Through the years, cellular networks, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth have served up the go-to options for wireless IoT network protocols. However, these networks and protocols were originally designed to support traditional internet as well as mobile communications devices such as computers, smartphones, and tablets. They’re used to transmit large chunks of data on an irregular basis.
As a result, they fall short of a number of requirements for connectivity for embedded sensors and distributed IoT devices, where regular, low power, small packet data transmissions are the norm. These networks and protocols do not offer optimal support for the digital transformation with IoT because they’re expensive, power-consuming, and hardly customizable to unique applications. Distributed IoT devices are often located in areas far away from basic connectivity infrastructures and power supply.
But today, there’s no shortfall of long-range communication solutions for IoT. The following is an overview of the top 5 long-range connectivity solutions today.
Low-Power Wide Area Network, LPWAN
Using unlicensed spectrum (868 MHz in Europe and 915 MHz in the US for instance), this is a wireless protocol that’s designed to maximize range while minimizing power consumption. It runs with an outstanding range of 15-30 kilometers in rural areas and several kilometers within urban areas. It’s a low-power protocol with a staggering battery life of 10+ years.
This protocol is best suited for IoT applications operating with simple sets of functions such as on/off as well as those that transmit only a few messages per hour. Requiring about 5-10x fewer base stations than 3G/4G, LPWAN protocol offers apt integrations for 5G service base stations.
This is a patented spread-spectrum radio modulation originally created by Cycleo and acquired by Semetch in 2012. It runs in the sub-gigahertz spectrum (109MHz, 433MHz, 866MHz, 915MHz), an unlicensed band that attracts much less interference than others like the 2.4 GHz range of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and other protocols). Signals encoded to travel in such frequencies permeate obstacles and reach far-flung distances, with much less power requirement.
One of the main reasons why LoRa is one of the best IoT solutions for digital transformation is that it comes with a gateway that’s adaptable to various applications and distributed IoT devices. It uses a spread-spectrum strategy to transmit data at various speeds and frequencies, all within the sub GHz spectrum.
What’s more, the protocol can be powered by two AAA batteries for more than 10 years.
Sigfox operates through a proprietary standalone LPWA infrastructure based on a technology known as Ultra Narrow Band (UNB) with binary phase-shift keying (BPSK).
As one of the most long-standing providers of IoT solutions for the digital transformation, Sigfox supports back-end, communications infrastructure, and cloud management platforms. Transmitting data via unlicensed spectrum below 1GqHz, Sigfox offers a highly reliable and scalable network that can connect millions of IoT devices dispersed several kilometers apart from each other. It sends signals that can travel up to 40km in an open field.
Sigfox prevents network interference and safeguards the integrity of data by transmitting data at a low rate and through an intricate data processing system. With this protocol, there’re no direct interactions between the device and the receiving stations, as messages sent from devices through base stations to control centers are directly forwarded to customer applications.
Based on Random Phase Multiple Access (RPMA) technology which facilitates data rates in the hundreds of thousands (50x those of other LPWA systems), and using the 2.4 GHz unlicensed frequency band, Ingenu offers wider bandwidth, greater versatility, and robust protection against interferences. With these specifications, Ingenu beats other wireless IoT network protocols when it comes to data throughput rates.
However, by transmitting signals within the 2.4 GHz band, Ingenu does not support signal transmissions that penetrate obstructions as much as transmissions of other protocols do. However, the protocol is geared to trump this limitation by using an RPMA technology. But this, in turn, increases the complexity and power consumption of its operations.
Nonetheless, the protocol provides enterprise-level security by enabling 256-bit encryption and two-way authentication.
This is the brainchild of the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP). It transmits data within the licensed sub-GHz band between 700 MHz and 900 MHz, with upload and download speeds of about 1 Mbps. Its low power consumption enables it to use its batteries for an amazing 10-20 years.
It provides excellent coverage using current wireless infrastructures, and that makes it ideal for IoT applications that require safe and stable connectivity. However, the use of current wireless infrastructures increases the cost of operations, and this is one of the disadvantages of the long-range wireless protocol.
Each of the long-range wireless IoT protocols comes with its advantages and drawbacks and is best-suited for certain types of IoT applications.
Still not convinced about which solution is the best for you? We can provide you with greater insights to make the right decision.