For a long period of time, Sigfox and LoRa were the primary companies competing within the area of LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Networks). The two technologies are quite similar, but what type of devices are they best suited for? And is one of them better than the other?
Low power and low costs
Let us start with a brief introduction to Sigfox:
Sigfox is a technology capable of sending small packages of data over a range of up to 30 km. The technology can send data over a wider range than other LPWA technologies, as it uses a slower modulation rate. Sigfox has a limit of being able to send 140 messages daily. Moreover, Sigfox is available in 72 countries, and it is compatible with other types of technologies, such as Bluetooth, GPS 2G/3G or 4G and Wifi, and combining Sigfox with other technologies may improve the user experience. If you need a network technology for simple monitoring or metering applications, you may want to consider Sigfox, as it has the lowest cost radio modules in contrast to LoRa and NB-IoT. Hence, Sigfox works well with IoT devices running at a low power level, as you are guaranteed low costs as well.
Sigfox is said to be the most basic of the LPWA technologies, as it mainly allows for uplink, which is when communication runs from the IoT device to the server ground and up to a satellite (one-way communication). Hence, in the case of downlink (sending data back to a device), you may be challenged by disturbances regarding the signal. However, depending on the country in which you operate, Sigfox may not always be the most suitable technology. Since it was developed in Europe, the Sigfox transmission is too long according to the FCC (the Federal Communications Commission) regulations in the US. Therefore, Sigfox may be easier to work in Europe, since it was created by a French company and tested in Europe.
Benefits of LoRa
LoRa is a Low Power Wide Area Network, which means that it can send small data packages over wide areas. LoRa is somewhat similar to Sigfox, as it is also mainly uplink applications, in which it sends data from sensors to a gateway with multiple end-points, but it may also receive ‘downlinks’, meaning you can send data back to the device, which is needed if you must update the firmware on you IoT devices. In contrast to Sigfox, LoRa spread out the information on different frequency channels, which decreases the chances of the messages interfering with each other. Ultimately, this increases the capacity of the gateway. Also, LoRa is secured in a better way, as it entails authentication and encryption. Moreover, LoRa is good for single-building applications and devices using LoRa have a battery life of up to 10 years (longer than NB-IoT).
LoRa is often used for smart metering, tracking of vehicles and can be used both indoor and outdoor in smart cities. In general, LoRa is a good choice, if you need to control a wide area and have devices running at a low power consumption.
Which technology to choose?
You have probably read this before, but the right choice of technology always depends on the context and purpose of the IoT devices. Do you want to be able to change the location of devices occasionally and do you need to receive alerts? Are you operating in only one country? Then consider using LoRa, Sigfox, or perhaps both of them, but it depends on which country you are operating in. Sigfox is not available in many countries, whereas LoRa is available in most countries and therefore a possibility for most people.
However, if you want to manage your own network, you should choose LoRa. Sigfox and LoRa are working within more or less the same markets. If you need command-and-control functionalities, then LoRa might be better, and if you only need applications that send small amounts of data like meters, then Sigfox might also be a good choice.
- Link Labs. (n.d.). SigFox Vs. LoRa: A Comparison Between Technologies & Business Models
- Semtech. (n.d.). Why LoRa?
- Cibicom (n.d.) LoRaWAN – Åben, Global IoT-standard
- Sigfox. (n.d.) SIGFOX, THE 0G NETWORK