Semtech exec: ‘When you build solutions for massive IoT, you need to scale’

Semtech recently announced that its LoRa devices have been integrated into U.S.-based startup Swarm Technologies’ growing global Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite network that enables two-way communications to and from its satellites and has a particular focus on connecting IoT devices. Semtech’s Director of LoRaWAN Networks Remi Lorrain told RCR Wireless News that LoRa technology is well-suited for satellite communication because it thrives in long-distance, low-power and wide-area coverage applications.

Swarm’s CTO and co-founder Ben Longmier, CTO echoed this sentiment in a statement: “LoRa has opened up new Internet of Things use cases for Swarm in areas such as logistics, agriculture, connected cars and energy,” he said, adding that he hopes the collaboration with Semtech will  help the company “provide affordable global connectivity for IoT devices at an unprecedented scale.”

Lorrain, too, mentioned the importance of scale. “When you build solutions for massive IoT, you need to scale,” he said. “You need to not only be able to manage millions of devices, but you also need to be compatible with the terrestrial networks because [a connected device on the ground]should be able to automatically switch from terrestrial networks when it loses connection to the satellite.”

According to Statista, it is anticipated that 75 billion IoT devices will come online by 2025, only emphasizing the need for a reliable network that can function on a massive scale.

When asked about the threat of LEO satellites to 5G adoption in remote locations and why 5G technology, as opposed to LoRa technology, is not the answer to this problem, Lorrain claimed that 5G’s high battery consumption and downlink requirements are to blame.

Comparing LoRa to other connectivity technologies. (Courtesy of Semtech)

“5G is not made for satellites because it requires more downlink capacity than LoRa. In satellite communication, you cannot use that much downlink communication because you have a regulation issue. When you send a downlink from a satellite, maybe 10 million devices could receive your downlink, which would cause problems,” he explained. “Second, in massive IoT, you need to have very good battery and energy consumption. 4G and 5G technologies consume a lot of battery when compared to LoRa technology.”

Swarm incorporates LoRa on Very High Frequency (VHF) frequencies for uplink and downlink to its satellites from the ground. The network is commercially live, with 72 commercial satellites, with a total of 150 commercial satellites expected by the end of 2021. The company said their satellites can bring latency times down to less than one minute.


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