There’s a land grab happening now between networks to link small, battery-powered IoT devices.
If countless forecasts are true, there will soon be a lot more tiny, low-power devices like sensors out in the world. The 2G networks that connected many of these to the cloud are gradually going away and newer, more specialized networks are emerging. Vendors are pushing different LPWANs (low-power, wide-area networks) to do the job and trying to get more users and network operators on their side. Their survival may depend on building up a big ecosystem of devices.
On Monday, U.S. network operator Ingenu partnered with distributor and system builder Arrow Electronics, which will offer Ingenu’s RPMA (Random Phase Multiple Access) technology when it develops IoT systems for enterprises and smaller businesses in the U.S.
In addition to reselling components, Arrow offers services to help enterprises and smaller companies develop internal systems and technologies for their needs. Now those services can offer RPMA connectivity for those systems. The partnership with Ingenu isn’t exclusive, so Arrow could offer other LPWANs, too.
Ingenu operates an RPMA network that covers 30 U.S. metropolitan areas. Like other LPWANs, it’s designed to send small amounts of data at low speeds over long distances while conserving batteries. The Shell oil company and the utility Southern California Edison are two big users.
There are RPMA networks running or being built in about 30 other countries, too, under licensing agreements. Those countries include China, Italy, and Australia. Ingenu says the networks will reach 100 countries by year’s end.
The Arrow deal is only for U.S. companies, but if those organizations have operations outside the country they can get roaming service, said Derrick Calderon, Ingenu’s vice president of business development. All the RPMA networks use the same frequencies, in the unlicensed 2.4GHz band.
Other LPWAN technologies are also expanding. Earlier this month, the French network operator SigFox partnered with IoT solution provider SensorInsight and sensor technology vendor Libelium to develop environmental sensor networks in the U.S.
LoRa, a system supported by the LoRa Alliance industry group, is being rolled out by enterprises and some mobile operators around the world. Earlier this month, wireless operator Eleven-x announced a LoRa-based network in Canada and said it would soon extend the system throughout the country. Meanwhile, new versions of LTE for some small IoT devices are also coming into the mix.