Apparently, the world is a global village, and people need to communicate, participate in projects and events virtually, and execute tasks remotely. Therefore, there’s a need for the internet, multimedia, and most crucial, wireless communication networks. With wireless technologies, people can share data, voice, images, and even videos in a snap. Services like TV, Radio, cellular telephone, and live conferencing are made possible by wireless technologies. This shows how wireless communications systems have become an integral part of human day-to-day lives.
What are wireless technologies?
It’s a way of transferring information from point A to B (or between two or more points) without using any electrical conductor or physical medium. There are 3 main types:
- The Wireless Wide Area Networks (WWAN).
They use radio waves, but the mother network uses wires but transmits to one or several wireless access points where a wireless user can connect to the wired network.
- The Wireless Personal Area Network (WPAN)
They are short-range networks (usually a 30ft range) utilizing Bluetooth technology. They interconnect compatible devices like phones, pcs, and Bluetooth beacons near a central location.
- The Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN)
Comes as a result of mobile phone signals provided by cellular service providers.
What are the main elements of a wireless communication system
A basic Wireless Communication System has 3 main elements:
- The transmitter
It has an encoder that receives information from the source and converts it into a readable signal. The info is then encrypted by an Encryption standard and then transferred to an Encoder. The Encoder minimizes faults in the information like noise to get a modulated signal. It’s then multiplexed and sent to the channel.
- The Channel
It’s the medium of transmitting information signals from the sender (transmitter) to the recipient (receiver).
- The Receiver
Its work is to reproduce the source information signal after receiving it from the channel. The receiver undoes what the transmitter did, and that’s why the receiver path has demultiplexing, demodulation, channel decoding, decryption, and source decoding.
Types of wireless technologies
There are so many wireless technologies now, and there’s a possibility of more in the future as technology advances and the needs of humans evolve. Here are some of the main systems:
- The Radio and Television Broadcasting
- The Mobile Telephone System (Cellular Communication)
- The Cordless Phones System
- Global Positioning System (GPS Paging)
- The Radar
- The Infrared Communication
- The Satellite Communication
- The WLAN (Wi-Fi)
- The Microwave Communication
- The Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)
- The Zigbee
- The Bluetooth
Advantages and disadvantages of wireless technologies
- Wireless network systems are easy to set up, cheaper to install, and also maintain.
- Information (data, videos, etc.) is transferred quickly and faster.
- Low maintenance and installation costs compared to wired networks.
- Advanced coverage. You can access the wireless technologies anywhere at any time.
- They are no more carrying wires and cables to get the connection.
- Enables professionals to work anywhere remotely.
- Emergencies can now be sorted out quickly with wireless communication. Immediate support is rendered via cellular networks.
- You can carry and re-install it anywhere, anytime.
- Wireless technologies are more adaptable to new environments than wired networks.
- It’s less secure. This is because communication is practiced via open space.
- Unreliability/undependable. Wireless technologies are prone to signal interference, radiation, etc.
- They have an increased chance of jamming.
- Speed varies to the user’s location in relation to the network.
- Radio signals have a limited range.
LoRaWAN vs. other IoT wireless technologies
IoT devices are all the rage nowadays. In fact, every second, 127 previously ‘dumb’ devices are given access to the internet. From shoes and vehicles to homes and clothing, there is no end to the number of devices that are increasingly joining the IoT world. The market for smart devices is widening by the minute, with smart home devices having a 69% penetration in the US.
Better yet, IoT devices are making manufacturing processes easier, from quality control to production floor monitoring. Ideally, providing your client base with these IoT devices is bound to make their life easier, but you need to first understand how it all works. The first step is to understand the wireless technologies around IoT connectivity; LoRa, LoRaWAN, LTE.M, WIFI, Zigbee, Bluetooth, and 5G. Lucky for you, this section breaks down each wireless technology compared with LoRaWAN to help you understand them better.
