Sunday, December 13, 2015

Certify or not?

First ever LoRa product passed LoRaWAN protocol compliance certification tests in Espotel laboratory earlier this week. The LoRa Alliance will ratify certifications and publish them, thus I post no names here yet.

LoRaWAN introduction video in Youtube by LoRa Alliance.

Device manufacturer may wonder whether it is mandatory to certify every LoRa product? Yes and no. The cleverness of the LoRa technology is that it enables both public and private network use. Public network is like cellular network, there is an operator in place which provides commercial connectivity service. Private network is more like setting up your own WiFi access point - You do not need to ask permission to do so and you don't pay anything for the use of the wireless connectivity.

Why to certify? Public network operators want to ensure compatibility in between end-nodes and gateways, as well as guarantee quality of service. The end-device must meet certain minimum specifications, otherwise operator can not guarantee any performance level. If connectivity is bad, customer thinks it's operator's fault, not due to the device itself. These are the reasons why most public network operators require that every connected device must be LoRaWAN certified.

In case of private network use, there is no law that requires you to certify any product. It's your gateway and your device, you can do whatever you wish as long as regulatory requirements are met. Regulatory requirements means that product is CE labeled in the EU or FCC approved in the US. Regulatory requirements typically define things like maximum transmit power, maximum bandwidth and maximum duty-cycle.

The dual nature of the LoRa technology - managed for public use and license free for private use enables also new types of operations, crowdsourced Internet of Things like The Things Network which is a new type of establishing connectivity. The Things Network is based on voluntary network sharing. You may set up a gateway to get IoT connectivity for your devices, and simultaneously provide it for your neighbors. There is no central control, it's an anarchistic model - you do not need to set up a gateway of your own to benefit from connectivity provided by others. This is fundamentally different to many of the similar WiFi network sharing services introduced in the past.

In order to use crowdsourced network like The Things Network, the end-device must be LoRaWAN compatible - otherwise it just simply doesn't work. However, as it open to everybody without centralized control, there is nobody who could require and verify LoRaWAN certification for end-devices. In private networks even LoRaWAN compliance is not mandatory. Connectivity can be established directly a top of LoRa MAC, assuming your gateway supports that.

Professional customers who prefer to have certain SLA for the network service and wish not to trust on good will of people in the neighborhood, must use public service provided by commercial operators. For that the device manufacturer must get LoRaWAN certification to the product. And that means it's good time now to be a LoRa certification laboratory... :-)

PS. Frequently asked questions on LoRaWAN certification at Espotel site:


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