To effectively deploy a LoRa®-based Internet of Things (IoT) solution, you will either need access to an existing LoRaWAN® network, or will have to install your own. Conveniently, you have the option to register your LoRa-based devices with either a public or private network.
In this post, we’ll provide a simple explanation of what constitutes a LoRaWAN network and examine the characteristics of public versus private LoRaWAN network operators and network server providers.
What is a LoRaWAN Network?
LoRaWAN is a networking architecture for low power wide area networks (LPWAN). It is laid out in a star topology (no meshing allowed) and provides a backbone for the IoT. These networks are used to send messages between end devices (such as LoRa-based sensors and actuators) to an application server via a central network server (also known as a LoRaWAN network server, or LNS).
Here is a simplified look at a typical LoRaWAN network architecture:
Figure 1: LoRaWAN Network Architecture
The LNS is the central component in the network. All messages pass through the LNS, from end devices to application servers, and on to dashboards for data analysis.
LoRaWAN supports a wide variety of use cases, helping manage everything from smart buildings and smart cities to agriculture, water metering, and even the temperature and fill level of your home beer keg.
LoRaWAN Network Options: Network Operators and Network Server Providers
There are a few different models for connecting end devices to a LoRaWAN network. For instance, you can choose to build and deploy your own network. Whether or not you choose to create your own network will depend on a number of factors, not the least of which is your budget: are you willing and able to pay for, manage, and possibly install your own gateways, devices, and servers?
While deploying your own network gives you more control over its use, one drawback is the overhead cost associated with its operation. For example, you will need to create the infrastructure, install and maintain the gateways, and manage the network. However, with total control over your network and deployments, you will not have to pay an operator or service provider to manage your network or your devices.
To mitigate the cost of creating your own network from scratch, consider registering your LoRaWAN-based devices with a network operator or server provider.
The easiest option, perhaps, is to register your devices on an existing network. Around the world, there are a number of “public” LoRaWAN networks that are operated by companies that also offer other types of public networking services.
For this option, you will generally pay a fee to register your devices on the organization’s network. The fee typically depends on the number of connected devices you have and the amount of data you will send over the course of a given period. In exchange, in addition to simple connectivity, you can usually expect a documented Service Level Agreement (SLA) guaranteeing a certain percentage of “up-time”.
This type of service is typically offered by telecom operators, mobile network operators (MNOs), cable operators, and sometimes non-traditional network providers.
A current list of LoRaWAN network operators can be found on the LoRa Alliance® website.
Network Server Providers or Deploying Your Own Network
There are several advantages of using a network server provider’s services. For example, there is no capital expenditure cost for building and maintaining the infrastructure. Additionally, you have access to a large-capacity network and, therefore, can scale your solution without the typical “growing pains” of deploying your own network.
When there is no public LoRaWAN network operator available in your area, or if you do not want to be part of a public network, you can deploy your own “private” LoRaWAN network. You will own, install, operate, and maintain the end nodes and gateways, and you will have to select a LoRaWAN network server provider to manage the gateways and network for you. These companies provide what is typically referred to as a “LoRaWAN Network Server Solution as a Service”.
Which Should You Choose?
Start by answering the following questions:
- Is there a public network operator available in your area?
- Are you willing to pay for, manage, and install your own gateways?
- What is your budget?
- How many end devices do you plan on connecting?
- How often will your devices send data packets?
- How much data will you transmit?
Your budget will help you determine whether you should deploy your own network or establish a relationship with a trusted third-party provider.
LoRaWAN Networks and Where to Find Them
There are many LoRaWAN network providers worldwide. To find a network provider in your region, visit Semtech’s LoRa Ecosystem Network Providers page. This page provides a wealth of resources, including:
- A link to a global coverage map of network operators from the LoRa Alliance
- A quick way to access and search for networks via the LoRa Catalog
- Descriptions of a great number of LoRaWAN network providers, along with useful links related to each
So, now you should know more about the options available for LoRaWAN networking when deploying LoRa-based applications. We’ve explained why you need a LoRaWAN network server, and have provided information about alternatives for deploying your solution using either a public or private LoRaWAN network operator, and provided you with a way to find network operators in your region.
The key advantage for your deployment is the flexibility of LoRa devices and LoRaWAN. If there is a public network operator or network server provider in your area, contracting with them may be the most cost-effective option. However, if no such operator or service is available, you have the option of building your own network.
For more technical information about the LoRa devices and how a LoRaWAN network operates, read our technical white paper: LoRa® and LoRaWAN®: A Technical Overview.
Looking to further expand your knowledge of the LoRaWAN protocol? Enroll in the LoRaWAN Academy.
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