LoRaWAN vs. 5G wireless technologies
5G is superior to LoRaWAN, but the latter is meant to replace the former before 5G can become more widespread. Ideally, 5G has the ability to send more data faster and with little hassle. However, setting up the infrastructure required for 5G requires time and a lot of investment before it can become a viable option.
On the flip side, LoRaWAN has been the go-to network for IoT devices, especially in the industrial setup. These are devices that can reliably send very small data packets, from temperature to humidity.
LoRaWAN vs. Bluetooth wireless technologies
One key takeaway in the LoRa vs. Bluetooth debate is that both have been key drivers in the IoT world. In fact, each could easily be integrated together for better functionality. While Bluetooth tends to be less battery hungry than Wi-Fi and LTE, it is still more power-hungry than LoRa, except if you are using Bluetooth low-energy. It covers a shorter range than LoRa, making it ideal for devices in close proximity.
LoRaWAN vs. LoRa wireless technologies
It’s common for most people to use these terms interchangeably, though the two are quite different. It all trickles down to the layer of the telecom device that the network interacts with. Long Range, abbreviated as LoRa, is a radio wave carrier signal that interacts with the physical layer of the device. If you have a LoRa modem, you can turn your data into transferrable signals. While there are other networks like it (Wi-Fi and Bluetooth), LoRa is better in that it has a wide communication range and it improves receiver sensitivity.
LoRaWAN, on the other hand, is what connects/links the Long-Range signal to the application. It controls both the architecture and protocol by letting you track nodes’ battery life, the security of transmitted data, and even network capacity. It simply helps you to better use the IoT device while also facilitating the transfer of data to the cloud.
LoRaWAN vs. LTE-M wireless technologies
LTE-M, just like any other cellular network, is already well-established. The network has a strong data throughput, but it lags behind when it comes to battery life. LTE-M is also complex to launch, making it unsuitable for fast-deployment projects.
On the flip side, LoRaWAN is simple to deploy. What’s better is that the technology has better battery life and is designed to be native to IoT devices.
LoRaWAN vs. Sigfox wireless technologies
In most cases, people are interested in the Lora vs Sigfox comparisons, owing to how dominant both technologies are in the IoT world. While Sigfox covers a smaller area than LTE-M, it has been designed especially for low-data transfer devices. Among its major benefits is that it provides an entirely different network for IoT devices.
LoRa strikes a balance between coverage area, the data rate as well as power usage due to its CSS (Chirp Spread Spectrum) modulation. It operates under an unlicensed radio spectrum while providing a completely separate network.
LoRaWAN vs. Wi-Fi wireless technologies
The best way to describe the LoRa vs. Wi-Fi discrepancies is to go back to the basics. Any network type can only have two of three characteristics; long-range, low power consumption, and high bandwidth. While Wi-Fi is superior when it comes to bandwidth, it suffers when it comes to battery life and range. Most networks might struggle to work past 15 meters, which makes them unsuitable for scattered IoT devices.
In comparison, the low power and long-range nature of LoRa make it ideal for these devices. However, LoRa will struggle to send a single image, let alone large files. It thrives at sending small packets of data, such as temperature and humidity.
LoRaWAN vs. Zigbee wireless technologies
The key selling point for LoRaWAN is that it is low-cost, long-range, and low power sensing, which makes it a great rival or Zigbee. Among the major variances in the LoRa vs. Zigbee debate is the fact that LoRa uses a star network topology while Zigbee uses a mesh network topology.
What this means for LoRa is that each device node communicates with a specific gateway. In the case of Zigbee, each node can communicate with any other node in the mesh network, making it ideal for distant multi-hopping. When used with the right device design, Zigbee can easily rival the power efficiency of LoRa.
LoRaWAN vs. Z-wave wireless technologies
Z-Wave and Zigbee are quite similar in that they are both low-power networks that work under a mesh protocol and are meant for short to medium-distance data exchange. On the flip side, LoRa runs under a star network topology, where every node communicates with a specific gateway.
