Part Two: Cellular LPWA Availability

There are lots of pilots being announced within 3GPP/GSMA so isn’t commercial service imminent?  The short answer is no. Pilots, as defined in this industry, are a short-circuit of the process. The original Nuel/Huawei “clean-slate” proposal (which is now defunct) had a number of pilots. Clearly, that was not on the path of offering a commercial service.

Despite vendor’s and cellular carriers’ claims that service is imminent for cellular, these systems are years away from a commercial offering. Standards and minimum performance specifications must be finalized, silicon and nodes must be productized, certification programs developed, and ecosystems must be built.

By contrast, RPMA technology is available today.

Let’s look at this from a few points of view using quotes from an article entitled “NB-IoT and the Internet of Bikes and Labradors”:

  • Chip vendors: “The sudden acceleration and emphasis on NB-IOT has wrong-footed most of the other silicon suppliers’”
  • Module vendors. “But most of the others I talked to don’t expect to ship anything before the middle of 2017. They all told me that they hadn’t expected things to move this quickly and were re-evaluating their roadmaps. But bringing this stuff online takes time. Typically, at least a year.”
  • Carriers. “The problem is that these changes need new billing and commissioning software built into the networks. That normally takes two to three years, and the answers to my questions suggests the operators are not even thinking about this.”

A few cellular carriers are jumping on the LoraWAN bandwagon seemingly out of desperation for a stop-gap solution.

Clearly, 3GPP/GSMA feels they have been caught off-guard and are late to the LPWA game.  But ‘haste makes waste’, and in the rush to claim a fully baked solution to the market, they have missed some key aspects of technology development that we will detail in Parts 5-9. A few cellular carriers are jumping on the LoraWAN bandwagon seemingly out of desperation for a stop-gap solution. Even the most basic analysis of LoraWAN indicates a solution that cannot possibly scale to provide any reliable LPWA service (for more details on this analysis see the document How RPMA Works: The Making of RPMA). And though these few carriers may believe that LoRa deployment announcements keep them relevant in the LPWA market, one must ask how this will impact the larger ecosystem as they expend considerable resources integrating LoRa technology only to find these carriers are not at all committed to it. You can get a good sense of what cellular carriers really think of the LoRa approach (and the implicit lack of commitment) in the LightReading article “Lora May Not Be For Long Haul at Orange”.

This post is a part of the series Is the cellular standard roadmap (3GPP/GSMA) the answer to Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) Connectivity? Click a link below to learn more, or download our free eBook, How RPMA Works: The Making of RPMA.

If at any time, you would like a more detailed description of RPMA and how it stacks up in the competitive landscape, please take a look at the document How RPMA Works: The Making of RPMA.