IoT Networks Get New Provider

M2M Spectrum picks Link Labs technology

Rick Merritt
10/25/2016 09:40 AM EDT

SAN JOSE, Calif. – A new low power wide area (LPWA) network for the Internet of Things joined the growing set of options. M2M Spectrum Networks will use over its licensed sub-GHz spectrum in the U.S. technology from Link Labs.

Over the next two years, M2M is expected to purchase as many as 10,000 base stations implementing Link Labs’ variant of LoRa called Symphony Link. Separately, Link Labs is gearing up a new IoT networking product line based on LTE-M.

A handful of startups are rolling out LPWA networks worldwide for IoT including Sigfox, LoRa and Ingenu. Cellular providers are countering with low power versions of LTE going into trials next year.

Symphony Link from Link Labs uses LoRa’s physical layer but adds its own synchronous protocol geared for sub-GHz unlicensed bands in the U.S. It supports downlinks at rates of up to 100 Kbits/second based on transmitting significantly more energy than the maximum used by LoRa of less than 1W. Symphony also implements a scheme for upgrading firmware over the air and sending compressed acknowledgements.

The deal is a major expansion for Link Labs that to date has sold less than a thousand base stations for unlicensed 902-928 MHz nets direct to commercial users for applications such as telematics, metering networks and controlling door locks. M2M will provide services over its licensed 800 and 900 MHz bands for a wide variety of uses including fleet management.

The M2M implementation uses a custom radio front end that can transit up to a theoretical maximum of a kilowatt of power to achieve 20-30 dB more link margin than the typical LoRa network. In-building users such as hospitals and factories will typically tune the networks to emit much lower energy levels of about 25W.

Separately, Link Labs is preparing to roll out modules for cellular IoT networks based on the LTE-M specification. It hopes to snag partnerships with major carriers such as Verizon for the modules that use Sequans’ chips.

“LTE-M is a brand new market, so it will take 6-12 months for volumes sales to develop, people will buy small volumes first for pilots,” said Brian Ray, chief technologist for Link Labs. The company’s Symphony business is growing at a healthy rate of 300% a year, he added.

“I’m bullish on both LoRa which is good for telematics and smart cities applications and LTE-M which can bring Internet access to an end point with no proxy service needed – that’s a powerful architecture for IoT end nodes,” said Ray.

— Rick Merritt, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, EE Times

Written by Brian Ray

Brian is the Founder and CTO of Link Labs. As the chief technical innovator and leader of the company, Brian has led the creation and deployment of a new type of ultra long-range, low-power wireless networking which is transforming the Internet of Things and M2M space.

Before starting Link Labs, Brian led a team at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab that solved communications and geolocation problems for the national intelligence community. He was also the VP of Engineering at the network security company, Lookingglass, and served for eight years as a submarine officer in the U.S. Navy. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and received his Master’s Degree from Oxford University.

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