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5 February 2016

Increased LoRa demand spurs KPN and Actility Dutch network acceleration

Dutch telco KPN has announced that its plans for a national LoRa network have been moved up a gear – promising to complete the network in the first half of 2016, rather than by the end of the year as initially planned. Also down in New Zealand this week, KotahiNet has just completed its LoRa deployment in Wellington.

Working with Actility, a company that also offers energy management systems to utilities, the pair have so far covered Rotterdam and The Hague. They report that demand for LoRa in the Netherlands has been bigger than initially expected, and so poles in the rest of the country will be equipped with LoRa antennae in the “very short term.”

For KPN, the addition of these LoRa base stations should be a fairly simple process, as it already has access to the telecoms and mobile infrastructure needed to locate the antennae at existing cell-tower locations. Due to its experience, it won’t need to negotiate the access deals that new entrants might have to like with local regulators.

Once the access points are in place, Actility’s expertise comes to the fore, with its cloud management and services experience. In addition to the KPN, it also has LoRa deals with Swisscom, NKE Electronics, La Poste, and a trial with Finnish broadcast network operator Digita.

With the KPN deployment, the Dutch MNO will be using Actility’s ThingPark platform, which starts at the base station and also encompasses the ETSI oneM2M-based cloud services that manage the connections.

Actility also provides the ThingPark IoT Enabler Program – which consists of the ThingPark Cloud Big Data storage, the ThingPark Cloud application development interface for prospective adopters, as well as the ThingPark Store and Cocoon – a software development environment for gateway developers looking to connect devices and sensors to a ThingPark gateway, that caters for WiFi, ZigBee, Modbus, KNX, MBus, and 6LoWPAN.

Roaming is also a key requirement for global networks, and KPN has said that it is often asked for by interested parties, particularly for the Benelux region as well as France.

And on that topic, a less-discussed aspect of France’s potential Orange and Bouygues merger would be the combination of the two major French LoRa networks – which both have ambitions for national deployments. If merged, the two projects should enjoy plentiful resources to layer the country with LoRa gateways, but M&A activity often leads to project cancellations and departmental cutbacks.

But both Bouygues and Orange have publicly been very enthusiastic about LoRa and LPWAN. In fact, combining the two networks might ensure better service in the field, as there have been some concerns about clashes and interoperability issues between two private LoRa networks operating in proximity to each other – effectively drowning out some of the devices in the field and requiring more extensive base station deployments to provide a guaranteed connection.

While those fears have yet to be realized at scale, due to the fledgling nature of the national projects, Bouygues has set up a dedicated LoRa division called Objenious this week, that will oversee the installation of some 4,000 base stations by the end of 2016, covering the 15 largest cities. With the potential for overlaps between the Bouygues and Orange network, should the two networks be merged by an acquisition, it will be interesting to see what challenges are thrown up in trying to mesh the two together at the cloud layer.