Team Up Blasts LoRaWAN Into Space for Satellite IoT Connectivity

January 17, 2022 by Jake Hertz

The LoRa (long-range) wireless protocol is picking up steam as Semtech and Lacuna team up to push the Internet of Things (IoT) communication into areas previously inaccessible.

The continual growth of IoT has placed a heavy industry emphasis on wireless communications and the development of protocols. At the same time, there remain many remote places in the world where standard cellular or Wi-Fi signals are unable to reach.

For this reason, the IoT field has seen an increase in focus on satellite connectivity, which could enable communication in these remote locations. 

One way to help achieve this is to use the LoRa wireless protocol, which has become an increasingly popular choice over the past couple of years.


Examples of LoRa system and applications. 

Examples of LoRa system and applications. Image used courtesy of DIgi-Key


In this article, we’ll discuss the trend of LoRa for satellite communication and how companies like Lacuna and Semtech are teaming up to support this.


Why LoRa for IoT and Satellites?

The biggest concerns are often power efficiency and cost when it comes to IoT. 

Achieving both of these becomes very difficult when faced with inherently long-range satellite communication, where a longer range requires more power. 


LoRa vs other popular protocol ranges. 

LoRa vs other popular protocol ranges. Image used courtesy of Semtech


Circumventing these challenges is where LoRa comes in. 

While presenting a lower bandwidth than competitors such as Wi-Fi, cellular, and Bluetooth, LoRA has been shown to consume less power, offer a more extended range, and come in at a cheaper cost than those mentioned above. 

LoRaWAN (wide-area network), affordable, simple to install, and low power, has been hailed by many as the top option for enabling satellite-based IoT devices.

With that in mind, let's take a look at utilizing LoRaWAN for satellite communications.


Adding LR-FHSS to LoRaWAN

For years, engineers had sought LoRaWAN for satellite communications, which there had been nothing more than proof of concepts. 

However, in 2020, the LoRa Alliance released LoRaWAN of Regional Parameters RP2-1.0.2

The new Regional Parameters included the addition of support for new long range-frequency hopping spread spectrum (LR-FHSS) parameters. This addition effectively made LoRaWAN capable of global satellite communication.

Including LR-FHSS effectively allows LoRaWAN communications to occupy multiple frequency bands during a single transmission, allowing LoRaWAN to be more reliable. It is less susceptible to local interference and an increased capacity, which are essential for long-range communications.

Since then, many companies worldwide have been testing and developing satellite communication-based IoT devices using the LoRaWAN protocol. Most recently, Lacuna and Semtech.


Lacuna and Semtech Team Up

Recently, Lacuna and Semtech made headlines when they announced a joint initiative to increase coverage and resilience of LoRaWAN connectivity further. 

Lacuna Space, a UK-based company, is best known as a provider of low-cost, battery-powered sensors designed for direct global satellite communication. 

On the other hand, Semtech is considered a leading supplier of analog and mixed-signal semiconductors and advanced algorithms. 

Both companies have focused heavily on LoRaWAN devices and applications for many years.


Lacuna Space and Semtech have teamed up to develop satellite-connected IoT devices using LoRaWAN.

Lacuna Space and Semtech have teamed up to develop satellite-connected IoT devices using LoRaWAN. Image used courtesy of Lacuna Space


Together, the collaboration is built on leveraging the LR-FHSS support introduced to LoRaWAN in 2020. 

By utilizing LR-FHSS, the companies could use LoRaWAN to occupy less room on the network, mitigating concerns of scaling and capacity while also making lower power and simpler IoT-satellite platforms.

All in all, the companies claim to currently have trials and demonstrations underway in many countries and regions, many of which were previously thought to be inaccessible to IoT. 

As it stands, the companies hope to bring commercial services to the market within the first half of 2022. 


Future for LoRa

As engineers have continued to develop satellite-connect IoT devices, the LoRa protocol has gained significantly in functionality and popularity. 

Now, with the collaboration between Lacuna and Semtech, we can expect to see LoRaWAN-based satellite connectivity being brought to market within the year. So far, 2022 is striking out to be a busy one for IoT communication advancements.