What is LPWA? Compare major 5 technologies


Complements cellular and short-range communication technology

What is “LPWA” ?

LPWA stands for Low Power Wide Area, a communication technology that provides a wide range of power-saving (Low Power) and wide-range/long-distance / (Wide Are) technologies.

Communication technologies include cellular technologies such as smartphones and Wi-Fi routers, as well as short-range communication technologies such as Bluetooth, which is used in wireless earphones and mouse, and RFID, which has recently been used for UNIQLO shop price tags, but this LPWA is a technology that just complements that.

LPWA is a technology designed for IoT

So what is the use of / power-saving, wide-range/long-distance technology?

It’s for IoT. In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of “things” that communicate outside of people’s use, such as smartphones and Wi-Fi routers, and it has become used, for example, for inventory management of automobiles, surveillance cameras, electric meters, vending machines, and monitoring elevators. This type of communication is called Internet of Things (IoT).

Some of these IoT products, like surveillance cameras, communicate as much data as smartphones, while others, like electric meters, communicate only very small amounts of data and low frequency at a rate of several times a day or days. LPWA is an ideal technology for smaller and less frequent data communications compared to smartphone data volume, such as the latter.


Low cost for IoT

IoT can also be used in the same rate plan as the smartphone, but since the data communication volume is small and the communication frequency is very small, it will be more expensive in the fee structure of the smartphone that will be 1,000 JPY or more in the basic fee and communication fee. In addition, IoT often uses a large number of terminals, so if the basic and communication charges of communication are high, the cost-effectiveness will be small and the efficiency by IoT will not be found. In other words, today’s cellular services are too much for IoT. LPWA is equipped with technology that takes into account the amount of communication and frequency o fIoT devices.

There’s one more reason LPWA is needed for IoT: That’s power consumption.

In the case of a smartphone, the user can continue to use without lying out of battery by charging every day, but in order to continue using IoT devices, someone must perform this charging work. For example, in the case of IoT for automobiles and IoT for vending machines, things have batteries, so you can charge your IoT devices from there.

Low power consumption for IoT

On the other hand, IoT devices that periodically measure the water quality of rice fields and send data, and IoT devices for bicycles that periodically send location information to prevent bicycle theft, can’t be charged because things with IoT devices don’t have batteries. That is, if the battery runs out, it needs to be replaced.

In order to minimize the number of battery replacement tasks, IoT devices must consume as little power consumption as possible, but if you use the same communication method as your smartphone, the ioT device’s battery will be gone in no time because the communication base station and data will be exchanged at a rate of once every few seconds. LPWA also has technology to achieve low power consumption to solve this battery problem

LPWA is a technology designed to close the gap between existing communications technologies and the technologies required by IoT devices.


LWPA is cellular and non-cellular

There are several technologies developed for LPWA, but they are largely divided into cellular standards(3GPP standard) and non-cellular systems. Cellular technologies include LTE-M and NB-IoT (Narrow Band IoT), while non-cellular technologies include Sigfox, RoLa, and Wi-Fi HaLow.

Because of the characteristics of each technology, you need to choose the LPWA technology that you want to use depending on the use case of how you want to use IoT devices.

LPWA is used in familiar places such as smart meters and smart homes

Where will LPWA be used for low power consumption, low volume, and low frequency of communication?

LPWA is expected to be used in a variety of locations, including electric meters and gas meters that measure electricity and gas consumption, home security monitoring systems, elderly health care for the elderly living alone, and water quality and temperature control at fish farms.

As you can see, the use of LPWA will spread where what has been done through hand at lower cost.


LPWA is just getting started, but it could spread all at once in the future!

LTE-M and NB-IoT were standardized in 2016 by Cellular Standards Organization 3GPP. Later, device manufacturers and infrastructure vendors developed products using these technologies, and in 2017 carriers gradually developed an infrastructure for LTE-M and NB-IoT, and these services were launched. Kyocera Communication Systems also launched its Sigfox service in Japan in 2017, and many companies started providing LoRA at the same time. IoT using LPWA is just getting started. In Japan, labor shortages due to population decline are becoming a serious problem, so it is expected that the efficiency of operations using IoT will accelerate at once. In doing so, it is expected that many IoT devices using LPWA will be utilized, and LPWA will spread at once along with it.