LoRaWAN and Sigfox lead LPWANs; Interoperability via Compression

Backgrounder:

The Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) market is focused on IoT WAN connectivity for devices (endpoints) that consume low power, send/receive short messages at low speeds, and have low duty cycles.   There are two categories of LPWANs:

1] cellular (e.g. NB-IoT and LTE Category M1) WANs

2] wireless WANs operating in unlicensed frequency bands.

While cellular may be the ultimate winner, Sigfox and LoRAWAN currently have a lot more market traction and are growing very fast.  Other non-cellular LPWANs (Ingenu, Weightless SIG, etc.) are also getting some attention, but if there are too many commercially available LPWANs the market will be segmented and fractured.

Overview of LoRaWAN and Sigfox network:

Let’s look at the two most popular unlicensed band LPWANs:

1.  LoRaWAN:

  • LoRaWAN is specified by the LoRa Alliance which includes 47 network operators.

  • The LoRa Alliance states on its website: “LoRaWAN™ is the open global standard for secure, carrier-grade IoT LPWA connectivity. With a certification program to guarantee interoperability and the technical flexibility to address the multiple IoT applications be they static or mobile we believe that LoRaWAN can give all THINGS a global voice.”
  • LoRaWAN uses a proprietary modulation system developed and sold by Semtech Corporation. They are currently the only chipset manufacturer or license holder for LoRa. NB-IOT is based on standard modulation types, but as is typical of 3GPP, there will be other IP license holders asking for money eventually.
  • LoRaWAN will most likely be best used for “discrete” applications like smart buildings or campuses, where mobile network connectivity is not needed.

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2.  Sigfox:

  •  Sigfox has designed its technology and network to meet the requirements of mass IoT applications; long device battery life-cycle, low device cost, low connectivity fee, high network capacity, and long range.
  • Sigfox has the lowest cost radio modules(<$3, compared to ~$10 for LoRa, and $12 for NB-IoT).
  • recent announcement from Sigfox noted the addition of a new service called “Admiral Ivory,” that makes possible to connect devices with hardware components costing as little as $0.20.
  • An overview of Sigfox’s network technology is described here.  It consists of: Ultra Narrow Band radio modulation, a light weight protocol, small frame size/payload, and a star network architecture.
  • The Sigfox network is currently deployed in 36 countries, 17 of which already have national coverage.
  • In February, Sigfox reached an agreement with mobile network operator Telefonica to integrate Sigfox’s low-powered connectivity into the Telefonica’s managed connectivity platform.  By complementing Telefónica’s cellular connectivity offerings, with Sigfox’s LPWAN connectivity solution, customers can choose the most appropriate type of connectivity or combine them, implementing use cases and creating new service opportunities that otherwise may not have been possible.
  • Additionally, Telefónica´s managed connectivity platform will integrate Sigfox’s cloud, which gives the company the ability to develop its own end-to-end IoT solutions, based on Sigfox’s connectivity solution and including device integration, as well as data collection and management.
  • While Sigfox is a proprietary IoT network architecture, the company has provided their intellectual property library free of charge and royalty-free to semiconductor companies which have implemented chipsets with dedicated Sigfox interfaces or multi-mode capabilities. The list of chipsets/modules supporting Sigfox (+ multimode) includes:  Pycom (+ WiFi, BLE=BlueTooth Low Energy), Texas Instruments (+ BLE),  STMicroelectronics (+ BLE), Microchip/Atmel, Analog Devices (+ BLE), NXP,  OnSemiconductor (SiP), SiLabs, M2Com, GCT Semiconductor (+ BLE, CatM1, NB-IoT, EC-GSM, GPS), Innocom, and Wisol.
  • The current Sigfox ecosystem is composed of several chipset vendors, device makers, platform providers and solution providers.
  • Here’s a graphic from the Sigfox website on their expanding network footprint:

Sigfox boosts its IoT global footprint, achieving national coverage in 17 countries, and expands into four new countries

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Sigfox’s LPWAN Interoperability using Internet Compression Technology:

In a phone conversation with Sigfox standardization expert Juan Carlos Zuniga last week, I learned that Sigfox plans to achieve LPWAN interoperability at the Application layer, rather than building multi-mode base stations with different radio access networks.  Here’s a glimpse on how that might happen:

At the IETF 98 Bits-n-Bites event, March 30th in Chicago, Sigfox demonstrated IoT interoperability with internet compression technology. which enables LPWAN applications to run transparently over different IoT radio access network (RAN) technologies.

