LoRa chipsets already predominate in LPWAN

lorawan represented by wooden letter tiles
Sheila Zabeu -

October 06, 2023

Shipments of LoRa (Long Range) chipsets used in LoRaWAN networks have surpassed those of other types of chips, such as NB-IoT and LTE-M, according to the LoRa Alliance, an association of companies supporting the LoRaWAN open standard for wide-coverage, low-power networks (LPWANs) aimed at the Internet of Things (IoT). The group claims that “LoRaWAN is already the leading LPWAN network technology for Internet of Things (IoT) applications”.

The LoRa Alliance’s statements are based on a report by the research company Beecham Research, which specialises in the IoT market, which highlights that the LPWAN specification is currently seen as the main technology for high-volume IoT applications (massive IoT), which will account for more than 80% of IoT applications by 2026, according to the study. This includes sensors and many other types of use with low data transfer.

LPWAN Chipset Shipments

In China, specifically, the government has adopted NB-IoT as the standard for massive IoT applications in the country. Everywhere else, there is a mix of LTE-M and NB-IoT offered by mobile network operators (MNOs). For this reason, the study notes that the expected chipset shipments for these three technologies in the 2022-27 period, excluding China, give a clearer picture of what is really happening in the rest of the world.

It can be seen that shipments of LPWAN chipsets are expected to grow strongly at almost 20 percent a year until 2027. Furthermore, it is clear that LoRaWAN is already the leading LPWAN technology for IoT applications by some margin.

The study also notes that end users are collaborating with IoT specialists to deploy solutions more efficiently and maximize return on investment (ROI). “The influence of specialized solution providers and system integrators on purchasing processes is high. They already have strong relationships in their sectors and are often treated as technical references to provide details on the elements of IoT solutions, including connectivity,” the report highlights.

“Choosing the right connectivity technology for each use case is the most important decision to be made. Some people don’t have the in-house expertise to compare technology options, while solution providers can help find the right technology,” explains Donna Moore, president and CEO of the LoRa Alliance.

She explains that solution providers analyze use cases, offer guidance on the technologies available on the market and allow project managers to have a complete overview of the process of implementing IoT solutions. Systems integrators, on the other hand, bring ideas to life by integrating IoT sensor data into a platform that consolidates it. “We have identified that, increasingly, support for end users and the strength of the LoRaWAN ecosystem are coming together to ensure that the LoRaWAN standard remains a market leader,” adds Donna Moore.

LoRaWAN history

The story of LoRa (Long Range), a radio modulation technology that deals only with the physical layer of the stack, began in 2009 when two French friends set themselves the challenge of developing a long-range, low-power modulation technology. With a third friend, they founded the company Cycleo in 2010. Believing in the technology’s potential, Semtech acquired Cycleo in May 2012 and became the owner of LoRa technology.

Subsequently, the LoRaWAN specification, a communication protocol and system architecture that deals with the link layer, was presented to the market in February 2015, when the LoRa Alliance was formed. The standard was developed to serve the utilities segment, offering the ability to penetrate materials such as concrete and steel and enable underground connectivity with low energy consumption. It is open source and managed by the LoRa Alliance.

LoRaWAN networks operate in unlicensed bands in the sub-Giga Hertz frequency. This means that you don’t need a licence to transmit data. The sub-Giga frequency varies from country to country, as listed here. The NB-IoT standard, on the other hand, operates under the coverage of mobile networks.

It can be said that LoRaWAN networks fill the technological gap between cellular and Wi-Fi/BLE networks that require high bandwidth or high power, or have limited range, or an inability to penetrate deep indoor environments. It is flexible for rural use cases or indoor environments in cities and buildings, meters and supply chain and logistics.