Contact Us

What are Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) Networks?

4 minute read

Low power wide area (LPWA) networks are a class of wireless networks that can be used for IoT applications where cellular might not be an option or where the IoT application has certain requirements that better fit LPWA networks.

Cellular IoT networks a great option for myriad Internet of Things (IoT) use cases, but at times, non-cellular technologies are required or are more desirable.

Benefits of LPWA Networks

LPWA wireless networks use low-power, long-range radio modems to communicate with IoT devices where existing cellular services are either not available or have poor coverage, such as:

  • Rural areas
  • Certain buildings
  • Where environmental concerns or government policies do not permit cellular connectivity
  • Remote locations with poor coverage
  • Difficult-to-reach areas that make it difficult to install cellular towers

LPWA networks are also useful for applications that require low-power batteries, such as smart home devices and wearables.

Additionally, these networks can be used when other forms of connectivity are too expensive or impractical. For example, they may be preferable if you want to transmit data over long distances without incurring high costs from traditional networks like 4G LTE or Wi-Fi hotspots (which have limited capacity).

Many LPWA networks use unlicensed frequencies so they don't require a license from the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) like cellular operators do -- this means there's no need for expensive spectrum licenses or complex network infrastructure consisting of towers and cell sites across entire cities.

Different LPWANs have different ranges and data rates and are better suited to different types of smart devices. The range and data rates of each LPWAN vary. For example, LoRaWAN has a longer range than Sigfox but can only transmit at a maximum speed of 880 bits per second (bps).

The Various Applications of LPWA Networks

LPWA networks can be used to connect low-energy devices (e.g., smart cameras), sensors, and meters to each other and the internet. Because of its long range, it can connect devices across wide areas, and even when there are obstructions, such as large buildings or when devices are underground.

One of the main advantages of LPWA technology is its very low power consumption compared with other types of networks, such as cellular networks or Wi-Fi. This makes it ideal for use in IoT applications where battery life is an important factor for device design and operation.

These networks are used in many different industries including energy, healthcare and agriculture. Low power wide area networks have an advantage over traditional wireless networks due to their low power and long range.

The Various Types of LPWA Networks

The first LPWA was deployed in 2012 by Sigfox, and since then there has been a lot of development in this space.

Sigfox was the first LPWA deployed, and since then there has been a lot of development in this space. Sigfox was followed by LoRaWAN networks, which the LoRa Alliance operates. LoRA stands for Low Power and Long Range and operates in the unlicensed spectrum. Customers can deploy their own LoRaWAN network or leverage a public LoRaWAN network.

The next generation of LPWA is LTE-M, or Cat M1, and NB-IoT, which allows transmission speeds up to 500 kbit/s. These networks operate in the licensed spectrum and are offered by mobile carriers. 

NB-IoT is a 4G standard that follows LTE Cat M1, which has been around since 2016. Both standards are designed for low power wide areas.

These networks are used for IoT applications such as smart city infrastructure, industrial automation and asset tracking. They can connect devices over long distances with short-range hops between base stations or access points (APs). LTE-M and NB-IoT are used for IoT applications requiring high throughput, such as large data transfers. 

Topic(s): Connectivity , Featured , LPWAN

U3GM Blog Post Comments


Stay up to date on all things IoT by signing up for email notifications.