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Orange confirms it will go large with LoRa for IoT


© Orange

  • Orange’s LoRa network to be deployed in 17 French urban areas
  • National rollout will follow
  • Developer tools for prototyping LoRa technology-based services
  • Orange will also work to standardise 2G and 4G for IoT

Are we looking at a hybrid future for carrier IoT? French telco Orange has today announced that it is to extend its trial IoT network using LoRa technology to cover the whole of France. It will commence the deployment in the first quarter of next year in 17 urban locations, including Paris, and will then gradually roll out coverage nationwide.

LoRa is a low-power, long-range wireless technology developed by semiconductor firm Semtec, which is rapidly gaining a strong foothold in the IoT space. It sits broadly between cellular and WiFi, and is seen by many as the perfect network to support massive IoT deployments. Low power wide area (LPWA) networks, of which LoRa is a leading example, also play nicely with cellular, and can act as a second platform for mobile operators with consolidated management and billing.

Back in September, Orange CEO Stéphane Richard said: “Orange has an ambition to become the number one operator for the Internet of Things. To answer all the needs, we decided, as a supplement to the cellular networks, to deploy a national network dedicated to objects that need narrow-band connectivity, and also to low energy consumption. This network, based on the technology LoRa, will gradually open from the first quarter of 2016.”

Being so invested in cellular, Orange isn’t giving up on mobile for IoT just yet. The telco also said today that it is continuing standardisation work on optimising 2G and 4G networks for IoT, which it expects will be operational in 2017. By the end of this year, Orange and Ericsson are due to perform the first usage trial of these 2G/4G IoT networks, focusing primarily on coverage in difficult locations, such as basements, and on sensor life and power consumption. For 2G, it will be testing EC-GSM (extended coverage GSM), and for 4G it will be investigating Category 0 LTE with PSM (power saving mode).

Note the lack of mention of 3G here. That’s because any 3G-based IoT deployments will quickly disappear, and be shared between the legacy 2G networks (where they still exist) and 4G. The advent of 5G will change things again, but we have the next five years to get through first.

Orange is now offering start-ups and industrial partners a turnkey connectivity kit to help prototype connected objects and create LoRa technology services. It can be used on the networks Orange is currently trialling in Grenoble and in the Paris region on two Orange sites. The data from the prototypes is processed by its Datavenue services platform.

Orange Business Services has expanded the Datavenue capabilities with two new complementary offerings – Live Objects, for connected objects, and Flexible Data, for data analysis.

Live Objects enables businesses to select connected objects or sensors from a catalogue of options, and then choose the most suitable connectivity option (cellular, LoRa or home gateway). It will the process and store data from objects, and integrate the relevant data into information systems for processing. Flexible Data is a Big Data environment comprising data analysis applications, a private data sharing space, and a secure cloud infrastructure.

Orange says it wants to generate €600m of revenues from IoT by 2018 and intends to play a role throughout the IoT value chain. Interestingly, Orange is not a member of the LoRa Alliance, unlike its local rival Bouygues Telecom.

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