With the IoT now enabling practically any asset to be connected to the internet, the need for wide-area, low-power, low-cost connectivity for IoT applications has grown. With this type of connectivity, utilities, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), transportation and logistics firms, construction firms and other organizations can deploy smart energy and resource monitoring, smart city infrastructure monitoring, predictive maintenance, mobile asset tracking, and similar IoT applications that allow them to collect, analyze and use asset data to lower costs, offer new services, increase customer engagement, and otherwise transform the way they operate.
At first, proprietary Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) technologies like LoRa and Sigfox emerged to meet some of these organizations need for wide area, low power IoT connectivity. Then, over the past decade, the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) introduced standards for two cellular LPWA technologies – Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) and LTE-Machine Type Communication (LTE-M). Meanwhile, Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) have built out NB-IoT and LTE-M networks, with at least 156 such networks now in operation around the world today.
While shipments of proprietary and cellular LPWA IoT devices are roughly equal today, over the next decade industry experts expect growth of cellular LPWA devices to outpace propriety LPWA devices. BERG Insight forecasts that annual shipments of 3GPP LPWA (NB-IoT and LTE-M) IoT devices will exceed 300 million units by 2025, while annual shipments of non-3GPP LPWA IoT devices will grow more slowly over this period, to less than 250 million units.
Why will Cellular LPWA Grow Faster than Proprietary LPWA?
The reason why shipments of cellular LPWA device shipments are expected to be higher than propriety LPWA over the coming years is that cellular LPWA offers several advantages over proprietary LPWA. These advantages are leading organizations to increasingly choose cellular LPWA for their monitoring, tracking and other IoT applications.
Cellular LPWA, unlike propriety LPWA, offers organizations:
Separating Cellular LPWA Fact from Fiction
Despite these and other advantages associated with cellular LPWA, some business leaders still think cellular LPWA’s power consumption, data throughput, and coverage or signal penetration capabilities are significantly weaker than proprietary LPWA’s.
However, upon further examination, the facts show that many of these cellular LPWA drawback drawbacks are fiction. For example:
Cellular LPWA Power Consumption is Comparable to Proprietary LPWA: While broadband LTE and 5G NR cellular chipsets do consume more battery power than proprietary LPWA chipsets, cellular LPWA chipsets deliver power performance on par with proprietary LPWA chipsets. Designed for IoT applications, these NB-IoT and LTE-M chipsets have been designed to use very little power when they are in sleep or standby mode. And because cellular LPWA data rates are higher than propriety LPWA data rates, they can connect and then disconnect from the network faster than proprietary LPWA chipsets, allowing them to save additional power by spending more time in sleep or standup mode
LoRa’s Coverage and Signal Penetration Are Not Significantly Better Than Cellular LPWA: LoRa, a proprietary LPWA technology, is perceived as having better coverage and signal penetration than NB-IoT and LTE-M. Yet, the difference in maximum coupling loss (the amount of the wireless channel that can be lost before device is no longer able to connect to network infrastructure’s antenna) between Lora (165db) and cellular LPWA (164db) is only one decibel. In addition, public cellular LPWA networks are denser than LoRa networks – which means, for a given area, cellular LPWA is likely to provide better coverage and signal penetration than LoRa.
Data Throughput Rates for Cellular LPWA Are Higher Than Proprietary LPWA: The latest version of NB-IoT, NB2, offers downlink (DL) speeds of 127 Kilobits Per Second (kbps) and uplink (UL) speeds of 158 kbps, while the latest version of LTE-M, M1, provides DL speeds of 588 kbps and UL speeds of 1119 kbps. These rates and real-world field tests of cellular LPWA and proprietary LPWA devices show cellular LPWA data speeds are higher than proprietary LPWA technologies. Thanks to these higher data rates, in the field FOTA updates that are not possible with proprietary LPWA devices can be completed with cellular LPWA devices. Moreover, because cellular LPWA uses licensed spectrum, quality of service and non-interference is guaranteed both today and tomorrow, further improving performance.
Cellular LPWA Delivers the IoT Connectivity Organizations Need in a Connected Economy
As organizations of all types seek to digitally transform their operations, being able to extract, orchestrate and act on data from widely distributed, battery powered, low-cost IoT sensors and other devices is becoming more important than ever.
Cellular LPWA’s ubiquitous global coverage, robust security, support for FOTA upgrades and guaranteed service meet this need, providing organizations with wide area, inexpensive, low-power connectivity for a wide range of IoT applications. In addition, with power consumption, data throughput rates and coverage that is comparable to or better than proprietary LPWA, and a technology standard supported by MNOs and other wireless industry leaders, these organizations can be confident that cellular LPWA will offer them the connectivity their IoT applications need not just today, but tomorrow as well.
Olivier Amiot is marketing director at Sierra Wireless, where he is responsible for business development and market strategy for IoT solutions in the smart energy and industrial markets.
Geoverse, a private cellular network operator, has launched a national network-as-a-service (NaaS) platform, which enables enterprises, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), systems integrators and other partners to introduce the advanced functionality of private cellular networks. The company also offers a turnkey private LTE system that can be owned and operated by the enterprise, property owners, or municipalities.
“People are reading more and more about private cellular, and that is creating momentum in the marketplace. It’s moving more from just curiosity to adoption,” said Bob Gault, chief commercial officer at Geoverse. “So, we are capitalizing on the momentum to accelerate the marketplace and take advantage of the excitement around the solution.”