LoRaWAN vs. NB-IoT: A comparison between IoT trailblazers
While both networks typically support geolocation at roughly the same degree, there are some differences between them. LoRaWAN consumes less power than NB-IoT, making it ideal for any project that requires fast refresh rates. The battery of its devices can last up to fifteen years, compared to the ten years of NB-IoT. However, the latter has a better data throughput than the former.
One thing that comes up in the LoRa vs. NB-IoT debate is the difference in data security. NB-IoT is also much more secure due to superior encryption and has a lower latency. The latency on LoRaWAN depends on the specifications of the device in use.
A comparison chart of wireless technologies and their ideal use cases
In today’s world, The Internet of Things (IoT) is widely embraced in most parts of the world. It is anticipated to grow even further, taking that over 30 billion connected devices are expected by the year 2023. Since IoT is diverse and many-sided, there’s no single network solution that fits all the use cases. Each communication solution serves a given field optimally. Here’s a list of the most common IoT wireless technologies and their use cases:
|Cellular networks||LPWANs||M2M connected devices||Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR)||Bluetooth and other BLE||WIFI||Mesh protocols like Zigbee|
|They offer reliable broadband communication that supports voice calls, data sharing, and video streaming applications. Also, it can be used for tracking services due to its long bandwidth cellular connectivity.||Devices using LPWAN can connect to all IoT sensors. Therefore, you can use it to track assets, do facility management, monitor the surrounding environment, and detect visitors in smart homes.||Factories are making use of IoT-enabled machinery to execute tasks smarter, not harder. The machines have sensors enabling users to track wear and tear, monitor workload, output, and input, etc. Factory floors are being automated thanks to IoT wireless technologies.||With IoT devices, you can use real-world information and layer them using AR/VR. Users are placed in the digital world and use captured human motions to immerse them in that world.||Bluetooth is under WPAN (Wireless Personal Area Networks). Advanced to BLE, it’s best applied in small-scale consumer IoT applications. They are used in smart homes, retail, malls, and even in the production sector.||It is used to connect devices in smart homes like appliances and security cameras. It’s not suitable for the IoT industrial sector.||They are deployed to increase coverage by sharing sensor data over many sensor nodes. They complement Wi-Fi to enhance smart homes.|
Which LPWAN technology is the best for You?
LPWAN is the most used and preferred technology for numerous applications. Its multiple benefits like long-range transmission and power-saving make it workable in different IoT fields like smart homes and smart agriculture. There are 4 main types of LPWAN technologies. They are LoRa, NB-IoT, SigFox, and LTE-M. See the table below to assist you select the LPWAN tech that will work for your needs.
|TYPE OF LPWAN TECHNOLOGY||LoRa||NB-IoT||SigFox||LTE-M|
|ADVANTAGES||-Ideal for single-building uses/applications|
-Easy to set up and manage your personal network
-LoRa devices work without strain even when in motion
-Devices using LoRa tech have extended/long battery lives
-Supports bidirectionality such as command-and-control functionality
|-Has speedy response times and offers quality services.|
-Devices using NB-IoT depend on 4G coverage and hence work well in deep indoors and dense urban centers.
|-Costs low-Works fine with devices that don’t transmit frequently or send small data at a slow pace.||-Through VOLTE, LTE-M tech supports voice over network.- Among all LPWAN techs, LTE-M has the lowest latency and highest rates.- Due to its in-vehicle hand-over, LTE-M can transfer dates while moving and maintain a stable connection.|
|DISADVANTAGES||-Low data rates|
-Long/High latency time
|-Hard to implement FOTA (firmware-over-the-air), especially large or many files.|
-Doesn’t work for moving assets. It’s only for fixed/static assets i.e. Sensors and meters.
|-Support uplink only.|
-Hard to transfer data while assets are mobile.
