Why it’s hard to predict an LPWA winner?IoT image AMIHO

This blog was stimulated by a blog post ‘Ingenu CEO sees just two big winners in low-power IoT tech war’ in which the aforementioned predicts (predictably) that his company’s technology, RPMA, and NB-IoT will be the two main LPWA routes. LoRa and Sigfox will be niche markets. Other technologies didn’t even figure.

Interesting viewpoint. Having spent the last month researching different IoT markets and the wireless technologies to address them, it became apparent that everyone had a different opinion depending on which vertical market they were in and which technology they knew most about or had already decided to use. Some people, notably those in large businesses with nationwide assets, believed that the winner will be ‘first past the post’ in terms of rolling out a network that can cover the whole country – something immediately usable for these larger scale applications. Others believed that LoRa was a clear winner due to its low cost, minimal infrastructure and ability to be rolled out as a private or public network.

We believe there’s room in the market (and it’s a massive market, so we are told by all the analysts) for all the key LPWAs and it will be a case of ‘horses for courses’. LoRa and Sigfox will have their place, and LoRa is looking extremely promising, with its low cost, minimal infrastructure, licence-free spectrum and rapid rollout. City-wide and public networks are popping up all over the place, including the recent rollout of an open LoRaWAN network in London, and it also lends itself nicely to private networks. A key area where LoRa will come into its own is in applications based in remote locations where standard cellular networks cannot reach or are uneconomical. NB-IoT is due to be rolled out on a large-scale by Vodafone in 2017, but it has only been in small-scale pilots to date. Sigfox currently claims the largest IoT network in terms of coverage and lists partners in 26 countries. Does that mean, particularly for large companies wanting national coverage, that they have already won the race and will get most take up?

Pyramid Research predicts that Smart Metering/Smart Grid applications will account for 45% of the market of M2M and IoT connected devices. LoRa is an excellent match for this application, with its low power, long range and small data packets. If the smart meter market plumps for LoRa, (and a few LoRa Smart Meter deployments have already been announced in the press), then up to 45% of connected M2M devices could be on LoRa networks, which is a pretty large share and not niche by a long shot.

In reality, in such a new and rapidly moving market, it’s hard to predict an overall winner. End users are going to choose the technology to suit the application and some of these are more suitable than others, depending on what is already available, location, power requirements, how much data needs to be sent and how often. We live in interesting times for wireless in general and LPWA in particular!