Narrowband Goes Broad

Seems LoRa is really taking off. Citing data from research firm Analysys Mason, Chris Donkin writes that 85 new networks were announced as live, in a trial phase or in development in 2016 compared with 29 in 2015.

While early LPWA deployments were concentrated in the US and Western Europe, Analysys Mason found interest in the technology spread during 2016, with strong traction being seen in the APAC market.

During 2015, two thirds of initiatives took place in the US and Western Europe whereas in 2016 the figure was down to less than a third. Simultaneously APAC showed growth from 4 per cent in 2015 to 30 per cent in 2016.

The report identified developments in Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand as being especially significant in the regional shift identified last year.
– via Mobile World Live

While a lot of these led by SigFox or operators using the NB-IoT standard — a stripped down 3G, more interesting, I think is the LoRa version, which actually provided the single largest group — 29 deployments vs 27 Sigfox.

The LoRa Alliance says 17 nationwide deployments have been publicly announced, and there are live networks in more than 150 cities. So I’m guessing AM’s numbers are somewhat conservative. The Things Network, an open source implementation of LoRa, boasts dozens of communities — people who are working on networks, however small — and while most are in Europe and the US, Australia is strong — Sydney’s Meshed Network Pty has installed five gateways around the city.

The author of the AM piece, Aris Xylouris, says “we can expect more announcements to be made before Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2017. It is likely that the launch of the first real commercial deployment of an NB-IoT network will be among the announcements at MWC 2017.”

Here’s my take from August on narrowband.

Winners and losers from LoRa

This was a short box to accompany my Reuters piece on LoRa:

One company most likely to gain from the rise of interest in LoRa networks is Semtech Corp, which holds some of the IP related to LoRa and makes most of its chips. Companies like Microchip have also made LoRa related kits.

The most likely gainers from the spread of low power connectivity, however, are going to be the companies building and managing the networks. SigFox, a LoRa rival, allows others to make the hardware, and its partners to build the networks, but makes its money from charging companies fees for connecting their devices to the network.

“We’ll see a ton of SigFox and LoRa launches over the region over the next 12 months,” says Charles Anderson, an analyst at IDC.

More traditional players are either adopting or competing (or both) with the new networks.

Some telcos have aligned themselves with one or more of the technologies, rolling out LoRa networks in the hope of gaining a foothold ahead of their rivals. They include KPN Telecom NV and SK Telecom, both of which have rolled out nationwide in their respective countries. “The people who make the most money will be those having a large network at the right price,” says Isaac Brown, of Lux Research.

Other telcos are focusing on technologies that use existing cellular networks and 4G standards. Vodafone for example, is using NB-IoT (Narrowband Internet of Things), while AT&T is using LTE-M (the M stands for machine). Both are standards supported by the cellular specifications body 3GPP.

Telecom equipment makers are aligning with one technology or another. In part this reflects a war over technologies, where Huawei and Ericsson, backed by Nokia Networks and Intel, battled to have their proprietary standards adopted. The NB-IOT compromise has prompted a rash of trials — Huawei recently concluded a city-wide trial with Vodafone in Australia, after a similar trials with Deutsche Telekom in Germany last year. Meanwhile Ericsson in June demonstrated its own NB-IoT products, using Intel chips and software.

ZTE, meanwhile, is a high profile member of the LoRa Alliance, the industry body supporting the standard, officially joining the board in June. It launched some LoRa-based smart meters earlier this year. Other prominent members of the alliance include Cisco and IBM.