Dutch telco KPN deploys LoRa IoT network across Netherlands

KPN has announced that its LoRa network has been activated across the Netherlands, with 1.5 million IoT connections under contract already.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Dutch telecommunications giant KPN has announced that its low-power, long-range, wide-area network (LoRa) enabling Internet of Things (IoT) applications is now available across the Netherlands.

According to The Hague-headquartered telco, which is a member of the LoRa Alliance alongside Bouyges Telecom, SK Telecom, and Swisscom, the Netherlands is the first country in the world to have a national LoRa network.

KPN's LoRa network supplements existing 2G, 3G, and 4G networks and relies on the hundreds of mobile transmission towers already across the country that have now been equipped with a LoRa antenna and gateway.

The Dutch LoRa network took eight months to roll out, with its first section going live in November last year in The Hague and Rotterdam. The network will be condensed over the next few months, with KPN to also make the localisation functionality available in that time.

"Last year, we identified an increasing demand for low-power network technology for Internet of Things applications. We are responding to this by choosing LoRa, so millions of devices can be connected to the internet in a cost-effective manner," Joost Farwerck, KPN's chief operations officer, said.

"In less than a year, KPN has implemented a network that allows us to satisfy this market demand."

The network simplifies connecting and optimising smart devices, with KPN saying 1.5 million devices have already been contracted to be connected to its LoRa network. IoT trials are also ongoing for such applications as baggage handling at Schiphol Airport, rail switch monitoring at Utrecht Central station, and depth sounding at the port of Rotterdam.

In Australia, the LoRa technology operates across the 918MHz-928MHz spectrum band, with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) arguing in favour of a default spectrum band for all IoT devices across the globe, or, alternatively, sensors that can identify which country a device is operating in.

Australian startup the National Narrowband Network (NNN) trialed its LoRa technology on Sydney's North Shore last August across 10 base stations covering 50-100 square kilometres, as did incumbent telco Telstra, which trialed LoRaWAN in Melbourne in November.

Instead of using cellular networks for the IoT, LoRa networks allow for extended coverage and less complex devices with higher battery life, meaning more connected devices.

NNN CEO Rob Zagarella said adaptable LoRa networks involve a more collaborative technology and allow a low-cost point of entry for more users to make use of the IoT.

"Low-power wide-area network technology was designed specifically to meet the low-power, low-throughput and link budget requirements of IoT," Zagarella said last year.

"It's adaptable, it doesn't need to be planned in the same way that an existing carrier technology does; it's designed to deal with a high level of interference, with random, unexpected signals, so there's no need to set aside specific spectrum for it; it uses a distributed RAN -- radio access network -- that accesses very low-cost and not very smart base stations that collect the data and transmit it back over a very large distance to the core without a lot of significant processing required, which again produces costs. And then, of course, there's a centralised network management infrastructure that manages that traffic across the network in a very optimal, efficient way.

"From NNN Co's perspective, we're in the business of enabling IoT, and we believe that to make IoT happen, we need the collection and use of data to be as simple and cost effective as possible."

Catherine Caruana-McManus, speaking on behalf of Australia's IoT Alliance, has also said that there has been growing interest in LoRa networks.

"We're seeing at the community level the opportunity around low-powered, long-range networks, LP-WAN, which is activating things around smart cities," said Caruana-McManus.

Chinese technology giant Huawei has also launched its narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) solution at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Shanghai overnight, saying it will have a large-scale commercialised IoT offering by the end of this year.

Huawei's NB-IoT solution will enable telecommunications providers to "turn IoT into a basic service", Huawei said.

Included in Huawei's low-power, wide-area NB-IoT solution is Huawei's LiteOS and NB-IoT chipset-enabled Smart Device Solution; base stations named eNodeB that adapt to NB-IoT; the "core in a box" network-function virtualisation (NFV) IoT Packet Core; and a big data-capable cloud-based IoT Connection Management Platform.

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