What is LoRa Alliance all about? How can it benefit creators of the Internet of Things (IoT) solutions in India and across the globe? When Rahul Chopra got a chance to meet the Alliance’s chief executive officer and chairwoman, Donna Moore, she not only explained membership benefits for device-makers but also for system integrators, enterprise customers and even network operators.
Q. What is the goal of LoRa Alliance? What value does it bring to members?
A. The goal of the Alliance is to promote LoRaWAN standard. It is an open alliance and accepts all members. The goal is really three-fold. First, it is to (continuously) develop specifications as the market changes and needs evolve.
Second is marketing. We promote LoRaWAN specifications and its members through social media, events and whitepapers. So, for companies that do not have the funds to market, we use our voice to raise them in terms of LoRaWAN specifications.
Third is certification. With billions of devices in the marketplace, it is important to know which ones will not operate as anticipated. For this, we have a robust certification programme. Devices that get implemented must be LoRaWAN-certified. This encourages government agencies to include bids for LoRaWAN-certified devices.
Q. Why should device-makers become a member of LoRa Alliance?
A. Developers are always looking at new, unlimited use-cases. Anything can be connected. If device-makers want you to have an anchor use-case, or application such as metering, then once networks engage, you can add more use-cases. So, they have unlimited potential in the market. By being members of LoRa Alliance, they get the test tool for pre-certification.
We have local test houses for certification, beneficial especially for smaller companies. We market actual use-cases of developer companies and how these can be implemented and promoted.
Q. What is in it for telecom operators?
A. We have mobile network operators, multi-user service operators and private operators. The split between public and private operators is about fifty per cent. We have seen big growth in private implementations over the last few years. For operators, it is another opportunity to capture the market. Because of the flexibility of LoRaWAN and the ability to add gateways to their towers, it is an opportunity to have both cellular and non-licensed opportunities for their networks.
Through membership, they get the opportunity to meet and collaborate with the entire ecosystem. For example, many of our network operators in Europe used to do their own testing for each device taken on to their network. This costed them a lot of money and time. Now, the Alliance is in the process of working with all network operators in Europe and is bringing testing over to the Alliance.
Q. Does the deployment of complete solutions have any value for system integrators who are neither device-makers nor network operators, but are implementing it?
A. At the end of the day, for system integrators it is about coming to meetings and being a part of the Alliance, to meet and collaborate with different players and understand who they are, quality of services and how they can work with them.
Q. Are there any members from India?
A. Growth and need for LoRaWAN in India is strong. I anticipate India to be one of our biggest growth in terms of membership within the Alliance.
Q. What do you say to technologists trying to compare LoRaWAN with such competing technologies as NB-IoT?
A. LoRaWAN has been named the de-facto standard for LPWAN in the unlicensed spectrum, because of global massive scale deployments that we have implemented as well as the number of our members implementing it. It is not a single company-based implementation. We have multiple companies that give customers multiple choices to select from in terms of implementation.
In terms of LoRaWAN versus NB-IoT, we see a clear play in working with 5G because our use-cases are different. The difference for us is around battery life, which is tested to be significantly longer. In rural areas, deep penetration between concrete and underground, particularly in areas that cellular cannot reach, are just a few key benefits of LoRaWAN over NB-IoT.
Q. Do you mean NB-IoT consumes much more power than LoRaWAN?
A. Yes! LoRaWAN can have private and public implementations. It can be an operation or a service expense. But NB-IoT does not have that flexibility.
Q. What is your message to those who say LoRa is a proprietary technology because of the Semtech aspect?
A. LoRaWAN is an open ecosystem and a global standard. So, LoRa IP is Semtech’s best-of-breed technology, which is why LoRaWAN is so successful. It can come from a company and not watered-down by a standard group.
But, there are companies that sell the radio chip and not just Semtech. With standards organisations, you can either have the chip in the standard and it would be under RAND licensing, so they would charge every time there is an implementation, or it can be outside the standard as licensed to other companies, and you buy the chip and then implement the standard.