New Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWA) Technology Enabling Dynamic Applications
Currently, “Smart” in many cities means implementation of energy efficient solutions which are having positive impact on the environment and sustainability. Excuse the pun but this is the tip of the iceberg of how “Smart” can transform not only sustainability but quality of life, economic development and public safety.
Ericsson studied cities in 2015 and listed the responses of city leaders on how technology was creating a “Smart City”.
Notable is that only the last application Smart Grids and Smart Meters rely on Connectivity. Many applications are emerging due to the rise of new wireless connectivity options that require low power and low bandwidth. These “things” include: Waste Baskets, Traffic Lights, Environmental Sensors, Park Benches, Parking Meters/Garages, Roadway Sensors, Motion Detectors, and Gunshot Location identifiers. These devices require connectivity to an application that will enable smart actions.
Today we have localized devices that often do not communicate data back to a core application that is smart and adaptable. This is changing rapidly. Verizon utilizes the following chart to show the DNA of the Internet of Things (IoT).
These capabilities do not require much bandwidth as they often generate a signal that a change has happened which then is interpreted by a central database which determines a course of action in response to the signal and tracks the data. The chart below shows how these short burst transactional communications will consume bandwidth. Notable is that the forecast has greater than 75% of the communications utilizing less than 15 KBPS.
Today many cities own fiber which provides rich dense bandwidth to targeted locations but has a very high capex cost to deploy. It provides extreme amounts of CAPACITY but not a ubiquitous COVERAGE blanket. Smart Cities will need to be able to ensure that affordable access to connectivity COVERAGE is accessible throughout the city. In the US the commercial cellular carriers have been turning down their 2G networks opening up a requirement to solve that gap. The carriers are offering new LTE options while smaller competitors are deploying Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWA or LPWAN). In the US the decision for mass adoption of a wireless M2M solution will come down to the Cellular Carriers providing new services such as LTE-M and new players deploying LPWA networks.
The 3 major options for mass deployment of Smart City Connectivity in the US will be:
RPMA-Random Phase Multiplexing
Ingenu is the commercial brand for a long established technology. Originally developed to transmit data from utility meters, the protocol is now being adopted globally as a low data rate service. Its advantage is that it has a very high coverage range and very low per device cost. They label it the Machine Network because it was built specifically to address low bandwidth machine communications. It is being deployed using existing tower infrastructure in most major US Markets. The frequency utilized is unlicensed 2.4 Ghz. www.ingenu.com
SigFox is a French company that provides a proprietary signal in the 900 Mhz Ultra-Narrowband range that has seen significant coverage roll outs in France, Spain and the Netherlands. It is rolling out in the US and has the ability to make devices nap while not transmitting which saves power. A recent round of funding of over $100 million will jumpstart its US National Deployment. www.sigfox.com.
LTE-M or CAT M 1
LTE-M allows for a licensed cellular network that can be designed utilizing the base network hardware, and then developed with new software that increases performance for machine to machine communication. This keeps costs low as infrastructure will remain the same throughout the lifetime of the network. LTE-M is just being rolled out by each of the carriers and is highly anticipated by IoT device developers, cellular operators, and other industry insiders. Here is a chart detailing specifics of the new services capabilities. Please check the websites of each major carrier to see market specifics.
Cities fundamentally are facing decisions whether to develop their own infrastructure, buy infrastructure directly from the network providers, or to find a cooperative model that ensures that these transformative technologies will be deployed at a rapid rate and a price point that allows for wide adoption. Atlanta has been progressive in pursuing this approach and has issued an RFI for network operators to provide their capability. We will keep an eye on that process as well as in other major markets.
Dense Networks will be providing a series of seminars in 2017 on how these networks are creating competitive advantage. The first event will be in Orlando on March 15 at the University of Central Florida. It will include a tour of the Lake Nona community which has partnered with a telecommunication firm to ensure that the telecommunications network infrastructure is capable of providing both capacity and coverage throughout the community. Best practices and roadmaps for success will be shared by industry leaders. For more info go to www.densenetworks.com.