Semtech & EchoStar announce two-way LoRaWAN trials

Semiconductor manufacturer Semtech and EchoStar Mobile, a subsidiary of EchoStar corporation, announced the two will be testing IoT services using the LoRaWAN protocol.  Currently EchoStar Mobile provides services across Europe, but that could change in the future.

“With our technology collaborator, Semtech, and as a new member of the LoRa Alliance®, we are excited to explore the use of next-generation LoRaWAN network technology to bring new satellite-based connectivity services to the Internet of Things (IoT) market,” said Telemaco Melia, Senior Director of Commercial Operations at EchoStar Mobile. “New LoRa satellite services are expected to bring lower price points to the market, opening up a larger addressable opportunity across key industries including logistics, asset tracking, transportation, utilities, agriculture, and maritime.”

The LoRaWAN protocol recently added Long Range – Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum (LR-FHSS) data rates, adding the ability to support direct data links from end nodes to satellites by leveraging either ISM unlicensed band usage already a part of the LoRa standard or through licensed spectrum, as EchoStar Mobile will. LR-FHSS can support “millions of end nodes and delivers a new level of robustness for IoT services,” according to the Semtech press release.

With anywhere from 10% to 30% of the world’s surface having terrestrial connectivity, satellites provide “Universal IoT” access to remote areas on land and sea.  The combination of the LoRaWAN LR-FHSS protocol with licensed spectrum provides assured RF connectivity for low-cost LoRa devices without the potential for ISM interference from other devices in the unlicensed band.

Semtech is content to support satellite IoT solutions that go into “proprietary” forks or use licensed bands, so long as the underlying solution incorporates LoRa silicon.   Swarm Technologies embraced Semtech LoRa silicon and developed its own RF coding implementation prior to the release of the HR-FHSS standard, along with other features like embedded security.  There are anywhere between 15 to 20 active LoRaWAN satellite projects underway this year, according to a Semtech official.

Today’s announcement comes less two months before SpaceX will launch an EchoStar Mobile cubesat onboard the Transporter-2 mission scheduled for late June or early July, suggests Gunter’s Space Page. Two of the EchoStar Mobile 6U cubesats were launched last year.

EchoStar Mobile may ultimately operate a constellation of 28 cubesats to offer worldwide IoT coverage. Parent EchoStar purchased the assets of Helios Wire in 2019, securing access to global S-band spectrum through an assignments of rights that originally came from an Australian company.

Doug Mohney

Doug Mohney, a principal at Cidera Analytics, has been working and writing about IT and satellite industries for over 20 years. His real world experience including stints at two start-ups, a commercial internet service provider that went public in 1997 for $150 million and a satellite internet broadband company. Follow him on Twitter at DougonTech or contact him at dmohney139 (at) gmail (dot) com.

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