Low-Power Wide Area (LPWA)

What is It?

A low-power wide area network (LPWAN) is a connectivity technology that transfers data between low-bandwidth, battery-operated devices over long distances. It is designed to address the specific needs of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, offering long-range communication and low power consumption.

LPWAN vs Wi-Fi and Cellular

Compared to Wi-Fi, which excels in providing high-speed connections within a limited range, LPWAN offers a much wider coverage area. Additionally, LPWAN consumes considerably less power, allowing devices to operate on a battery for extended periods. This makes it a preferred solution for remote and energy-constrained environments.

When comparing LPWAN and cellular networks, the main difference lies in the data requirements. While cellular networks are built for high-data-rate applications like streaming media, LPWAN is more cost-effective and optimized for low-data-rate applications that require long battery life.

How LPWAN Works

LPWAN provides versatile support for packet sizes ranging from 10 to 1,000 bytes, allowing efficient data transmission, and the operating range from a few kilometres in urban areas to over 10 km in rural settings. A predominant feature of most LPWANs is their star topology, where distributed endpoint devices, including sensors and actuators, establish connections with central access points.

Despite varying types of networks, encoding and data transmission techniques remain consistent. LPWANs employ modulation methods to transfer data effectively over extended distances, minimizing interference. This involves error-correcting codes, wide frequency band spreading, and reducing the data rate.

LPWAN vs LoRa™ and LoRaWAN®

LPWAN refers to a type of wireless communication technology that enables long-range and low-power transmission of data packets between devices. On the other hand, LoRa™ and LoRaWAN are often used interchangeably but refer to different aspects of the same technology.

LoRa™ (Long Range) is a patented modulation technique that allows for long-range communication in a power-efficient manner. It uses Chirp Spread Spectrum (CSS) modulation to provide long-distance connectivity.

In comparison, LoRaWAN® stands for Long Range Wide Area Network and is a communication protocol built on top of the LoRa™ modulation technique. Transferring data to gateways over long distances is the answer to how LoRaWAN sensors work within this framework.

There is also secure and bi-directional communication possible between LoRaWAN devices and a centralized network server, providing low-power operation and scalability.

Industries for LPWAN Adaptation

LPWAN technology is used in various industries for a wide range of applications:

  • Smart metering: remote monitoring of utility meters, cost savings, improved efficiency.
  • Precision agriculture: automated monitoring of soil moisture, irrigation, and crop growth.
  • Smart cities: management of transportation, waste management, street lighting.
  • Industrial IoT: energy management, process optimization, operating cost reduction.
  • Logistics: real-time monitoring of goods and assets, theft reduction, inventory optimization.
  • Healthcare: remote patient monitoring, better patient care, reduced hospital visits.
  • Environmental monitoring: tracking air quality, water quality, and weather conditions.
  • Asset management: inventory control, loss prevention, maintenance improvement.
  • Warehousing and retail: stock level optimization, improved order fulfillment processes.
  • Building automation: centralized monitoring of lighting, HVAC, and security systems.

Use Cases

With LPWAN’s diverse capabilities, it becomes crucial to explore the specific use cases where this technology is well-suited. Here are some of the common examples that not only demonstrate the versatility of LPWAN but also highlight the significant benefits it brings to the respective industries.

Automated monitoring of soil moisture

In precision agriculture, LPWAN enables farmers to monitor soil moisture levels. With real-time data transmitted wirelessly, farmers can make informed decisions about irrigation schedules and optimize water usage. This improves crop yield, reduces water waste, and enhances overall agricultural sustainability.

Street lighting

LPWAN technology plays a vital role in smart city initiatives, including the management of street lighting systems. It enables remote monitoring and control of streetlights, allowing cities to adjust lighting levels based on conditions such as traffic patterns or pedestrian activity. This efficient management saves energy, decreases costs, and improves safety in urban areas.

Real-time monitoring of goods and assets

Low-Power Wide Area Networks facilitate real-time monitoring of goods and assets in logistics, for instance, LoRaWAN based asset-tracking. With LPWAN-enabled tracking devices, businesses can monitor the location, condition, and movement of goods throughout the supply chain. This technology not only helps reduce theft and improve inventory optimization but also enhances overall efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Remote patient monitoring

In the healthcare sector, LPWAN-connected devices can collect and transmit vital patient data like heart rate, blood pressure, or glucose levels, enabling healthcare professionals to monitor patients from a distance. This improves patient outcomes, reduces healthcare costs, and increases access to care, especially for people in remote locations.

Air quality tracking

Within the air quality tracking application, LPWAN-connected sensors, e.g., TEKTELIC Breeze, can collect data on pollutants in the air, providing real-time information about air quality levels in specific locations. This data enables governments and organizations to take proactive measures to reduce pollution, protect public health, and decide on urban planning and resource allocation.

LPWAN Benefits

Primary advantages of LPWAN include the following:

  • Cost-effective connectivity. LPWAN technology offers a cost-efficient solution for connecting many devices over long ranges. Consequently, it works perfectly for use cases that require wide-area coverage.
  • Extended battery life. Low power consumption allows devices to operate on batteries for long periods, reducing the need for replacements or recharging. It is particularly important for devices in hard-to-access locations.
  • Scalability. LPWAN networks are designed to support a scalable number of devices. This means that as more devices are added to the network, there is no significant impact on performance or functionality.
  • Secure and reliable communication. LPWAN ensures data is transferred between devices and the network server safely and without interference, so it is suitable for applications that demand sensitive data transmission without compromising network capacity.


