Tata Communications has conducted successful trials of its new Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) in Mumbai and Delhi. The company mentions that these networks are based on LoRa technology for connected devices and Internet of Things applications.
LoRa, short for long range, is a modulation method that claims to provide better range than other technologies. LoRaWAN is a MAC protocol for high capacity long range and low powered networks that is being standardized by the LoRa Alliance for LPWAN. The Alliance ensures that, despite International adoption of the network, it remain interoperable across devices. The network operates in unlicensed bands.
According to Tata, its implementation of the network is a low-power, secure, bidirectional, communication solution, which any organisation can use to connect devices, although we imagine there will be a usage cost. The company claims that the first phase of this initiative will aim to cover 400 million people in Tier 1, 2, 3 and 4 cities, although it doesn’t mention by when it will accomplish this.
Tata will essentially provide the gateway host to connect a sensor with the network server. It is not yet clear if the company will provide the backend network server as well, although doing so would make sense as the company can charge for end-to-end network and hosting services. Note that the gateway host connects to the networks server via a secure network hence one would still need Tata’s permission to set up a server to use gathered data. Anyone can, however, send data to the gateway using LoRa standards.
Other than this, Tata mentions that the LPWAN wireless network can communicate up to 50 meters underground, making it useful in areas like metro stations and car parks. In rural areas, the company claims it will provide a range of up to 15km. Note that LoRa networks are designed to carry minimal data, with specifications defining a data rate of 0.3kbps to to 50kbps, however the expected battery life on these devices is usually around 7-10 years.
International LoRaWAN implementation: Earlier this month, Telstra started implementing the network in Melbourne, Australia, where the city officials held a contest to develop and demonstrate IoT applications. Similarly, last month Amsterdam launched an open crowd-sourced LoRaWAN based network as a part of the ‘The Things Network’ initiative to determine the best wireless protocol for IoT. The same month, Link Labs announced two new LoRaWAN 1.0 based gateways for the European and the US IoT markets, that could support up to 25,000 end nodes each.
MediaNama’s Take: The potential of such a network is immense. Every vehicle could be tagged, automatically logging parking timings or even automating online payment at toll booths. It could be used to monitor water levels, air pollution levels, traffic health etc., all over the same network. We wonder how Tata’s implementation will be, as it’s not yet clear what the conditions for network access will be.
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