Semtech Corporation, a semiconductor supplier, has signed a deal with global mass media conglomerate, Comcast, to trial a LoRaWAN network in the United States.
Comcast’s low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) will be based on Semtech LoRa wireless radio frequency technology. The companies say it will be deployed in San Francisco and Philadelphia in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2016.
Both Semtech and Comcast will use the trial network to build out and test the smart city and Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities in these cities.
U.S. cities to benefit from LoRaWAN?
LoRaWAN is a global specification created by the LoRa Alliance to support low-cost, mobile, secure bi-directional communication for the IoT, smart city and industrial applications. It is optimized for low power consumption and to support large networks with millions and millions of devices.
Semtech aims to use this network technology to ‘target “smart” enterprise, government and consumer IoT applications such as metering, asset tracking, and waste management.
If the trial is successful, Semtech and Comcast say they could expand the network to reach up to 30 U.S. cities within 30 months.
Choosing the right network
The U.S. is following hot on the heels of the UK in launching its own LoRaWAN network. Start-up accelerator Digital Catapult recently announced the roll out of its Things Connected programme to build 50 LoRaWAN base stations in the UK.
Tom Rebbeck, research director, Digital Economy, at Analysys Mason told Internet of Business that this agreement was another vote of confidence for LoRa and LoRaWAN.
“If it leads to a full LoRa network, I think Comcast will be the first fixed-only operator with an LPWA network,” he said, while acknowledging others are also looking at LoRa.
The LPWAN space is becoming increasing competitive with NB-IoT, LoRa and SIGFOX among the recognised networks vying to be the facilitator of the IoT.
Rebbeck believes that LoRa is a good fit for fixed operators. “It doesn’t require licensed spectrum, many of the applications are ‘local’ – smart city or metering for example – and they have other assets to leverage (brand awareness, sales teams).”
He went on to explain that it’s difficult to see which network will ‘win’ as there is widespread vendor support for both NB-IoT and LoRA, where SIGFOX is somewhat reliant on SIGFOX the company to make it work.
What is encouraging, however, is that the people behind these projects stress that whichever standard ‘wins’ is not actually what is important.
Some key speakers from LoRa Alliance, Huawei and Arqiva were keen to point out that they were more interested in growing the LPWAN ecosystem and driving IoT deployments – rather than pushing their solution as the best choice – during a Digital Catapult meet-up last month.