Tencent backs LoRa, Actility wins national Thai deal with CAT Telecom

The LoRa Alliance has won the backing of another cloud computing giant, with Chinese titan Tencent announcing that it too was joining the LPWAN alliance, following a similar move by Google. Also in the world of LoRa, CAT Telecom has picked Actility to help install a national network in Thailand.

Notably, the Tencent announcement sings the praises of LoRa-rival NB-IoT, the licensed LPWAN (L-LPWAN) offering backed by the cellular community. China has been a hotbed of activity for both NB-IoT and LoRa, and so it is interesting that Tencent appears interested in both to this extent.

Huixing Wang, VP of Tencent Cloud, said “LoRaWAN has seen rapid growth, and we feel it is highly complementary to NB-IoT in the LPWAN market. Joining the LoRa Alliance will allow us to influence LoRaWAN development, advance IoT adoption, and strengthen our cloud business by building close partnerships with other LoRaWAN vendors around the world.”

For the LoRa Alliance, CEO Donna Moore said “the number of relevant use cases for the IoT continues to grow with new applications in continuous development. Projections for China’s IoT market are significant, and LoRaWAN is very well positioned in the LPWAN space. Having Tencent join the LoRa Alliance is very valuable for our ecosystem and strengthens our presence in the Asia-Pacific region.”

So, the announcement does convey that the LPWAN space is shifting from an all-or-nothing approach. Riot has expected this shift to occur between the L-LPWAN and the U-LPWAN options, but still expects competition between the likes of LoRa and Sigfox on national projects.

Our view is that the L-LPWAN options (LTE Cat-M1, Cat-M2, Cat-NB1, and Cat-NB2) are better able to provide SLA and QoS services, for which they can charge higher premiums. The U-LPWAN market, which really backed itself into a corner with its collective race to the bottom, is now looking at providing low-cost, and therefore low-value coverage options, for the types of applications that don’t require SLA guarantees.

Now, that’s still a huge opportunity for the U-LPWAN vendors, and LoRa in particular has strong potential in campus-based deployments, where a handful of gateways could power thousands of devices at a fraction of the cost of a L-LPWAN deployment. Similarly, project-based deployments in areas underserved by L-LPWAN will remain lucrative.

But the MNOs and their L-LPWAN packages have a huge advantage when it comes to marketing and brand power. As such, LoRa advocates will be pleased that a company as influential as Tencent has taken an interest. Akin to a China-focused Google, Tencent’s cloud computing services will be the main area that LoRa crops up, as the company looks to ensure that its customers can link devices with cloud-based applications.

In Thailand, Actility has won the business of CAT Telecom, to install a national LoRa network based on Actility’s ThingPark platform. Starting in Phuket and then moving to Bangkok, the roll out will be helped by Teo Hong Silom, a Thai systems integrator.  The network will support a smart city project in Phuket, as part of the national government’s Thailand 4.0 agenda, and CAT will be providing a LoRa platform to customers looking to build their own IoT services.

Olivier Hersent, CEO of Actility, comments: “We’re very proud that our platform has been selected by CAT Telecom. This is a big win for Actility, demonstrating once again that ThingPark Wireless is the preferred solution for national commercial IoT network rollouts worldwide. We’re delighted to welcome CAT Telecom to the community of over 50 operators already using ThingPark-powered networks to support innovation in IoT applications and services. We’re also glad to be able to help CAT encourage innovation with a developer platform and a series of hackathons across the country.”

While national LoRa networks aren’t exactly doing gangbusters numbers, they are growing. There was a brief period where it looked like LoRa could be a nice alternative for an MNO to use to cater for IoT customers, but the improved capabilities of Cat-M2 and NB2 have nixed that idea. Similarly, those operators with both LoRa and L-LPWAN aren’t exactly vocal about the offerings – there’s not much enthusiasm on display.