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EchoStar teases pan-European satellite LoRa network

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Irish satellite services provider EchoStar has launched an early adopter programme for its pan-European LoRa network.

The scheme is pitched at the transport and logistics, agriculture, oil and gas, and utilities sectors. Presumably other verticals are also permitted to join in the fun, but these were the ones referenced by EchoStar.

Participants will be able to test the company’s satellite-based LoRa network to see how low-power, wide-area networking (LPWAN) can benefit their businesses. Coverage is delivered via the EchoStar XXI geostationary satellite to LoRa-enabled modules that can be integrated into IoT devices. These modules are also compatible with terrestrial LoRaWAN networks, which helps to ensure IoT devices are cheap, simple and not too power hungry.

“LoRa connectivity makes up 45 percent of today’s global IoT networks; it’s perfect for connecting low-powered ‘things,’ yet its reliance on terrestrial connectivity restricts its usefulness,” said Telemaco Melia, vice president and general manager of EchoStar Mobile, in a statement this week. “Replacing fibre and cable with satellite connectivity, the EchoStar Mobile solution is the first real-time, bi-directional LoRa service with mobile and remote capabilities.”

EchoStar has also published a whitepaper to accompany the launch of the early adopter programme. Its aim is to pitch use cases and sell the general concept of satellite IoT to potential customers.

“Achieving the full potential of IoT means accessing data from thousands of machines, factories or distribution facilities, however remote, and bringing it to a central point for analysis and insight. The EchoStar Mobile satellite-enabled LoRa network enables industries to use IoT in innovative ways that can transform their operations,” Melia said.

When it comes to connecting hundreds or even thousands of IoT devices with LPWAN, the key is to keep the cost of that connectivity as low as possible. Here is where EchoStar’s satellite service might struggle compared to terrestrial equivalents since it uses licensed spectrum and, being a geostationary satellite, will have higher power requirements when it comes to sending and receiving data. EchoStar has doubtless crunched the numbers, but it will be interesting to see how this goes.

The early adopter scheme is due to run throughout 2022; widespread commercial availability is expected towards the end of the year.

Its launch comes the same week that industry body the LoRa Alliance updated the market about LoRa deployment and uptake.

According to the lobby group, the number of public LoRaWAN networks in operation has grown by 66 percent during the last three years, and there are now 170 different companies offering public LoRaWAN connectivity. While MNOs have historically driven LPWAN deployments, much of the recent growth has come from non-MNOs, including – funnily enough – the satellite industry.

“This evolution in the types of networks and network providers is expected – and a sign of a healthy and vibrant market,” noted Donna Moore, CEO and chairwoman of the LoRa Alliance, in a statement on Wednesday. “These new network players are nimble, agile and able to grow beyond the constraints of pre-existing network infrastructure. They are successfully building profitable business models to maximise the value of their LoRaWAN networks and meet the evolving needs of LPWAN IoT deployments.”

As for LPWAN devices, the installed base is expected to exceed 2 billion in 2025. This is according to market research firm and LoRa Alliance member VDC Research, which said the growth will be driven by – you guessed it – LoRa.

“With LoRaWAN’s low-cost gateways, ready adaptability to both public and private networks, and satellite capability, it is uniquely positioned to bring connectivity to the widest range of devices and places, helping to drive the market growth of LPWANs,” said Steve Hoffenberg, director and industry analyst at VDC Research.

“The variety of IoT use cases demands the flexibility and choice that LoRaWAN can deliver,” added Moore. “We have hundreds of members that span numerous verticals developing countless solutions to improve the planet and citizens’ lives, while also improving businesses’ performance and profits.”

 

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