The NaaS is compatible with general access and priority access licenses in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) and 600/700 licensed low band LTE spectrum owned by Geoverse, which has access to the licensed spectrum via another Geoverse line of business – Commnet Wireless.
Geoverse’s NaaS provides the enterprise with an intelligent services platform that securely enables roaming, neutral-host service, voice over LTE (VoLTE), integrated private branch exchange (PBX) calling features, licensed low-band spectrum support and analytics. NaaS includes full evolved packet core (EPC) functionality hosted in the cloud, which can be deployed quickly and at low cost for enterprises of all types or on-premise for low-latency applications. In short, it’s intended to help the enterprise do more with its cellular network.
NaaS is a standalone network component that can be bundled with other network infrastructure elements – either sourced from Geoverse or from a Geoverse partner. In January, Geoverse will enable a channel-led marketing model. The industry partners program will reach out to a variety of companies, including communications service providers that provide service to enterprises, legacy cellular carriers, tower companies, technology vendors, enterprise network resellers, system integrators, value-added resellers and consultants.
“As part of our NaaS offering, we have also announced a formal partner program to allow participating members to easily present a more compelling network offering to their customers,” Gault said. “Our partners give us capabilities and reach in the marketplace. That’s the way we’re going to grow and grow exponentially in fiscal year 2021 and beyond.” Some of Geoverse’s partners include JMA Wireless, Communication Technology Services, CommScope/Ruckus, Advanced Network Services and Nokia.
Geoverse would like to tap into partners’ relationships with local municipalities, which are getting Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to close the digital divide.
“We’re firing up private cellular services in local municipalities to provide video security and distance-based learning in the education space and leveraging the Tier 2 service providers and our many partners to do that,” Gault said.
Geoverse is radio-agnostic; therefore, its NaaS integrates with all leading radio network vendors, allowing organizations that may already have their own radio access networks (RANs) or that have partnered with a preferred VAR or systems integrator to implement a private cellular network. Each of the NaaS-enabled user devices uses a Geoverse subscriber identification module (SIM) card to take advantage of private cellular network functionality, such as user roaming onto other cellular networks.
The foundation of the Geoverse’s NaaS is the GeoCore platform, which provides a clear path to 5G wireless communications. GeoCore securely interconnects private enterprise networks with major public cellular carriers, facilitated by existing roaming agreements that Geoverse has with more than 90 service providers across the United States and internationally.
Geoverse has completed its first successful standalone 5G data session using its GeoCore intelligent service platform. Following this test, Geoverse is preparing to rollout standalone 5G across its national GeoCore footprint during the first half of 2021 as a foundation for delivering 5G to the enterprise.
“Private cellular networks are starting to see real growth, and that trajectory will only accelerate as enterprises look to take advantage of new technologies like CBRS and business models to achieve high-performance mobility services in a mobile first world,” said Geoverse CEO Rod Nelson. “With our NaaS offering, Geoverse brings an integrated solution to market, providing our partners a highly effective way to easily do more with their own products and ultimately help their customers do more with their networks.”
The potential vertical industries for private cellular networks, according to market researcher Business Industry Reports, include manufacturing, transportation, utilities, mining, oil and gas, healthcare, education, retail and hospitality, and government and municipalities. Early NaaS deployments include both fixed wireless service, such as the service used by so many school districts today for remote learning, and mobile-based wireless service for the enterprise.
Nokia, Ericsson and Qualcomm Technologies are some of the OEMs deploying dedicated private networks for enterprises, according to market research database Kenneth Research. “For instance, Nokia offers MulteFire and CBRS small cells that allow enterprises to deploy their own private LTE networks,” information from Kenneth Research reads. “The company provides a virtual mobile edge computing/private LTE solution to enterprises that enable them with edge cloud low-latency applications that include analytics, push-to-talk and push-to-video, IoT management and video orchestration.”
CommScope Partnerships Help It Enter Enterprise Market
CommScope and Cradlepoint have partnered to deliver turnkey private LTE deployments designed for mission-critical fixed and mobile use. The end-to-end solution provides enterprise-grade security for indoor and outdoor applications, using CommScope’s Ruckus CBRS networks and Cradlepoint’s cloud managed endpoints.
In another partnership, CommScope and Inseego plan to offer a CBRS solutions for mission-critical fixed and mobile use for indoor and outdoor applications.
Verizon to Deploy NaaS in Walgreens Stores
NaaS has caught the interest of the major carriers. Verizon Business will deploy it to deliver an enhanced wireless services to customers at more than 9,000 Walgreens and Duane Reade retail locations across the United States. The NaaS will carry the breadth of Verizon’s assets including LTE, 5G and Verizon Media, which will enable it to continually update its customized technology and business process offering.
Tami Erwin, Verizon Business CEO, said, “Working closely with Walgreens to understand their focus areas, we’ve tailored an offering that will meet their technology needs of today, and quickly scale to offer a rolling deployment of 5G in Walgreens locations, next-gen in-store experiences for customers and employees, and future-proofed backend operations to enhance efficiencies.” Verizon Business has also announced its intention to deploy on-site LTE private networks for enterprise customers.
Earlier in December, Verizon Business launched On Site LTE, which provides enterprises with a private, secure and dedicated on-premises wireless network platform on which to run critical business applications and operations. According to Verizon, On Site LTE can serve as a platform to accelerate digital transformation initiatives — such as predictive maintenance, robotics, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality and mobile edge compute (MEC) — while improving the overall operational output of their businesses.