IoT Wide Area Networks

There are many low-power wide area (LPWA) radio technologies to choose from when deploying an Internet of Things (IoT) network. The final choice of radio technology, however, is only one of the many considerations when designing the low-power wide area network (LPWAN) where factors such as application type, network topology, total cost of ownership (TCO), reliability, security, and business model must also be considered.

The LPWA radio technologies choices can be broadly subdivided into those that use the unlicensed ISM (Industrial Scientific and Medical) frequency bands and those that operate in the licensed frequency bands. Each of the LPWA technologies offers a choice or trade-off between transmit range, data rate, frequency, channel bandwidth, and power consumption.

A number of LPWA approaches have emerged, ranging from low-cost, low data-rate, and long-range to carrier-grade, standards-based LPWA. The technologies can be grouped broadly by channel bandwidth into narrow band, ultra-narrow band and wide band/spread spectrum, and cellular or 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) specified.

Ultimately, the choice of LPWA radio link involves trade-offs between conflicting features, which often involve capacity, licensed versus unlicensed operation, range, reliability, battery life, cost, and proprietary versus standards-based schemes.

In this report we have chosen to explore some fundamental LPWA radio concepts as they relate to a selection of approaches. We also profile 15 unlicensed LPWA approaches, including Accellus, Platanus, DART, Dash, FlexNet, Ingenu, LoRa, NB-Fi, Qowisio, SIGFOX, Telensa, Weightless-N, Weightless-P, Wi-Fi HaLow, Wireless M-Bus, and eight licensed approaches including FlexNet and the 3GPP standards for EC-GSM, LTE Cat-0, LTE Cat-1, LTE Cat-M, LTE-Cat-M2/NB-IoT, LTE-V2X, and 5G.