iot growth

Why Most LPWA Providers Cannot Support the IoT as It Grows

The press and analysts agree that the Internet of Things will continue to grow for many years to come. A key capability any wireless provider needs in order to serve the IoT now and in the future, is the the ability to scale with its growth. Other LPWA technologies cannot scale because they, by design, do not support transmit power control, among other involved capabilities. Let’s explore how that impacts scalability. Suppose that a tower, call it Y, is filled to capacity, and you build another tower nearby, call it Z, that can serve some of Y’s endpoints.

Because other LPWA providers have no notion of reducing signal power (e.g., Sigfox’s UNB, LoRaWAN), those endpoints will continue broadcasting signal as powerfully, or “loudly” as before. As such, tower Y will still hear all the endpoints it heard before tower Z was built. Moreover, when tower Z gets its own endpoints, many of those will be within listening distance of tower Y. This means that tower Y’s old endpoints will not only be heard by tower Z, but will still be heard by tower Y. So in net, no capacity was added! And adding another AP nearby will not solve this problem. The APs will hear each others’ endpoints reducing their prior capacity and then additional endpoints will reduce the old capacity even further.

network scalability

In short, any additional endpoints added to new APs will interfere with the old APs. This is the opposite of network scalability. This means that once such a public network reaches capacity it is done, forever. This also means businesses with growth plans who were planning to continue to add devices will be unable to. Those organizations with devices already on the network will suffer performance degradation.

And the “success” story becomes even worse. Some technologies have private networks and proposed public networks that would operate side by side with no coordination in the 900 MHz band. The private networks would act like shadow APs interfering with public network buildouts. This effect actually expands to other 900 MHz network providers as well as they operate on the same band. And unlike the 2.4 GHz band, which has 80MHz of band to operate on, the 900 MHz band is much more limited. A network deployed in bands with limited available spectrum or using technology with limited spectral agility, will lead to degradation and failure. And as before, this is not addressable by any means other than a complete sunsetting of the old technology and replacing it with new technology capable of capacity scaling.

Success to Failure Scenario #2: Network fills to capacity but lack of network scalability leads to network overload and thus network failure leaving devices stranded.

Read our white paper, How RPMA Works, to learn how RPMA is uniquely able to provide network scalability.