To achieve this milestone and enable IP applications to communicate over its network, Sigfox and Acklio implemented Static Context Header Compression (SCHC) -a compression scheme being standardized by the IETF IPv6 over LPWAN working group*, which Juan Carlos participates in.  SCHC allows reducing IPv6/UDP/CoAP headers to just a few bytes, which can then be transported over LPWAN network small frame size for low-power, low-cost IoT applications.

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*  The focus of the IPv6 over LPWAN working group is on enabling IPv6 connectivity over four different Low-Power Wide-Area (LPWA) technologies: Sigfox, LoRa WAN, WI-SUN and NB-IOT (from 3GPP).

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The demonstration platform was based on an Acklio compression protocol stack running on Sigfox-enabled devices and cloud-based applications over the live Sigfox network in Chicago. Two scenarios were demonstrated: 1] CoAP requests to legacy IP LPWAN devices, and 2] CoAP interoperability over the live Sigfox and cellular networks in Chicago with IP enabled endpoint devices.

“We are thrilled with this latest milestone in our quest to support and promote interoperability in the IoT,” said Juan-Carlos Zúñiga, senior standardization expert at Sigfox and co-chair of the IETF IntArea working group. “It is critical that the industry rallies together to adopt open internet standards to unlock the true potential of the IoT.”

Compression based technology for LPWAN application interoperability builds on Sigfox’s commitment to supporting the development of IoT interoperability as an active member of standards development organizations including the IETF, ETSI and IEEE 802.  And the number of chip companies providing Sigfox network interfaces (see above list) is equally impressive.

References:

https://www.sigfox.com/en/news/sigfox-pioneers-internet-things-interoperability-further-accelerate-mass-market-adoption

http://techblog.comsoc.org/2017/10/03/sigfox-boosts-its-iot-global-footprint-achieving-national-coverage-in-17-countries/

http://techblog.comsoc.org/2016/05/23/iot-world-summary-part-iii-too-many-wireless-wan-lpwan-standards-specs/

 

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Juan Carlos will be following up with a blog post on LPWAN application layer interoperability as well as a more detailed description of the IETF work on LPWANs.

 

Sigfox boosts its IoT global footprint, achieving national coverage in 17 countries

At Sigfox World IoT Expo last week in Prague-Czech Republic, Sigfox announced that its network now spans 36 countries, as part of its mission to offer a consistent level of connectivity quality and service anywhere in the world.

Here are the highlights of the Sigfox conference:

“We’re excited to work with all of our new partners, this move marks yet another key milestone towards Sigfox’s vision of a global IoT network. We are looking forward to collaborating with our new Sigfox operators to help their local ecosystems to seamlessly scale IoT solutions wherever the Sigfox network is present in the world. Together, we’re building a future that will be better to live in,”  said Rodolphe Baronnet-Frugès, Executive Vice President of Operators at Sigfox.

Sigfox operators are not only contributing to accelerate IoT development in their local markets, they are also committing to deploy and operate the network infrastructure and offer national coverage in their country. Up to now, almost 100 million euros have been invested by Sigfox operators to offer a unique access to the Sigfox IoT services, with the exact same quality of service.

This unique global offer is enriched with Sigfox new service Monarch, now allowing IoT devices to recognize and automatically adapt to every local communications standard in the world without roaming. By enabling ‘globe trotter’ assets that can seamlessly adapt as they move across borders, Monarch could be a game-changer for logistics, freight, and consumer goods industries.

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In Ireland, Sigfox Operator VT signed a €1-mill IoT subscription with Dunraven Systems, a market leader in the design and development of ultrasonic fuel tank monitors.

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In addition to its core IoT connectivity service, Sigfox offers a range of services to make even more simple to use Sigfox’s technology, to deploy and to adopt mass IoT solutions. These services allow to connect billions of wireless devices that are not yet connected to the internet.

