to start trials of the (2nd generation) LTE Category-M (also known as LTE Category M1) intended for IoT LPWA networks.

“We project [that,] as of the end of 2017, the LPWA networks using unlicensed spectrum will collectively cover 32% of the world’s population with 11% for licensed LPWA,” which includes both cellular operators and other spectrum holders such as M2M Spectrum Networks, according to Machina Research analyst Aapo Markkanen.

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ETSI’s Task Group 28 has an informal subgroup called Low Throughput Networks (LTN) that will act as a “document rapporteur.” It expects to release a suite of LPWA specifications by the end of the year.  The Weightless SIG plans to take their specs to ETSI for approval.

“The way ahead for us is to transfer our standards into ETSI and let Weightless act like the Wi-Fi Alliance, a public face for the ecosystem and a forum for regulator input and future directions,” Webb said.

Sigfox, Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute, and Weightless members such as Telensa are expected to make submissions to the ETSI process, which opens in March. The Weightless SIG will submit its specs to the group.

”Our intention is to produce a single LTN standard…that will consist in a set of three documents–LTN use cases and system requirements, LTN architecture and LTN protocols and interfaces,” said Benoit Ponsard, a representative from Sigfox that runs the ETSI subgroup.

“I suspect that [ETSI] will have a family of standards, and you can argue that that will defeat the aim of ending fragmentation, but we hope that a single-chip design could implement all of them, although not all at the same time,” Webb said.

Here’s a comparison of Weightless P vs. LoRaWAN vs. Sigfox from Ubiik.  It considers capacity and range for a single LPWA base station.

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“The real success [of Weightless-P] will be if we can bring on more players,” said Webb. “We’re talking to quite a few semiconductor companies, and a number of them like Weightless as a vehicle for LPWA.”

The current effort marks the third change in direction for the Weightless SIG. It started in 2010 to work on a Weightless-W specification for the 700-MHz “white spaces” TV bands with technology from startup Neul.

When it became clear that those bands would not become available as expected, the group developed an ultra narrowband spec, called Weightless-N, using technology from NWave. It was a uni-directional link aimed at lowest cost and data rate to compete directly with Sigfox in the 800- to 900-MHz bands. But NWave struggled to gain traction, and Weightless ultimately transferred the technology to ETSI.

References:

http://www.weightless.org/about/the-argument-for-lpwan-in-the-internet-of-things

http://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1331207

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LPWAN

http://internetofthingsagenda.techtarget.com/definition/LPWAN-low-power-wide-area-network

http://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1330671

http://community.comsoc.org/blogs/alanweissberger/iot-world-summary-part-iii-too-many-wireless-wan-lpwan-standards-specs

http://community.comsoc.org/blogs/posts?page=51&sort=date&order=asc

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