What LPWA networks are?

ByMia Carla 2019-06-06 345

The GSMA at the time estimated that by the year 2025, six years from the year we are now transiting, there would be around 1.9 billion LPWA connections on the planet. This technology, whose acronym translates as Low Area Consumption, should in the future be the alternative to current mobile data connections, such as 4G or 5G which is already in full implementation.

LPWA networks have been gaining strength for some time and Sony has just introduced a device that is compatible with them, but do we know exactly what these LPWA networks are? We are going to try to explain it in a not too extensive way, to be able to situate them in the current market framework and be able to link them with the connected devices. With IoT, as the English speakers call it.

What are LPWA networks?

As we said, its acronym is Low-Poer Wide-Area. Or what is the same, nets of low power but that cover a great surface. Wireless networks whose energy requirement is lower than that of other networks today, such as those used in telephony or satellite communications, but because of their configuration can cover large areas efficiently.

In addition to the name LPWAN, these networks can also be known as LPWAN, adding the letter N of the British Network, and have an important handicap that makes them unviable for other uses of greater importance, but ideal for other uses. LPWA networks cannot transmit large amounts of data or information, but they do so over long distances.

This means that these LPWA networks cannot be used for constant data transmissions, or for voice, data, or even video transfer calls. Even text transmissions are not viable over these networks, although the few kilobites that are capable of transmitting per channel make them ideal for connected devices. Devices that require much less bandwidth and need to be online and often on the move.

So what use can we make of these LPWA networks? Paessler tells us, for example, the case of a large irrigation field. With these networks, different irrigation pumps can be connected wirelessly thanks to the fact that LPWA networks cover hundreds of square kilometers. It is enough to know that the data transmission has to be very small for the device to be compatible with these networks. And like these pumps, we can find a multitude of devices designed for smart cities.

What types of LPWA networks are there today?

When we refer to LPWA networks we mean a handful of networks with different denominations that use their own frequencies, and also respond to their own standards. The term LPWA refers only to the classification of networks, and an internal division is necessary in which we find names of networks that are not entirely unknown at present.

We have probably heard of NB-IoT networks, which stands for Narrowband for the Internet of Things. This network, designed specifically for the IoT, already underwent a major breakthrough last year, when Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom made the first connection in roaming, and already has planned deployments in not a few regions of the planet. With NB-IoT it is possible to obtain speeds of up to 20 kbit/s in monotone and 250 kbit/s in multitone. At present, they are the most widespread LPWA networks with the greatest industrial support.

The LTE-M networks are also protagonists in recent times, and in fact Orange already works with them for their own connected devices, just as in Vodafone bet on the NB-IoT. The LTE-M are based on the current 4G although with specific and very aggressive energy-saving protocols that make them off whenever they do not need to transmit, which makes them unviable for smartphones or other uses. With the LTE-M, speeds of approximately 100 kbit/s are achieved.

In addition to these networks, the best known, there are others such as RPMA, with a range of about 10 kilometers, such as ELTRES, LoRaWAN, using protocols similar to WiFi, or Sigfox, which reach 600 bit / s of transmission, the lowest of all LPWA networks. Others, such as EC-GMS-IoT, Weightless or DASH7, are now very green, although research continues on them. Especially in DASH7, because its protocol allows AES 128 encryption with public key.

More channels and power for connected devices

The 5G, which is already among us although its use will begin to be noticed in a few years, is already designed for the coexistence of large connected devices, such as mobile phones and personal computers, with others that need less data throughput. The stratification of the 5G networks makes this possible and yet the IoT is expected to have such an impact in the coming years that more hands will be needed to help.

In addition to the bandwidth provided by the 5G for vehicles and other devices that require more power, parallel networks will be needed for other types of devices that escape, or do not require, the WiFi territory. For the irrigation pumps described above, for public lighting sensors, water meters, parking managers and many other uses. In addition, of course, household appliances that can adhere to LWPA networks and clear the 5G and do not require a constant data connection.

LPWA networks will therefore be the key to a greater and more economic expansion of connected devices, allowing the configuration of large networks of gadgets for the intelligent control of cities and many other services. Of course, also private uses like those of devices that we have at home or in our vehicles. The key, in its own name: low consumption, long distances.

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