What is LoRa?
The company was originally called Cycleo and the guys who started it in 2009 had the aim of designing radio chips that could run on very low power, then selling the designs to chip makers. A chip manufacturer called Semtech didn’t just buy the designs, they bought the company then set about making LoRa chips for IoT devices and network gateways. Semtech also developed a networking protocol called LoRaWAN to run on the chips. Semtech do not build LoRa networks, they supply the technology to build them.
In 2015 the LoRa Alliance was founded with the aim of getting networks built by standardising on the LoRa chips and the LoRaWAN protocol, although other ‘Mac layer’ protocols can run on LoRa hardware.
The LoRa Alliance offers an ecosystem of suppliers with over 500 companies, large and small, making everything from IoT sensors and switches to building national networks, all using the Semtech hardware.
Some companies and local authorities have built private networks from these components but there are also many public LoRa networks around the world for anyone to connect to.
How does LoRa work?
A LoRa connected device broadcasts its message when it has some data to send. There can be multiple LoRa networks in a given area but a system of gateways makes sure the customer’s data gets to the right one. A public LoRa gateway can reach typically 3km-5km in an urban area and up to 15 km in a rural area, depending on the terrain. Customers can expect data rates of between 25 to 50 kbps. As with other LPWA technologies, LoRa is optimised for IoT data traffic which keeps costs down.