LoRaWAN roaming explained

LoRaWAN roaming explained

Like roaming on any other connectivity protocol, roaming on LoRaWAN is an integral functionality defined by the interface specification in the backend. LoRaWAN roaming enables different networks across various countries to combine their coverage zones to provide more connectivity to LoRA end devices and gateways beyond their home country. Besides this traditional utilization of roaming (to extend the network coverage of each service provider by “outsourcing” traffic), LoRaWAN also features a unique roaming functionality known as network densification. This allows numerous networks with overlapping coverage to provide densified coverage.

Who needs LoRaWAN Roaming?

While the requirements of most LoRaWAN use cases can likely be met using the local or national coverage provided by a single carrier, there are various scenarios in which roaming would be integral to the overall functionality of the IoT network. For example:

  • Deploying IoT projects for an internationally active company. The company can establish connectivity contracts with local operators from all countries, where the company is operating LoRaWAN end-devices and gateways.
  • Deploying an international LoRaWAN product.
  • Roaming capabilities may protect LoRaWAN devices against theft across borders. Local coverage does not have the capabilities to track the location and other object data, once it is moved beyond the coverage of the home network. But with roaming enabled, expensive IoT assets can be tracked internationally.

Hand-over roaming, stateful, and stateless passive roaming

Hand-over roaming, is the type of roaming you may experience when travelling abroad with your phone, where your SIM switches to an entirely different carrier that has an established partnership with your home carrier.

The roaming process for LoRaWAN is entirely transparent to the end device and is also frequently called passive roaming. During passive roaming, end devices do not switch to another carrier but stay connected to the home network, where your packets will be forwarded. Essentially, your home network becomes your gateway to utilize the coverage provided by roaming partners. Passive roaming can be further divided up into stateful passive roaming and stateless passive roaming.

During stateful passive roaming, your home network has to permit device roaming on each forwarding network and for each device. Since there are dozens of networks and thousands of end devices that need to be enabled, stateful passive roaming is the less attractive option. Additionally, stateful passive roaming only works on LoRaWAN 1.1, which doesn’t have any compatible devices.

During stateless passive roaming, as the name suggests, all the messages are being transmitted without checking for permissions. Stateless passive roaming runs on all LoRaWAN versions and does not require massive device session management, and is particularly suitable for companies who need all their devices to roam.

The benefits of passive roaming are further fueled by LoRaWANs aforementioned macro-diversity (end device frames received by multiple gateways). Ultimately LoRaWAN roaming cannot only be utilized by mobile devices, such as location sensors or asset tracking end devices, but also by fixed, stationary devices, such as water level sensors, smoke detectors, and more, as these may benefit from macro-diversity and network densification.


What is the difference between LoRa and LoRaWAN?

LoRaWAN specifies the standard communication protocol and system architecture for the network layer, while LoRa defines the physical layer, which enables the ”long range” communication capabilities. The network and protocol architecture have the most notable impact in dictating a node’s network capacity, quality of service, battery life, security, and the variety of applications served by the network.

LoRaWAN refers to a network protocol using LoRa chips for communication. It is based on the base station that can monitor 8 frequencies with multiple spreading factors, with almost 42 channels.

LoRa refers to a wireless modulation that allows for ultra low power communications. It is possible to use LoRa modulation as point to point or star network without LoRaWAN. Also it could be possible to operate LoRaWAN like a network with other radio link, but this would not be really practical.

What is the LoRa alliance?

The LoRa Alliance is an independent, non-profit organization that aims to promote the interoperability and standardization of low-power wide area network (LPWAN) technologies. Along with this, it aims to foster the growth and large-scale adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) and, consequently, to enforce it. By continuously spreading the Long-Range WAN protocol (LoRaWAN) to establish it as a future global standard, the LoRa Alliance is of the opinion that entire cities up to complete countries can be covered with only a few base stations and thus a nationwide availability of LoRaWAN can be achieved. Roaming partners of LoRaWAN are all members of the LoRa alliance.

What is a LoRaWAN gateway?

The task of the gateway is to receive and forward the data between the end device and the server. Most commonly, the gateway provides uplink communication for IoT sensor devices to communicate with the server. The throughput to the desired application interface (API) takes place via a secure LoRaWAN protocol connection, which further sends the data to the server.

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