Monday 27th February 2023
Blog Post: Ralph Varcoe
Building LoRaWAN Networks – the right way.
Last week, a new market entrant in the UK LoRaWAN space posted a message about their ability to put LoRaWAN Gateways on radio masts, claiming they can provide ‘All the Spreading Factors’. For those who don’t know, Spreading Factor (SF) is all about the spread of the radio signal from the LoRaWAN Gateway. The higher the SF, the further the range. And, this might seem like an awesome thing. In fact, there are examples, which technical people blow their minds with, of LoRaWAN sensors picking up a gateway many 10’s of miles away. “Hurray’ they say, ‘there’s LoRaWAN coverage everywhere’. The notion is that if there’s a signal, that’s all you need.
But, while the techies collect their blown minds back together, it’s a piece of false ‘good’ news. It’s a bit like saying there’s breathable air at the top of a mountain. Factually accurate. But try getting to the summit of Everest at a fast jog and you’ll soon be gasping harder than a fish out of water.
While you can breathe at the top of a mountain, you can’t perform to your fullest potential. So it is with LoRaWAN SF, you can get a signal miles away, but your sensor battery will be as dead as that fish out of water within days. Even if your battery lasts a week, the data packet collisions will render your data transfer almost pointless. Retransmit. Retransmit. Battery drain. Dead sensor.
If you want a LoRaWAN network to perform for you, you’re going to want an SF that’s considerably lower than SF12. These new ‘Market Pretenders’ want to confuse and befuddle prospects, claiming that they can engineer a network with fewer gateways and thus keep costs down. You can imagine a customer thinking this is a good thing – keep it under budget with a thin network, after all the ‘pretender’ says they’ll sign up to SLAs and that the network will do what it needs to. Right? Wrong.
Good luck with those SLAs! It’ll certainly end up being even more cost-effective for the customer when they add the SLA credits to their TCO. I mean, they’ll fail at the project, but it’ll be cheap.
There’s an optimal SF for prolonging battery life. We, Connexin, should know. As the UK’s leading LoRaWAN provider to Water Utilities for their smart meter rollouts (and various councils and cities across the country), batteries MUST last over 10 years. We engineer to ensure the density of the network is optimal. The result? The network truly works to the fullest and the solution does what it needs to – battery life is preserved. And the warranties we provide to support this.
Last week, the ‘Pretender’ also claimed that ‘no streetlights or buildings were harmed in the installation of the network’. No doubt, a humorous tagline. But when you avoid streetlights and buildings and only install equipment on already cluttered commercial radio masts, you have interference in spades. LoRaWAN is an unlicensed spectrum which will suffer from degradation and packet loss if it’s colocated with a ton of other radio transmitters (think 3/4/5G, Fixed Wireless Access, and assorted other transmissions). Instant degradation of the LoRaWAN SF and packet collisions. A pointlessly glib ’tag line’.
My message: Beware the false PR and marketing messages from those who will do anything to present disingenuous information as ‘truth’. It’s not that simple.