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IoT: LPWA technologies’ struggle for supremacy

The hype over the Internet of Things might be fading away, but much effort is under way to roll out low-power wide-area networks. At the same time, some question if the market’s vast potential can be realised while it remains divided between so many technologies. Sam Fenwick reports

The alphabet soup that’s endemic to any conversation about the Internet of Things (IoT) gets particularly thick whenever the subject of low-power wide-area networks (LPWANs) comes up. LoRa, Sigfox, Weightless, Ingenu and Wi-SUN, and their cellular licensed spectrum counterparts, NB-IoT and LTE-M, are all jostling for supremacy.

However, William Webb, telecoms consultant and part-time CEO of Weightless SIG, believes that the success of LPWA “absolutely” hinges on whether the industry can converge towards a single fit-for-purpose standard. “If you look at every other area of wireless communications, we just have one standard. For personal connectivity, it’s Bluetooth, for home connectivity, it’s Wi-Fi, and for wide-area, it’s cellular,” he says. “The dynamics of the market drive the adoption of one standard unless there’s a very wide range of different needs and one standard can’t support all of those. Those dynamics are a mix of economies of scale, the cost of a nationwide network meaning just one is likely, and the interoperability benefits of everyone using the same standard.”

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