Image result for SIGFOX image

Above illustration courtesy of Sigfox

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This potential game-changing development has been made possible by the cognitive capabilities of the Sigfox network and its Software Defined Radio technology, where all the network and computing complexity is managed in the Cloud rather than on the device. This enables Sigfox to constantly improve its network features and make them available by simple software upgrade.

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A key question for Sigfox is whether they’ll also support the new LPWAN standards and specs (LTE category M1, NB-IoT, LoRA WAN, etc).  We’ve asked the company and are eagerly awaiting their reply.  Stay tuned.

 

 

China Telecom: IoT partnerships with 3 network operators; Huawei NB-IoT award from GSMA

China Telecom’s 3 New IoT Partnerships:

China Telecom has entered three new partnership agreements aimed at accelerating the development of services based on an Internet of Things (IoT) open platform.

The operator has announced an expanded partnership with HKT to cover the development of a common IoT open platform to serve the operators’ customers in the combined geographical footprints of mainland China and Hong Kong.

With the arrangement, each network operator’s customers will be able to deploy IoT and M2M services on the other’s network.

The joint offering will allow seamless switching of IoT subscription between networks by integrating the two commonly-deployed embedded universal integrated circuit card platforms. The multi-domestic service is supported by the Ericsson Device Connection Platform (DCP).

China Telecom also announced a similar strategic partnership with Norway-based Telenor Group. That partnership will allow customers from China Telecom and Telenor Connexion to deploy IoT and Machine-to-Machine (M2M) services in each other’s network. It enables China Telecom’s multi-national enterprise customers with outbound IoT business to deploy their assets and offerings under Telenor Connexion’s networks in the European and other Asian Markets.

Similarly, Telenor Connexion’s global customers can enjoy the benefits of the rapidly growing Chinese market by leveraging on China Telecom’s IoT network resources and business capabilities. The seamless switching of IoT subscription between networks is achieved by the integration of the two commonly deployed eUICC platforms which are the key component of IoT collaboration across borders.

To recap, China Telecom’s multi-national enterprise customers will gain access to Telenor Connexion’s IoT networks in Europe and Asian markets, and will serve as Telenor Connexion’s preferred partner for connectivity in China.

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A separate agreement with Orange Business Services will enable both companies to serve their respective enterprise customers through a combined footprint across three continents – Asia, Europe and Africa.

The network operators have also agreed to collaborate on the development of new service models supporting global IoT opportunities and to explore the potential of enhancing existing IoT capabilities and applying emerging technologies such as mobile IoT.

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Huawei NB-IoT Solution Receives GSMA’s Best IoT Innovation for Mobile Networks Award 
Huawei’s NB-IoT solution received the “Best IoT Innovation for Mobile Networks” award issued by GSMA at the 2017 Mobile World Congress (MWC) Shanghai. As one of the industry’s most comprehensive NB-IoT solutions, Huawei’s NB-IoT solution was cited for its outstanding achievements and contributions in technological innovation, industry research, and applied practice.

GSMA functions to connect participants throughout the global mobile communications ecosystem, including almost 800 operators and over 300 enterprises. The association lays significant emphasis on addressing common concerns to best serve the interests of mobile operators worldwide. GSMA’s “Best IoT Innovation for Mobile Networks” award identifies and rewards Internet of Things (IoT) products, solutions, services, and new business models to highlight innovative breakthroughs based on new technological developments and standards of mobile networks.

Huawei’s NB-IoT solution comprises an NB-IoT terminal chipset, terminal operation system LiteOS, NB-IoT RAN and EPC, OceanConnect (a cloud platform for IoT management), and OpenLab that helps related enterprises develop IoT services and applications. The goal of the Huawei NB-IoT solution is to jointly build a better connected IoT solution and ecosystem with operators and partners from a diverse range of vertical industries. Huawei was the first to launch associated products after 3GPP released standards formulated for NB-IoT – one of multiple competing “standards” for Low Power WANs (LPWANs) targeted at the (non LAN) IoT market.

In 2016, Huawei began conducting NB-IoT trial applications in conjunction with mainstream network operators and partners. In early 2017, Huawei launched Boudica120, the world’s first commercial NB-IoT chip.

 

http://www.huawei.com/en/news/2017/6/GSMA-Best-IoT-Innovation-Mobile-Networks-Award

Highlights of IoT Developers Conference, April 26-27, 2017 in Santa Clara, CA

 

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