The Internet of Things (IoT) network is expansive and always evolving, and it’s important to have a variety of technologies that enable IoT devices to keep connecting to the network. Many IoT use cases don’t have the same requirements that 4G LTE supports, which necessitates additional technological support.
There are a variety of networks available for IoT companies, and some are extremely valuable in some areas and less valuable in others. One developing network is the low power wide area (LPWA) networks. LPWA became an industry standard term in 2013 and has risen in prominence and use as IoT has taken off. IoT devices and companies can benefit from a thorough understanding and use of LPWA technologies.
But what is LPWA? Why does it matter? What types of IoT devices benefit from LPWA technologies? Read on to learn more about LTE LPWA technologies.
What Is LPWA and What Does LPWA Stand For?
What is LPWA, and what does LPWA stand for? LPWA stands for low power wide area networks. LPWA isn’t a specific type of technology but rather any type of technology that’s designed to operate on lower power than typical LTE and satellite networks. Sending data on an LPWA network requires less power, but it also means less data can be sent at one time. LPWA technologies might not seem crucial, but they rise of the Internet of Things (IoT)—and for good reason.
LPWA is important for IoT because of its two components – lower power and wide area. For IoT devices to function, they need to be connected to a network.
What Is the Difference between LPWA and LPWAN?
LPWA and LPWAN are both acronyms that are used interchangeably. In this case, they’re used interchangeably because they are referring to the exact same thing. LPWA refers to low power wide area, and LPWAN low power wide area networks. Experts and IoT providers in the field will use acronyms at points, and some companies may have a stylistic preference for one. But LPWA and LPWAN are the same, and both are acceptable when discussing this type of technology.
Why Do We Need LPWA Technology?
LPWA technology serves a valuable role in IoT connectivity. LPWA technology allows IoT devices to connect in low power and across a wide area. But more importantly, LPWA is a cost effective and power efficient way to connect IoT devices in certain situations.
For example, an IoT sensor is a powerful tool, but it doesn’t need to always be connected at full power. Connecting these devices to a 3G or even a LTE network can be costly, even while at low power consumption. But using LPWA technology allows you to connect your IoT sensors at low power in a way that saves both money and power because the technology is specifically designed to operate with low power. Many IoT devices don’t have the requirements to operate on a 4G, LTE, or 5G network. Essentially, these devices only need to be on the network for a short period of time to take a reading, and a 4G LTE network is designed for higher power consumption—ultimately causing the device battery to drain more quickly. On the flip side, on a LPWA network, the device could join the network for its reading and stay at a lower power level the rest of the time.
Allowing these IoT devices to operate on low power is also cost efficient. When data is sent from these devices, it’s sent in small data transmission packets. Because it’s sending data only in packets instead of pulling data constantly, it’s efficient and effective to deploy hundreds of IoT devices—without feeling the cost consequences.
LPWA technology is also valuable for long distances and wide areas. Most types of connections can send smaller amounts of data across long distances, but they’re typically limited to be within a certain distance. LPWA technology is designed to exceed that distance and provide IoT connectivity across long distances—like 500 miles or even a little more. Devices are able to connect much farther apart at better efficiency and a lower cost, which empowers companies and their IoT networks. Companies are able to have massive and widespread IoT networks and solutions because of the longevity and cost offered by LPWA technology. More devices means companies are getting more data, more analytics, and all the key benefits of IoT at scale.
How Efficient Is LPWA?
LPWA technologies are very efficient for the right kind of situation and device. They’re designed to allow devices to operate for up to 10 years without battery changes and for devices that aren’t able to recharge or connect in other ways. These are some IoT applications that can benefit from using a LPWA network:
- Smart meters
- Smart city technologies
- Track and trace
- Smart agriculture
- Smart building applications
Meters, city, and building technologies benefit from LPWA because they can spread across distances and need an optimized battery life. Smart agriculture benefits from the low power and long distance connectivity options. LPWA supports data transfers of 10 to 1000 bytes with speeds around 3 Kbps to 375 Kbps.
LPWA improves cost efficiency by making it possible to operate with less hardware and infrastructure. Essentially, LPWA is a simple and cost-effective and efficient way to connect IoT devices that are far away or need low power.
Is LTE an LPWA?
Some people wonder if an LTE connection is a type of LPWA. The short answer is no. 4G LTE is not a low-power wide area network. LPWA enables non-mobile network operators to use the technology while LTE is available for mobile network operators only. LTE uses a licensed spectrum.
LTE technology isn’t the only one that bears similarities to LPWA technology. NB-IoT is also fairly similar. NB-IoT doesn’t support Voice like LTE (VoLTE) and uses less battery power than LTE. NB-IoT is also better designed to reach rural areas than LTE. But while these technologies are similar, they aren’t the same as 4G LTE. NB-IoT and LTE-M are specifications that are built off of or leverage LTE connectivity technology but have been given their own specifications by the GSMA, and should not be considered the same as 4G LTE.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, LPWA or LPWAN can be a powerful tool for companies using IoT devices. If a company is looking to connect devices in a wide area or to use some IoT devices at low power, LPWA was designed to make that possible in the most cost-efficient way possible. No need to spend more on a 4G network for low-power devices when LPWA helps make it more affordable and efficient.
As LPWA and other IoT technologies expand and continue to grow, it’s time for more companies to join the IoT revolution. Simon IoT is a leading expert in everything IoT and can provide the information, guidance, and tools needed to create and expand an IoT network.