low-power-wide-area-networks-lpwansWi-Fi and mobile networks have built-in characteristics that make them unsuitable to connect small, low-power IoT components like sensors, smart locks, and smart lights to the internet.

A recent survey by Business Insider (BI) Intelligence expects that more than 24 billion IoT devices will be installed globally in 2020, and the vast majority of these will fall into the small, low-power category. The graphic (right) shows the explosion potential for LPWANs 2016 to 2021.

To counter this problem, Low Power Wide Area Networks (or LPWANs) are being developed. These type of networks are better suited and designed to connect these low-power IoT devices to the internet. LPWANs can connect devices over large geographic areas because of their long range, but use less battery power on the devices they connect and offer cheaper data subscriptions than traditional cellular networks. The graphic (below) shows that LPWAN technology is in a league of its own when it comes to network bandwidth and range. VSAT is the only real comparative but not really because we all know the costs involved are sky high!


Interest in LPWAN technology is growing exponentially among IoT providers and end users. The opportunities and benefits are too good to miss. For example, a local council in the UK wants to deploy parking sensors for a smart transportation project. They could significantly lower their costs by using a LPWAN instead of a mobile network. Other cost savings would materialise including savings on having to replace the batteries on the sensors far less frequently.

BI Intelligence estimates that the total number of IoT devices connected over LPWANs will reach 700 million by 2021. This represents remarkable growth for such a new technology that has little present adoption.