Thursday, July 14, 2016

Low Power Wide Area Networks

To support the further growth and development of the Internet of Things (the IoT) the mobile industry is developing and standardizing a new class of GSM technologies. These Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) networks will support devices requiring low mobility, low power consumption, long range, low cost and security.

Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) networks will play an important role in connecting up the billions of new devices making up the IoT. LPWA technologies are expected to serve a diverse range of vertical industries and support a range of applications and deployment scenarios, which existing mobile technologies may not currently be best placed to connect.

Low-Power, Wide-Area (LPWA) technologies complement existing cellular mobile network and short range technologies, enabling lower costs and better power consumption characteristics What that means for you very much depends on who you are, and the impact will vary for different market participants.

Due to the diversity of IoT application requirements, a single technology is not capable of addressing all of the LPWA use cases and so the mobile industry has focused on three proposed complementary licensed 3GPP standards: Extended Coverage GSM for the Internet of Things (EC-GSM-IoT), Long-Term Evolution LPWA technologies in licensed spectrum can be deployed in a simplified manner, without sacrificing key customer requirements, such as battery lifetime and security.

However, since LPWA can be a significant competitive differentiator, very few participants in any Internet of Things (IoT) market can afford to ‘do nothing’. Any company that elects to ‘do nothing’ can expect to be out-competed by a company that has deployed LPWA (and other IoT) technologies to the maximum extent.

A wide range of players and alternative technologies are already engaged in the LPWA space. The most fundamental differences between these technology types includes the radio spectrum that the technologies use (licensed vs license exempt) and the commercial strategies of the companies that deploy them.

Why use licenced spectrum solutions?
Mobile operators already provide reliable, secure end-to-end IoT platforms that allow customers to scale and manage their business requirements. They also have unrivalled global network coverage as well as technical and business support to react to a customer’s changing needs. Mobile operators will bring this capability and expertise to LPWA technologies.
This means solutions deployed in licenced spectrum will:
  • support very low in power consumption – a battery life in excess of 10 years for some applications
  • be optimized for brief messages – about the length of an SMS
  • have a very low device unit cost – the connectivity module will eventually cost a few dollars
  • have good coverage outdoors and indoors, enabling connectivity in rural and underground locations
  • be easy to install on to current networks, reusing existing cellular infrastructure wherever possible
  • be scalable by being able to support large numbers of devices over a wide geographic area
  • deliver secure connectivity and support for authentication appropriate to the IoT application
  • be able to be integrated into a mobile operator’s unified IoT platform
Specifications for LPWA solutions will be completed by the end of June 2016 and included in 3GPP Release 13, with full commercial solutions following later in the year.

Market Opportunity for Low Power Wide Area networks

As LPWA networks are designed for IoT and machine-to-machine (M2M) applications that have low data rates, long battery lives, are low cost, operate in remote and hard to reach locations they will be easy to deploy across a number of different verticals such as utilities, agriculture, manufacturing, wearables and transport.

LPWA is an emerging area of the IoT and represents a huge market opportunity as the IoT scales. Analyst firm Strategy Analytics anticipate there will be 5 billion LPWA connections by 2022.

Analysys Mason forecasts LPWA technologies will generate US$970 million globally in connectivity revenue in 2018, rising to US$7.5 billion in 2022. By that time, Strategy Analytics estimates network operators could be generating more than $13 billion from LPWA connectivity, as well as significant additional revenues from value-added services, such as data analytics and security.

What is the GSMA doing?

The GSMA launched the ‘Mobile IoT Initiative’ in June 2015 to accelerate the commercial availability of Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) solutions in licensed spectrum. Backed by 53 of the world’s leading mobile operators, OEMs, chipset, module and infrastructure companies, this Initiative facilitates demonstrations, proofs of concept and trials of a 3GPP backed LPWA licensed spectrum technologies or Mobile IoT technologies. It also provides analysis and feedback to assist 3GPP in standardising the technologies

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