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LoRa vs LoRaWAN

DFRobot Apr 12 2023 3923

LoRa and LoRaWAN are the two hottest wireless communication technologies in the Internet of Things (IoT), and many people who are new to the IoT field find it difficult to distinguish between them. This article mainly introduces the differences between LoRa and LoRaWAN, with the aim of helping engineers who are new to the IoT field to distinguish between the two more quickly.

LoRa vs LoraWAN

Figure: LoRa vs LoraWAN

(Source: https://www.milesight-iot.com)

What is LoRa?

LoRa, which stands for Long Range, is a type of LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Network) communication technology. It is based on a low-power wireless standard developed by Semtech, and its goal is to solve the contradiction between power consumption and transmission distance. Generally speaking, low power consumption means a shorter transmission distance, while high power consumption means a longer transmission distance. By developing LoRa technology, the problem of longer transmission distance than other wireless methods under the same power consumption conditions was solved, thus achieving the unity of low power consumption and long distance.

LoRa Long Range LPWAN, Low Power Wide Area Network, LoRa technology

What is LoRa?

(Source: http://www.iot-online.com/)

LPWAN communication technology LPWAN (Low-Power Wide-Area Network) is a wireless network used in the Internet of Things (such as battery-powered sensors) that allows long-distance communication at a low bit rate. The low power requirement, low bit rate, and low usage frequency distinguish LPWAN from wireless wide-area networks, which are designed to connect businesses or users and can transmit more data but consume more energy. The transmission rate of each channel in LPWAN is between 0.3 kbit/s and 50 kbit/s.

Characteristics of LoRa:

  • Stable network connection: The LoRa technology achieves long-range communication by improving the transmission distance, with communication distances of several kilometers, even up to 10 kilometers or more. This long-range transmission distance allows the LORA network to penetrate various buildings and terrains, making it stable and having coverage advantages.
  • Low power consumption. LoRa uses long-range transmission technology, which can achieve long-distance transmission with relatively low power, thereby reducing energy consumption during the transmission process.
  • Good network transmission performance. LoRa uses linear frequency modulation spread spectrum modulation technology, which can maintain the low power consumption characteristic of frequency shift keying (FSK), and also support spreading technology to increase communication distance and improve network anti-jamming and communication ability.
  • Wide coverage and high capacity. It supports processing data from multiple nodes through a gateway/concentrator, and the communication distance can reach more than 15km (related to the environment).
  • Easy to deploy and low cost. LoRa network works in unlicensed frequency bands, and in terms of operation and deployment, the terminal module cost is about $5.

  • What is LoRaWAN?

    LoRaWAN is a media access control (MAC) layer protocol maintained by the LoRa Alliance, a non-profit technology alliance. It is designed to allow low-powered devices to communicate with Internet-connected applications over long range wireless connections.

    LoRaWAN Network Architecture

    LoRaWAN Network Architecture

    (Source: https://www.cardinalpeak.com)

    LoRaWAN Network Architecture:

  • Node Module: responsible for data collection or executing actions;
  • Gateway Module: the gateway module is divided into two types. The first type only handles data forwarding, similar to a courier transit station. It does not handle unpacking and does not know what kind of goods are inside the courier package. (Our LG1301-PF LoRaWAN belongs to this type). The second type can handle data processing within the gateway. In fact, the second type of module implements a small LoRaWAN server software, which is responsible for managing node modules and data parsing output, input encryption, etc.
  • Server: responsible for processing, saving, displaying and other tasks for the data collected by the node module. The principle of the second type of gateway module mentioned above is designed based on the server.

  • LoRaWAN Working Mode:

    LoRaWAN has a star or star-to-star topology structure, in which nodes can only send data to the gateway, and nodes cannot communicate with each other. The same goes for gateways, which cannot communicate with each other.

    Multiple node modules communicate with a single gateway through send-receive. The gateway has eight independent channels, each corresponding to a specific frequency and can receive all spreading factors (SF). The transmission interval is randomly selected and each packet is sent through a randomly selected channel, significantly reducing the possibility of data collision. Different SFs will not interfere with each other, allowing for the implementation of Automatic Data Rate (ADR) technology.

    Star-to-star lorawan topology structure

    Star-to-star topology structure

    (Source: https://nicerf.com)

    Difference between LoRa and LoRaWAN

    LoRa is a physical layer transmission technology (PHY) that allows devices to exchange information. LoRaWAN is a medium access control layer (MAC) protocol but primarily used as a network layer protocol intended for device-to-infrastructure communication, and it manages communication between LoRaWAN gateways and endpoint devices. It adds networking, routing, uplink and downlink scheduling to optimize battery usage, and most importantly, improves security. Overall, LoRaWAN is a technology that uses LoRa modules to set parameters or transmit signals according to certain rules.

    The difference between LoRa and LoRaWAN

    The difference between LoRa and LoRaWAN

    (Source: https://www.choovio.com)

    Main differences between LoRa and LoRaWAN:

  • Different types of transmission technology: LoRa is a physical layer transmission technology with typical characteristics of long distance, low power consumption, and relatively low speed. LoRaWAN is a set of protocol standards based on the MAC layer on top of the LoRa physical layer transmission technology, which is a network technology.
  • Components and interfaces of LoRaWAN: LoRaWAN includes LoRaWAN nodes, LoRaWAN gateways, and the LoRaWAN protocol and data cloud platform, there are two interfaces: one is the data interface between the sensor and the gateway to ensure that the data is transmitted to the network; The other is the data interface between the LoRaWAN protocol and data cloud platform and the user's application to transmit network data to the application.
  • Other differences Compared to LoRa, the advantages of LoRaWAN are: better compatibility, many different sensor nodes from different manufacturers can be connected to the same LoRaWAN network, larger capacity, more secure authentication, and more convenient expansion and upgrades.

  • Conclusion

    LoRa is a low-power, long-range communication technology that uses a unique frequency-hopping spread spectrum modulation to balance low power consumption and long-range communication. LoRaWAN is a communication protocol based on LoRa technology that provides end-to-end encryption, authentication, and management, making it easier and more secure for devices to communicate with each other in large-scale networks. LoRa and LoRaWAN can be used in wide-ranging applications, including: Internet of Things, Logistics and Supply Chain Management,Smart Agriculture, City safety and Intelligent Transportation Systems.