Filling the 5G Gap with Long Range, Low Power Technology

March 23, 2020 Remi Lorrain, Global LoRaWAN Networks Director

We’re well into 2020, and the promises of 5G technology are continuing to lead conversations across industries. Whether it’s the hope that it’ll provide teachers and students with better access to online materials, or that it will enable understaffed hospitals to take advantage of remote surgery machines, 5G is a means to bringing connectivity to our everyday lives. The impact increased connectivity will have on society is immense, and more than 500 billion IoT devices will be connected to the internet by 2030, according to a recent Cisco report. But as 5G deployments increase, we’ll also see a rise in alternative technologies that offer flexible power and bandwidth options for IoT deployments across verticals.

LoRa® devices and the LoRaWAN® protocol provide businesses and individuals looking to leverage the IoT with long range, low power solutions that are flexible, scalable, and easy to implement. This technology not only offers connectivity for traditional IoT applications but, provides incredible bandwidth for critical infrastructure. LoRaWAN has become the de facto, low-cost solution for many IoT applications. While 5G was designed to bring faster speeds and connectivity, LoRa was designed to serve distinct use cases where devices need to be battery-operated and can last in the field for extended periods of time.

There are many advantages to using LoRa to remotely monitor everything from assets during shipping, temperatures of refrigerators or even water leaks in a cost effective and efficient manner. With more than 100 million devices connected to LoRaWAN networks in 100 countries, LoRa use cases will continue to grow to solve specific problems that are unable to be addressed by 5G. Two of the biggest factors driving this are LoRa’s long range and cost.

Long Range

The deployment of 5G technology had a rapid start, though more recently, chip makers that supply components used in 5G networking equipment have reported delays in 5G rollouts (WSJ). The slowing may be due in part to some 5G “flavors” not holding up to expectations in terms of speed and availability. In effect, this slowing of 5G deployment has limited accessibility. Meanwhile, LoRa and the LoRaWAN protocol are playing a critical role for IoT applications and deployments. The networking protocol was designed to serve distinct use cases where devices need to be battery-operated and can last in the field for extended periods of time. The protocol has a communication range that reaches more than 6 miles, which is further than 5G’s mmWave variant. While 5G may be optimal for video calls or ultra-low latency applications, LoRaWAN is ideal for water, gas metering, smart park applications, and much more. Additionally, there are many advantages to using LoRa to remotely monitor everything from water leaks, temperature data or shipping assets in a cost effective and efficient manner. With LoRa’s long range and low power capabilities, it has the power to penetrate physical structures where 5G signals cannot. With efficiency at the forefront of customer needs, LoRa and the LoRaWAN protocol cater to that demand. Despite 5G’s increasing adoption, 2020 will also bring with it an increase low power, long range technology.

Cost

A recent McKinsey report predicts about $700 - $900 billion will go into the initial installations of 5G, covering about 25% of the world’s population in the next decade. While this equates to about 2 billion people, the coverage will mainly be in wealthy, well-developed areas in the U.S., China, and Europe. LoRa on the other hand reduces up front infrastructure investments and operating costs, as well as end-node sensor costs. More specifically, and with LoRa, deployments require less energy than it would otherwise, and due to its extensive battery lifetime of up to 10 years, overall costs are reduced over time.

While the hype around 5G and the hopes of fasters and more connected lifestyles continues to grow, long range low power technology continues to cater to the demands that 5G cannot address. Society needs continuous connectivity from a variety of sources, and LoRa not only offers connectivity for traditional IoT applications, but it provides incredible bandwidth for critical infrastructure – whether that be at land, at sea, or even space.

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