What is LoRaWAN?

LoRaWAN is a specific data transmission network for wireless and quick data transfer requiring low power. LoRaWAN networks are particularly suited for transmitting and receiving small amounts of data. Their key features include two-way data communication, portability, positioning services and easy deployment.

LoRaWAN is a global and open standard consisting of LoRa terminal equipment and routers and servers and applications operating in the background.

LoRaWAN is a wireless LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Network) network technology the development of which is managed by the LoRa Alliance. The Alliance includes hundreds of companies and organizations, such as Cisco and IBM. Digita is a member of the LoRa Alliance.

LoRa, Long Range, is a single modulation solution used by terminal equipment and routers to communicate with each other.

IoT solutions that utilise a LoRaWAN network are affordable and long-lasting. Sensors used for data collection are lightweight and easy to install without the need for cables. Batteries used in sensors can last for even ten years, so the solutions are practically maintenance-free.

Usually, data flows from the terminal device (the sensor) to the network. The typical transmit frequencies for messages are 15 in 60 minutes.

Digita provides a LoRa-compatible IoT network throughout Finland.

Network building

LoRaWAN networks are built either with local focus so that they cover a specific area or building or they can be nationwide. Digita offers its customers a public nationwide network, but private networks built based on the customers’ needs can also be implemented. The LoRaWAN network architecture is often based on a star-of-stars typology, in which a so-called transparent bridge is used as a gateway. This data transfer bridge operates between the sensors, i.e. the terminal equipment, and the central network servers. LoRaWAN sensors use wireless single-hop data transfer to one or several gateways, which are then connected to network servers through standard IP connections. LoRaWAN terminal devices are located in a network that is entirely separate from the internet, as the terminal devices themselves do not use the IP protocol.

Terminal devices

Sensors and terminal devices equipped with LoRa technology can be found on the global market for various purposes. There are applications for various purposes from the monitoring of streetlights to the monitoring of the fullness of rubbish bins. Terminal equipment is available for various frequencies, and they can be modified in accordance with the intended use. Terminal devices can be divided into three categories.

Class A terminal devices are capable of bidirectional communication, and each transmission is followed by two short receive windows. The timing of transmission can be specified. It is based on an ALOHA-type protocol, in which the terminal device sends a packet when it needs to do that. Class A terminal devices have the lowest power consumption, as their communication with servers has been minimised. They wait for a receipt message from the server only when they themselves have sent a message to a server.

Class B terminal devices are capable of bidirectional communication and have scheduled receive slots. In addition to the random transmit window of Class A, Class B devices have an additional, scheduled receive window. The terminal device receives from the router a time-synchronised Beacon message, after which it opens its own receive window. Due to this, the server will also know when the terminal device is awake.

Class C terminal devices have bidirectional operations and a maximum number of receive slots. Class C devices are receiving almost constantly. The receive window is closed only when the terminal device is transmitting.

Data transfer

The advantage of LoRa technology compared to other modulation solutions is good radio coverage even at long distances while the power consumption remains at a minimum. LoRa is based on spread spectrum modulation, with features such as great tolerance for interference and, among other things, minor effect of reflections and diffraction on the signal. Signals received through spread spectrum technique, which is used in mobile phone technology, can be identified below the noise level. LoRaWAN data transfer can be uni- or bidirectional, and it is divided into various frequency channels and speeds. The selection of data transfer speed depends on data volumes and the distance between the sensor and central network server. Typically, the data transfer speed in LoRaWAN networks is 0.3–50 Kbps. Data volumes are typically a few dozens of bytes.

Uses of LoRaWAN networks

LoRaWAN networks can be used in various IoT (Internet of Things) solutions that require cost-efficient and reliable data transfer. LoRaWAN solutions are particularly suitable for the sending and receiving of small amounts of data across distances of potentially tens of kilometres, depending on the terrain. LoRaWAN is a secure solution due to the encrypted data transfer that is implemented in three different network layers. The terminal device, the application it uses and the radio network all have their own unique encryption keys to ensure secure data transfer between the sensors and the server.

Digita’s LoRa network coverage

Digita is constantly developing and improving the coverage of its LoRaWAN network in Finland.

View Digita’s current LoRaWAN network coverage

Digita monitors the status of the IoT network 24/7/365 from its own network management centre. In addition, Digita has a global expert organisation maintaining the network.

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