The Truth About National LoRaWAN Networks and Carrier-Grade Service Delivery in the US

One of the key things Senet has learned from building LoRaWAN networks since the technology was first introduced to the market is that nearly every customer deployment is unique. Even customers within the same market have significantly different data requirements or need significantly different network deployment architectures. Closely aligning the capabilities of the technology with the needs of the customer is beginning to move the market forward at a rapid pace, shortening proof of concepts and increasing the success rate of commercial IoT solution deployments. It has also been proven that if the technology is deployed correctly, LoRaWAN is capable of supporting critical infrastructure and essential business Internet of Things (IoT) applications in the utility, municipal and enterprise markets at massive scale.

Success over the years has also led to an understanding that robust and flexible network planning and deployment models are a requirement – not a nice to have. Customers across markets may prefer public network coverage or require private networks. In fact, a single customer may require a combination of network types to meet their global business needs. No matter the network type, the underlying truth is that most IoT application deployments will not succeed without network planning being an integral part of the project from the start.

This customer and application focused approach has led to the growth in Senet’s network which is the largest and most dense public carrier-grade LoRaWAN network in the United States, deployed in over in 29 states, covering over 1,300 cities, serving a population of over 55 million people and processing millions of transactions daily.

Defining a Winning Strategy

Coming to this understanding didn’t happen overnight. In the early years of the LoRaWAN market (just a short six years ago), several network providers, including Senet, identified a number of large cities in the US based on interesting demographic information and deployed a single or small number of gateways to provide the first instances of LoRaWAN network coverage. At the time, this “flag planting” was an important early market exercise for network operators to promote LoRaWAN and uncover first-mover customer and partner opportunities. It helped us determine who was walking the talk. Were city leaders who were talking up big IoT plans serious about them, or was it just posturing? Were the enterprise organizations communicating strategies to instrument their entire operations for productivity enhancements and cost savings ready to execute, or was their vision years ahead of reality?

For Senet, our “flag planting” was not entirely a shot in the dark. We had manufactured the first ever FCC certified LoRaWAN gateways and end devices to build a successful propane tank monitoring business resulting in a deep technical understanding of full-stack LoRaWAN solution requirements. To our advantage, we were already supporting anchor customers in several key areas across the country.

This early market advantage helped form our current view of the LoRaWAN market opportunity in the US and, to a certain extent, across the globe.

Setting the Correct Expectations to Move the Market Forward

The expectation (or hope) that a few gateways deployed on towers in locations across the United States would drive significant application demand and provide customers with the coverage density needed to support business critical applications at scale was proven to be a flawed approach many years ago and remains critically flawed today.

And promoting a network constructed this way as a “national network” is purely a marketing ploy. This marketing strategy may have worked in the early years of mobile wireless communications, and well before the Internet of Things was a thing, but not today.

What has been proven is that supporting an anchor customer with flexible network deployment and business models often becomes the catalyst for network expansion and use. This network expansion doesn’t work simply by adding another gateway to another tower. It is a result of expertly designing dense networks using a multitude of vertical assets and towers, ensuring that the network is available where and when it is needed and at the optimal cost. In fact, after designing over 150 dense LoRaWAN networks, we have never seen a scaled metro network design that can be accomplished using a single tower partner, and still meet the carrier grade service level agreements customers require. Further, most networks designed for utility applications require multiple gateway placement options, including municipally-owned locations and multiple site owner options.

The contrasting approaches between planning and deploying a LoRaWAN network and deploying a few gateways to “plant a flag” are significant. One can easily determine which network is capable of delivering carrier-grade service for IoT solutions at scale and which is not.

Believe in Proven US-based experience, Not the Hype

This brings us to some recent industry news. A European-based LoRaWAN network operator and US-based provider of communication tower infrastructure have announced the launch of a “national” and “carrier-grade” LoRaWAN network in the US by deploying some number of gateways with a single tower operator in 36 metro areas across the United States.

Don’t believe the hype. Even in its first phase, the outcome of this strategy can be predicted.

For those interested in deploying IoT solutions on LoRaWAN networks, here’s what we can safely say, backed by proven processes and experience:

Density matters: A single or a small number of LoRaWAN gateways deployed on towers does not deliver carrier-grade network service for most scaled applications. This approach not only limits the types of applications that can effectively use the network, but also makes it impossible to meet the demanding Service Level Agreements (SLAs) required by the largest most demanding customers. These SLA’s include network and platform uptime, household and location level coverage quality metrics, and application level performance criteria. In addition to project-based SLAs, our customers require experienced and reliable US-based customer support to insure deployment success.

Experience matters: Choosing the right network technology is not the only factor in achieving IoT project success. Experience across the entire IoT solution stack and the ability to guide customers at each step along the way – from proof of concept to commercial deployment – reduces time to market, provides a faster path to ROI and increases customer satisfaction.

Relationships matter: The ability to rapidly deploy and densify networks on demand is what customers need today. Moving in lock-step with customers and partners to understand their IoT solution deployment requirements and growth plans wins the day. This includes securing assets for gateway placement through a number of network infrastructure relationships including those with tower companies, RAN providers, utilities, municipalities and solution providers.

Flexibility matters: Legacy network deployment and operational models don’t work in the hyperscaled IoT market. Some customers want public network connectivity, some need private networks and some are looking for entirely new models of network deployment and consumption to differentiate themselves in the IoT services economy.

Carrier-Grade service matters: As IoT deployments continue to scale and solution requirements become more predictable, the distinction between carrier-grade LoRaWAN networks and those that fail to meet carrier-grade specifications is becoming more apparent. Traditional metrics like five nines of uptime are table stakes. In addition to uptime, Senet’s customers are looking for SLA’s around location coverage, and the quality of network coverage by location (measured daily if not hourly). The ability to support commercial applications for critical infrastructure and essential business needs isn’t delivered by a coverage map created by a marketing team, but by understanding how massively scaled IoT applications are deployed and managed in real world conditions.

There are many reasons why a growing number of companies are moving their IoT solutions from “best effort” LoRaWAN networks to Senet and we’d be happy to explore them with you.

To learn more about Senet’s carrier-grade LoRaWAN network services, please download our whitepaper: The Value of Carrier-Grade Network Service for the Delivery of LoRaWAN® IoT Solutions

To learn more about our Tampa Bay Metro Region network buildout, please visit https://go.senetco.com/Tampa-Bay-Metro-LoRaWAN