|-High bandwidth consumption-High cost.|
A comparative study of LPWAN technologies for large-scale IoT deployment
The table below compares the 3 leading LPWAN technologies that are competing for large-scale IoT applications or deployment.
|Type of LPWANCharacteristics||SigFox||LoRa (LoRaWAN)||NB-IoT|
|Frequency||Unlicensed ISM bands||Unlicensed ISM bands||Licensed LTE bands|
|Bandwidth||100 Hz||250 kHz and 125 kHz||200 kHz|
|Maximum data rate||100 bps||50 kbps||200 kbps|
|Bidirectional||Limited / Half-duplex||Yes / Half-duplex||Yes / Half-duplex|
|Maximum messages/day||140 (UL), 4 (DL)||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|Maximum payload length||12 bytes (UL), 8 bytes (DL)||243 bytes||1600 bytes|
|Coverage Range||10 km (urban), 40 km (rural)||5 km (urban), 20 km (rural)||1 km (urban), 10 km (rural)|
|Interference immunity||Very high||Very high||Low|
|Authentication & encryption||Not supported||Yes (AES 128b)||Yes (LTE encryption)|
|Adaptive data rate||No||Yes||No|
|Handover||End devices do not join a single base station||End devices do not join a single base station||End devices join a single base station|
|Localization||Yes (RSSI)||Yes (TDOA)||No (under specification)|
|Allow private network||No||Yes||No|
|Standardization||Sigfox company is collaborating with ETSI on the standardization of Sigfox-based network||LoRa-Alliance||3GPP|
What is LoRa?
Lora stands for Long Range. It’s based on a spread spectrum modulation technique adopted from the chirp spread spectrum, abbreviated as CSS, tech. LoRa was initially developed by the Cycleo of Grenoble but was later adopted by Semtech. Semtech is among the founders of the LoRa Alliance. LoRa’s physical range is approximately 10+ kilometers in ideal conditions. It supports the following hardware; SX1261, SX1262, SX1268, SX1272, SX1276, and SX1278.
Key features of LoRa
Here are the key features of Long-Range technology:
- Long Range
LoRa supports the connection of devices that are 30 miles apart. It penetrates rural areas, dense urban centers, and deep indoors.
- Consumes Low Power
LoRa devices need minimal power to execute their purpose, supporting long battery life of 5 to 10 years. They are power efficient and cost-saving.
- High Security
LoRa has not only end-to-end AES128 encryption but also features integrity protection, mutual authentication, and confidentiality. Your messages are safe while using LoRa to share or receive info.
- Standardized globally
Devices using LoRa tech can exchange and exploit information globally, making it easy to deploy solutions and IoT applications quickly anywhere in the world.
- Supports Geo-positioning/Geolocation
LoRa devices support GPS or IP address tracking applications while using low power.
- Portable and Mobile
You can easily move from one place to another with these devices, and they will still maintain their stable functionality without excessive power consumption or strain.
- Unlimited Capacity
LoRa tech can support a high number of messages in each base station without strain and still meet public network operators’ needs hence serve a broader market.
- Low Installation and maintenance cost
Due to its low power consumption, it increases battery lifetime, which in turn reduces replacement expenses.
What is LoRaWAN (Long-Range Wide Area Network)?
It’s a point to multipoint networking protocol based on Lora technology. LoRaWAN uses wireless connectivity to connect IoT or battery-operated devices to the Internet in global, national, or regional networks. LoRaWAN targets essential Internet of Things (IoT) needs like end-to-end security, mobility, directional communication, etc.
Key features of LoRaWAN
Read on to learn more about the key elements of Long-Range Wide Area Network technology.
- LoRaWAN works on unlicensed(free) frequencies. You don’t need any prior licensing costs to exploit this technology.
- It has sensors that consume low power and covers a wide area usually measured in kilometers.
- LoRaWAN devices use low power, which translates to longer battery life. This saves on cost. The sensors’ batteries (Class A & B) in the LoRaWAN devices can last for a period of not less than 2 years and goes for up to 5 years maximum.
