Are you aware of the LoRa and SigFox difference? LoRa® is essentially the physical layer or the wireless modulation employed to create a long-range communication link. Sigfox is an LPWAN network operator that offers an end-to-end IoT connectivity solution. Here we describe what both technologies could offer and where they could be utilized.

Intro to LoRa and Sigfox

LPWAN (low power wide area networks) and LoRa(WAN) are non-cellular forms of LPWA (low power wide area) technologies, that are fit excellent for various applications, including IoT, environmental monitoring, smart cities, smart industries, and more. LoRaWAN is essentially a MAC layer of LoRa, that is is implemented on top of the LoRa physical layer.

Typical LoRa network includes network servers, application servers, gateways, and end nodes. The LoRaWAN protocols are defined by the LoRa Alliance and formalized in the LoRaWAN Specification which can be downloaded on the LoRa Alliance website.  In LoRaWAN network topology, the gateways transmit messages between the central network server and end devices. LoRaWAN enables low-power transmissions of data across long distances, with a flexible model for public and private networks.

Sigfox network based on a horizontal and thin architecture, containing two main layers. Network Equipment layer includes base stations and antennas. This layer is responsible for receiving various messages from devices and transferring them further.

The second layer is the Sigfox Support System, constituting the core network in charge of processing the messages and sending them through callbacks to the customer system. This layer also provides the entry points to other system parts, so that they could interact with the system by means of web interfaces or API. The support system layer also includes a repository and tools to analyze the collected/generated data.

The linking between the two above mentioned layers provided by the public Internet, secured with a VPN connection.

Relative comparison

LoRa is assumed to provide long-range communication of up to 20 kilometers while maintaining low power consumption and high-cost efficiency. LoRaWAN enables efficient IoT applications and a high-quality connection with a large number of potential IoT devices.

LoRa data rate varying from around 300 bps up to 50 kbps, depending on the spreading factor, and channel bandwidth. LoRaWAN able to improve the successfully received messages ratio using redundant reception. For the purpose of devise localizing, LoRaWAN utilizes multiple receptions of the same message by different base stations.

Sigfox offers an end-to-end IoT connectivity solution based on its patented technologies. It is a narrowband technology, utilizing a standard radio transmission BPSK (d binary phase-shift keying) method. Sigfox communication could be preferable if it’s directed up from the endpoint to the base station. It supports limited bidirectional functionality. Overall, both Sigfox and LoRa could act as the cost-efficient device, with relatively long-range coverage, infrequent communication rate, and relatively long battery life. Compare to Sigfox, LoRaWAN could provide significantly higher data rates and better support bidirectional communication.

Applications

LoRaWAN enables low-power transmissions of data across long distances, with a flexible model for public and private networks. By combining fleet tracking solutions with LoRa technology, smart sensors, and LoRaWAN protocol, businesses and organizations could establish new pathways towards increased fleets efficiency and reduced logistics costs.

LoRa based solutions already available on the market. For instance, Semtech offers solutions, enabling connectivity, reporting, real-time analytics, and various additional functions including geolocation.

Sigfox featuring long-range connectivity with a limited amount of base stations. The long-range of the base stations allows Sigfox to deploy a nationwide network at a minimum cost. Innovative tracking devices could potentially transmit signals via the Sigfox IoT network, dedicated to power smart devices on the Internet of Things. 

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