Non-Cellular LPWA Here to Stay?

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1Q 2018 | IN-5038

As non-cellular LPWA networks continue to expand their global footprint, the increased commercial availability is helping device OEMs and solution providers develop and deploy IoT solutions quickly. Companies that keep cost and form factor size in mind will reap the rewards.

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Regional Network Deployments


Non-cellular LPWA connectivity technology proponents Sigfox and the LoRa Alliance have largely focused on propagating technology adoption through citywide and nationwide network deployments. This has been most successful through partnerships with existing network operators and through the emergence of a number of new network operators entering the IoT market.

  1. Non-cellular LPWA network penetration is highest in Europe, with Sigfox claiming nationwide coverage in 12 European countries, and network rollout in 7 more countries underway. Similarly, LoRaWAN claims nationwide network coverage in the Netherlands, Belgium with network rollouts in France, Germany, and Switzerland. LoRaWAN network operator EveryNet has deployed 30 citywide networks in Europe.
  2. The APAC region also witnessed substantial interest and subsequent network rollouts starting in East Asia and Australasian countries. SK Telecom was one of the first operators to deploy a nationwide LoRa network in South Korea and ENGIE deployed a nationwide Sigfox network In Singapore. This was further augmented with LoRa networks in China and India, two fast-growing economies in the region. On January 9, 2018, Sigfox announced it signed a €300 million contract to deliver eldercare solution in Chengdu, China.
  3. North America, while considered an integral market for the success of non-cellular LPWA technologies, network rollouts both from Sigfox and LoRaWAN have focused on citywide networks. While Sigfox decided to deploy the citywide networks on its own, Senet and Comcast have been deploying citywide LoRa networks in the United States.
  4. The Middle East & Africa region has seen the adoption of Sigfox, LoRaWAN, and Ingenu’s RPMA from telcos and enterprise partners. Latin America, on the other hand, has seen the most traction with Sigfox and LoRaWAN. Sigfox network operator WND has been driving adoption in the region with partnerships with IoTnet in Mexico, Phaxsi Solutions in Colombia, and Velocom in Argentina. Everynet, a global LoRaWAN network operator, has deployed nine citywide networks in Brazil, Paraguay, Chile, Venezuela, and Colombia.

From Long-Term POCs to Field Implementations


In 2017, as a number of non-cellular LPWA networks became commercially available, there was a noticeable increase in the number of IoT implementations and subsequent growth in connections. As LPWA technologies continue to expand their global network footprint, connections leveraging these very low-cost, low-power, wide-area networks will grow at a 70% CAGR until 2022, connecting more than 1.15 billion IoT devices through both public and private LPWA networks. Cellular LPWA networks will witness the most connection growth in North America and Asia-Pacific, where LTE-M in the former and NB-IoT in the latter will drive regional connection growth. Non-cellular LPWA connections dominated by proprietary technologies will witness the most connection growth in the regions of Western Europe and Asia-Pacific. Non-cellular LPWA connections will cede market share dominance to cellular LPWA connections only by 2022, as LTE-M and NB-IoT together sequester around 60% of the global LPWA connections. Some highlights of the vertical market’s adoption of non-cellular LPWA technologies are listed below, based on research findings from ABI Research’s recently published Low-Power Wide Area Market Data report (MD-LPWA-103).


  • Smart Metering: Smart meter OEMs have been the earliest adopters of proprietary LPWA technologies with Sensus’ FlexNet solution implemented in North America and Europe. Kamstrup introduced Sigfox-enabled intelligent water meters, MULTICAL 21, for the city of Antwerpen’s utility, Water-Link. Around 200,000 smart water meters will connect to ENGIE’s IoT network in Belgium. Similarly, Itron and Holley metering have introduced LoRaWAN-based water meters and electricity meters, respectively. With the Chinese smart electricity meter deployments close to completion, local metering companies are focusing their industrial capacity on producing smart water and gas meters that will leverage LPWA networks.
  • Street Lighting: U.K.-based Telensa has been a leader in U.K. smart street lighting, connecting more than 1.3 million lights using its ultra-narrowband LPWA network technology, PLANet. In 2017, Telensa made its foray into the U.S. market with Georgia Power’s smart street light project, connecting more than 300,000 street lights. inteliLIGHT, the smart streetlight solution arm of Flashnet, introduced Sigfox and LoRaWAN controllers for projects in Europe and APAC.
  • Location Tracking: In 2017, Ghent, Belgium-based IoT solution provider Sensolus won a contract with Airbus to supply 10,000 Stickntrack devices used to track packages containing spare airplane parts to optimize its supply chain. Invoxia, a French IoT startup recently launched Sigfox- and LoRa-enabled consumer tracking device for Europe and North America, including a 3-year network subscription as part of the upfront device cost. Invoxia has also deployed its LoRaWAN-based tracking solutions to initially track approximately 10,000 warehouse trolley carts for French retailer Carrefour. The project with Carrefour is expected to further expand in 2018 to connect 100,000 assets within its supply chain. Bike sharing solution providers oBike and ofo have also announced the implementation of Sigfox and LoRaWAN, respectively in their connected bicycles.
  • Condition-Based Monitoring: U.S.-based Senet deployed a LoRaWAN-based tank monitoring solution with approximately 100,000 sensors to monitor fuel tanks in the United States. In December 2017, Senet sold its EnerTrac tank monitoring solution to Independent Technologies for an undisclosed amount, in order to focus on the company’s core network connectivity platforms and services. ENGIE TankU smart fuel tank monitor is a Sigfox-embedded ultrasonic sensor that monitors fuel and chemical tanks. The TankU solution has been deployed in Belgium. The Irish Sigfox network operator, VT, signed a €1 million deal with Dunraven Systems, a market leader in ultrasonic fuel tank monitors, for 250,000 Sigfox connections.