- LoRaWAN technology is mainly used for IoT applications/deployments and M2M (Machine to Machine) applications.
- LoRaWAN devices are easy to deploy since they have a simple infrastructure.
- LoRaWAN has a larger payload size of 100 bytes compared to SigFox, which has only 12 bytes.
- LoRaWAN has an open alliance and open standard, which is not the case for SigFox, its competitor.
- Compared to SigFox and other similar competitors with one approach, LoRaWAN has an alliance with an open approach.
- LoRaWAN is backed by the full force of 500+ members of the LoRa Alliance like IBM.
- It’s wireless, simple to set up and install, and it is fast to deploy.
- LoRaWAN’s long-range capabilities make it possible to offer a solution like smart city, smart agriculture, and smart homes applications.
- LoRaWAN technology supports low bandwidth, making it perfect for IoT applications/deployments with low or unstable data transmissions.
- It has a low connectivity cost compared to some of its competitors like SigFox.
- It has no restriction on the maximum number of daily messages, while its competitor SigFox has a limit of 140 messages per day.
- LoRaWAN supports bi-directional communication.
Why is LoRa a great choice?
LoRa is the most preferred technology among Low Power Long Range Wide Area Networks in IoT applications. This is because it has both technical and economic advantages over established protocols like Wi-Fi due to its long-range and power conservation. What’s more, the cost of installing and maintaining LoRa infrastructure is cheaper than that of cellular networks. This is because LoRa’s bandwidth is lower than theirs. Another advantage of LoRa is that one can set up their networks and infrastructure easily. In other LPWAN technologies, this might be impossible.
There are multiple fields where LoRa technology can be applied. Still, mostly, it’s best used where there’s no access to electricity, there’s no need for instant feedback, and where it’s hard to access the network physically. Here’s a list of fields where LoRa is best applied:
- Asset tracking companies
- Smart Agriculture.
- Smart Industrial Control
- Smart Cities
- Smart Homes and Buildings
- Smart Fire Evacuation System
- Smart Healthcare
- Home Security
Benefits of LoRa for wireless IoT network
Long Range has many benefits for the wireless Internet of Things network. It’s no doubt that it has established its roots deep in the IoT world, and were it not for it, IoT could still be far from where it is now. Some of the outstanding benefits of Lora to IoT include;
- It has transformed the Internet of Things by supporting data transfer over long ranges while consuming hardly any power.
- LoRa devices support a mass range of IoT applications by transferring packets with crucial info whenever they are connecting to non-cellular LoRaWAN networks.
- LoRa eliminates the technology gap between Wi-Fi/BLE and Cellular based networks that demand either high power or bandwidth.
- LoRa fills the tech gap of Wi-Fi/BLE and Cellular networks that have limited or short ranges or are unable to get into remote indoor environments.
- Its technology is workable for indoor and rural uses and smart homes, smart buildings like malls or hospitals, smart cities and streets, smart supply chains and logistics, smart agriculture, smart transportation, and smart metering.
- LoRa tech outdoes 5G tech. Where a 5G device cannot penetrate a physical barrier like a wall or something, LoRa devices have long-range technology which enables them to go through physical barriers and still use little power.
- When LoRa devices complement the LoRaWAN protocol, the Cellular network Wi-Fi features become more flexible, reliable, efficient and offer an economical connectivity solution for Internet of Things applications. This covers both indoor and outdoor applications and whether they were installed in private or public networks.
- All LoRa devices are operated under the LoRaWAN open standard protocol, supported by the LoRa Alliance. This alliance has been pushing its acceptance to many countries, establishing a solid infrastructure that makes it simple and requests, deploy, and receive solutions without delay.
In conclusion, LoRa portrays an excellent balance between battery life, bandwidth, and other features, supporting a variety of IoT applications and easy deployment. There’s no telling the end of possibilities and chances LoRa puts in the way of IoT since its applications are increasing day in and day out.