While LPWAN provides numerous benefits, it is essential to acknowledge its limitations. One significant constraint is the relatively low data rates these networks can handle compared to other wireless technologies. LPWANs prioritize power efficiency and long-range coverage over high data throughput, making them more suitable for transmitting small packets of information.

Another limitation is the sensitivity of LPWANs to signal interference and environmental conditions. Buildings, landscape features, and even weather patterns can degrade the signal quality, leading to potential data loss or unreliable connections. As a result, extensive planning and network optimization strategies are necessary to ensure consistent performance.

Additionally, LPWANs may experience latency issues due to the network’s design and communication protocols. This can be a problem for real-time applications that require immediate data transmission.

LPWAN’s limited bandwidth also restricts the number of devices that can be connected simultaneously, so scalability becomes a potential challenge for certain use cases.

Security Concerns

One of the major concerns regarding LPWAN is the potential for unauthorized access and data breaches. As LPWANs operate on unlicensed frequency bands, it becomes easier for attackers to eavesdrop on the network and intercept sensitive information. At the same time, LPWAN devices often have limited computing power, so it could be difficult to implement robust security protocols.

To mitigate these risks, industry experts stress the importance of using encryption techniques to secure data transmission over LPWANs. It is crucial for organizations to employ strong authentication methods to verify the legitimacy of devices connecting to the network. Regular security audits and firmware updates are also recommended to address any vulnerabilities.

Types of LPWANs

There are several different types of LPWANs that have emerged to meet the specific needs of IoT applications. Each LPWAN technology offers unique advantages and is suited for different use cases.

NB-IoT (Narrowband IoT)

NB-IoT is a licensed LPWAN technology that operates on cellular networks. It utilizes existing cellular infrastructure to provide connectivity for a vast number of IoT devices. NB-IoT offers excellent coverage, penetration, and efficiency, making it relevant for applications like utilities, smart metering, asset-tracking, and smart city deployments.

LoRaWAN® (Long Range Wide Area Network)

LoRaWAN® is an unlicensed technology that relies on the Industrial, Scientific, and Medical (ISM) radio bands. It utilizes a star-of-stars network architecture, where end devices communicate with LoRaWAN gateways, such as KONA Photon IoT Gateway, which act as intermediaries between the devices and the network server.


Sigfox is another unlicensed LPWAN that employs ISM bands. It offers low-cost, low-power connectivity for devices that transmit small data amounts infrequently. Sigfox utilizes ultra-narrowband technology and a unique network architecture to provide wide coverage and high penetration for asset tracking, supply chain management, environmental monitoring, etc.

LTE-M (Long-Term Evolution for Machines)

LTE-M is a licensed LPWAN that operates on existing LTE cellular networks. It provides a more cost-efficient solution for IoT connectivity compared to traditional cellular technologies. LTE-M offers low latency, higher data rates, and improved coverage, so it is appropriate for real-time applications like vehicle tracking, healthcare monitoring, and smart security systems.


Weightless is an unlicensed LPWAN technology designed specifically for IoT applications. It operates in the TV white space spectrum, which refers to the unused frequencies between TV channels. This technology provides long-range coverage and can penetrate obstacles, so it is feasible for smart metering, precision agriculture, infrastructure monitoring, and similar uses.


RPMA (Random Phase Multiple Access) is a noteworthy LPWAN technology that operates on the licensed spectrum and does well in ensuring long-range connectivity and low power consumption. For this reason, it is a good option for large-scale deployments in various industries, including smart cities and agriculture.


Unlike RPMA, EC-GSM-IoT leverages the licensed spectrum of existing 2G networks, giving it a wide coverage area. This technology is specifically designed for low-cost devices that need to transmit small amounts of data over long periods. It offers enhanced indoor coverage and extended battery life and is backward compatible with existing GSM networks.


DASH7 is a type of unlicensed LPWAN that depends on either the 433 MHz or 915 MHz ISM bands. It offers long-range communication, even in challenging environments, such as forests or urban areas, and can penetrate obstacles and handle interference. This way, DASH7 is a fitting technology for applications like asset tracking and remote sensing.


Finally, ELTRES by Sony is an LPWAN type designed to combine a broad variety of technologies belonging to Sony Semiconductor Solutions Group. This makes it possible to transmit information from sensors to cloud servers through wireless communication, where the data can be stored, processed, and displayed.


In conclusion, LPWAN technology offers significant advantages for various industries and applications in the world of IoT. Its long-range coverage, low power consumption, and cost-efficiency make it a viable choice for remote and energy-restricted environments.

LoRaWAN® solutions, such as TEKTELIC Asset Tracking Solution, or products compatible with NB-IoT, Sigfox, LTE-M, Weightless, and other LPWANs, each have their unique benefits and use cases.

However, LPWAN also has limitations to consider, for example, lower data rates, sensitivity to signal interference, latency issues, and security concerns. Nonetheless, with proper planning and optimization, LPWAN can provide secure and reliable connectivity for IoT devices.

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