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Thursday, October 19, 2017

New LoRaWAN protocol simplifies device deployment and management for global roaming

By Nick Flaherty at

The LoRa Alliance has tackled one of the main drawbacks with low power IoT networks in its latest protocol specification.

New features include roaming and separation of backend nodes, which will enable IoT devices to connect to and move between LPWANs around the world. This supports large-scale deployments and enables new global services such as cargo tracking. These are critical elements for effective IoT roll out:
  • LoRaWAN 1.1 adds support for handover roaming, and Class B and security enhancements, and Regional Parameters rev. A describes region-specific radio parameters for LoRaWAN 1.1 end-devices 
  • LoRaWAN Backend Interfaces 1.0 adds support for decomposing the network into interoperable nodes, as required for inter-vendor roaming 
The support for roaming will allow for large-scale deployments, since vendors will know that their LoRaWAN protocol-based products could potentially operate worldwide. At the same time, the new backend specification provides the protocols that interconnect servers with distinct roles––such as controlling the MAC layer, end-point authentication, or applications––behind the scenes in the core network. Separating these servers allows an open choice of vendors for each element of the value chain rather than requiring an end-to-end, global system.

The 1.1 specification also includes support for handover roaming, which allows transferring control of the end-device from one LoRaWAN network to another. Earlier versions of this specification can already be used for passive roaming, which is transparent to the end-device. 
Bidirectional end-devices with scheduled receive slots (Class B) are part of the specification enhancements and are now officially supported. 
With enhancements for additional security hardening, both LoRaWAN 1.1 end-devices and networks will support backward compatibility to interoperate with their LoRaWAN 1.0.x legacy peers. This will support heterogeneous deployments and not force a globally coordinated upgrade.

The Backend Interfaces 1.0 Specification includes the ability to break down the network into network server (NS), join server (JS) and application server (AS) and enables roaming for both LoRaWAN 1.0.x (passive roaming only) and LoRaWAN 1.1 networks (both passive and handover roaming). It allows the server to identify the entity that stores end-device credentials (including root keys) as JS and can be separated from networks and administered by an entity independent of the networks that the end-device may be using. This allows networks to offload the authentication procedure to a dedicated system, which can also be operated by a third party. This third-party JS also enables an end-device to be manufactured without having to be personalized for the networks it may eventually be connecting to. 

The alliance met in China this week, backed by ZTE. "Based on the LoRaWAN specification, ZTE CLAA leads the operation of the world's largest application alliance (850+ members, 100+ application types, 40+ commercial applications). With its strategic partners, ZTE CLAA tries to expand the city-level LoRaWAN network operation; with terminal and application partners, ZTE CLAA provides abundant, comprehensive IoT solutions,” said the company 

 “The importance of China in the global electronics supply chain is a key reason we are bringing the Alliance members together in Suzhou,” said Geoff Mulligan, chairman of the LoRa Alliance. “With today’s specifications extending the reach of the LoRaWAN protocol, now is an ideal time to engage with our colleagues in China to address their market-specific requirements. Only through the collaboration of all of our global ecosystem in a single standard can we advance members’ interests and drive the ongoing adoption of LoRaWAN technology.”

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