Non-Cellular LPWA Networks Will Continue to Play a Pivotal Role in the IoT


Regional to Global IoT Networks

Sigfox has the largest LPWA network footprint in Western Europe and offers roaming capability across different Sigfox network operators (SNO) seamlessly. By the end of 2017, Sigfox claimed to have nationwide coverage of the Sigfox network in 17 countries. In February 2018, Sigfox further announced 5 new SNO partners for Malaysia, South Korea, Switzerland, Hungary, and the UAE, taking its global network footprint to 45 countries. Sigfox operating in ISM band categorizes its operational regions into four bands namely RCZ1 (868 MHz) operating in Europe and the Middle East, RCZ2 (902 MHz) operating in North America, RCZ3 (923 MHz) operating in Japan, and RCZ4 (920 MHz) operating in Latin America and Australasia. The Sigfox Monarch service, launched in September 2017, provides a radio recognition service that allows devices to manage radio frequency changes, potentially enabling seamless global roaming capabilities.

LoRa has similarly witnessed rapid market proliferation while benefiting from both public and private network deployments with a fast-growing ecosystem of partners, with more than 800 members in the LoRa Alliance. The LoRa Alliance has, so far, announced 69 operators in 41 countries. In 2017, the LoRa Alliance also announced the LoRaWAN 1.1 specification, with advances in network roaming and advanced security features. The new LoRaWAN specification enables end devices to seamlessly roam across public LoRa networks through the addition of Join Server into the network infrastructure. Although there are still challenges in roaming between public and private LPWA networks, these are being addressed by the LoRa Alliance’s technical committee.


Cellular versus Non-Cellular LPWA

As the IoT market matures, there is increasing consensus that no single connectivity technology will be able to address the varied network, application, and business requirements. Cellular connectivity operating in the licensed spectrum will offer a differentiated service targeting IoT vertical markets that require low-latency connectivity and can deliver high network QoS. However, a number of non-cellular LPWA networks have become commercially available, along with low-cost chipsets and sensor-to-cloud design architectures, helping helped device OEMs and solution providers develop and deploy IoT solutions quickly. The following provides an overview of market activities expected to have the greatest impact on the health of non-cellular LPWA technologies that enterprises and IoT suppliers alike need to watch:

  • Smart metering, especially battery-operated water and gas meters, will drive the ramp-up of noncellular LPWA connections. Non-cellular LPWA is desired in water and gas markets to address the low cost of maintenance over a 15-year product lifecycle.
  • In 2017, LoRa witnessed substantial connection growth in China with ZTE and the China LoRa Application Alliance (CLAA) driving market adoption by deploying private networks especially for metering and smart city applications, such as street lighting and smart parking. China is expected to have the most influence on the success of all LPWA technologies—both cellular and noncellular.
  • IoT connections from private networks based on non-cellular LPWA networks have continued to grow, despite fears that public networks would cannibalize the market. Traditionally, cash-rich energy utilities relied on private networks and are adding private LPWA networks for utility-centric applications, such as metering, asset tracking, line monitoring, and other condition-based monitoring applications. But private network growth is also showing a keen interest in other potentially high TAM markets of precision farming, aquaculture, stolen vehicle recovery, and asset tracking in industrial environments.
  • Airbus, Bosch, ofo, oBike, Water-Link (utility in Belgium), and Purena (utility in Germany) have been early adopters of non-cellular LPWA technologies that already offer IoT solutions and services using public LPWA networks. While the current implementation of these solutions is limited to certain regions, they will be replicated in other regions where the networks become commercially available.
  • Another emerging opportunity is in outdoor location tracking applications, such as asset tracking, aftermarket telematics, and bike tracking, where non-cellular LPWA technologies are seeing interest from suppliers serving enterprise and consumer markets.
  • In September 2017, Sigfox demonstrated a sub-$0.20 disposable IoT radio targeting the Internet of Postal Things. Similarly, Semtech announced a low-cost, LoRa-based disposable nano-tag in November 2017, which was tested on Comcast’s enterprise IoT service machineQ. The ultra-low-cost solution from Sigfox and LoRa is expected to be commercially available in 2018. One of non-cellular LPWA’s biggest advantages is the low cost and small form factor, and the results of these early trials will dictate the success and future growth of non-cellular LPWA.