Semtech’s LR1120 Chip Highlights the Growing Interdependency of Silicon and Cloud in Massive IoT

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By Tancred Taylor | 2Q 2022 | IN-6544

Semtech is making important contributions across the key IoT battlegrounds of low-power geolocation, satellite connectivity, and off-the-shelf universal connectivity.

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Announcement News


In early April 2022, Semtech released LR1110’s successor: LR1120. The announcement focused on three core features: its multi-band support, geolocation solver, and hardware crypto engine. The LR1120 chip release is focused purely on enhancing the long range (LoRa) Edge hardware portfolio, Semtech’s next generation of silicon for the IoT. However, it highlights how increasingly intermeshed the company’s hardware and software offerings are to creating value and market-leading device capabilities.

What are the Key Features?


The LR1110 chip, the progenitor of Semtech’s LoRa Edge products, has been one of the company’s most popular products ever since it was released back in 2020, bringing much greater integration of discrete features within a single small and low-power package. While the initial LR1110 chip was purely a hardware transceiver offering, Semtech’s roadmap ensured that the hardware was gradually enabled with key functionalities through the rollout of its cloud platform, facilitating device management services and geolocation.

The geolocation component was a key feature of the LR1110, enabling devices to perform a geolocation fix without the need for a dedicated hardware-based Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receiver. Instead, the LR1110 would record a brief snapshot of incoming GNSS signals and transmit this raw data to the LoRa Cloud, where a GNSS-type accuracy could be calculated and fed to an application platform via Application Program Interfaces (APIs). For devices needing relatively infrequent communication (i.e., anything less frequent than one minute), the LR1110 is considerably more power efficient than traditional hardware-based GNSS receivers, with only a fairly low tradeoff on accuracy and consistency of the geolocation fix. LR1120 has no major new features in this respect but is building on the established LoRa Edge platform with enhancements on the modem as well as of the cloud solver elements.

The key announcement for the new LR1120 rests on the new chip’s multi-band support. As well as the traditional LoRa sub-GHz frequency bands, LR1120 also supports communication in 2.4GHz and in the satellite S-Band (1.9-2.2GHz), where a large number of Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) vendors looking to target the Internet of Things (IoT) market are concentrating their CubeSat deployments. Semtech has already in the past been active with partnerships with satellite vendors thanks to its various announcements with companies such as Swarm and Lacuna Space over the past years, again demonstrating the ability of proprietary Low-Power Wide-Area Network (LPWAN) to forestall the 3GPP, whose support for LTE-M and Narrowband (NB)-IoT over satellite will only take off with the recently-frozen Release 17. Long Range Wide Area Network (LoRaWAN) devices will now be able to communicate directly with NTN (Non-Terrestrial Networks, aka satellites) thanks to Semtech’s introduction of the new LR-FHSS modulation in 2020, which also enabled support for higher device densities (through reduced interference) and offered higher penetration. While LR-FHSS will only enable uplink from device to satellite, bi-directional communication will still be supported through standard LoRa communication on the satellite to device downlink, keeping the two modulation techniques complementary. Semtech is therefore betting significantly on the success of LEO satellite communication.

In addition to S-Band support, LR1120 also supports communication in the 2.4GHz ISM band, which the company considers ideal for deployment in private gateway-based industrial networks. The announcement sends a clear message: while LoRa is increasingly considered ideally suited to campus-based and private network deployments, Semtech’s roadmap highlights that it will not be pigeon-holed into this market. While more opportunities may present themselves in the private network realm, Semtech is ensuring its product is suitable for global coverage, whether indoors, on-campus, outside of facilities, or in the wild.

Striving to Maintain a Technology Lead


Fundamentally, what the announcement of the LR1120 demonstrates is Semtech’s eagerness to remain at the leading edge of all technologies IoT. Its cloud-based GNSS solver is first-of-its-kind and, among the low-power geolocation technologies, is seeing the most actual adoption in the market. Its support for Sub-GHz, 2.4GHz, and S-Band satellite again shows how Semtech is ensuring its technology not only remains future-proof but also enabling of new implementation architectures and use-cases. While the announcement is for hardware only, Semtech also recognizes the great value that it can provide from its cloud platform, which it treats as an equally important half of the equation. Its roadmap should continue to demonstrate parallel enhancements both to its modems and LoRa Edge portfolio, as well as to its cloud. Chip and module vendors on the cellular LPWAN side should also take note of Semtech’s hitherto successful strategy. Customers for IoT applications are increasingly looking for more integrated features within a single off-the-shelf package. While hardware will remain the core of chip and module vendors’ offerings, only through a combination of cloud platform and silicon will they be able to deliver the most value to their customers.



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