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LoRaWan - Low Power WAN Protocol for IoT

Jonathan de Carvalho Silva

Instituto Nacional de Telecomunicaco es - Inatel
Santa Rita do Sapuca - MG - Brazil

Abstract Nowadays, the IoT (Internet of Things) requires

increasingly more sensor nodes interconnected. However, since
Wireless Sensor Networks comprise energy-limited devices, techniques to save energy have become a trend in research. Since
energy-saving has a cost for the network, its consequences
must be carefully considered in order to maintain its effective
communication. The LoRaWAN protocol have purpose, a data
link layer for IoT networks long-range, with low-power and lowbitrate used as solution for the Internet of Things, where the enddevices use LoRa across a single wireless hop to communicate
to gateways with objetive of transfering messages between these
end-devices and a central network server. While the proprietary
LPWA technologies are already hitting the market with large
scale, this paper shows the architecture LoRa and describes the
LoRaWAN protocol, that will solving problems of the connectivity
of tens of billions of devices in the next decade.
Index Terms Internet of Things, LoRaWAN, long range, low

The emergence of the Internet of Things has increased the
scale of the problems inherent to the energy restricted to the
nodes in the wireless networks. For the best performance of
the network, surveys are being produced during this decade in
order to decide the ideal transmission power for each node of
the network, causing this network to be connected and with
minimum of wasted power, thus increasing its Life time [1].
Instead of each node transmitting using the maximum power, it
is possible to redefine the power of the nodes in a collaborative
way, redefining the topology of the wireless network by the
relation between the neighbors under certain criteria [2].
Among the most recent proposals can be cited, Aziz et al.,
[3], which presents a topology control techniques to extend
battery life and energy efficiency in Wireless Sensor Networks
(WSNs) [4]. On the other, new challenges arise for keeping
communication effective and energy consumption low.
For this purpose, the LoRa targets deployments where enddevices have limited energy, where not need to transmit more
than a few bytes at a time [5]. The data traffic can be initiated
either by the end-device (a sensor) or by an external entity
wishing to communicate with the end-device (an actuator).
The long-range and low-power nature of LoRa makes it an
interesting candidate for smart sensing technology in civil
infrastructures (such as health monitoring, smart city, environment monitoring, etc.), as well as in industrial applications.
In order to use low frequency power shifting keying (FSK)
modulation as a physical layer, since this modulation becomes
efficient to achieve low power, the LoRa is based on Chirp [6]

spectral scattering, which has the same characteristics as FSK,

the communication range.
Thus, LoRaWAN will be approached as the communication
protocol and the system architecture for the network while the
LoRa physical layer enables the long-range communication
link. The protocol and network architecture have a greater
influence on the determination of a nodes battery life, network
capacity, QoS, security and reliability of the applications
served by the network.
With the focus of describing and comparing this LoRaWAN
protocol with other standard protocols, conclusions will be
taken based in long-range, low-power and low-bitrate used as
parameters para decide for best solution for the Internet of
The remainder of this tutorial is organized as follows. In
Section II the work related to IoT network link protocols
is presented. Then, in Section III, the LoRa architecture is
presented. In Section IV, describes the LoRaWAN protocol
and its characteristics. In sequence, Section V, some issues for
future works are presented. Finally, the conclusion is described
in Section VI along with the future tasks of the project.
Among the communication technologies that were proposed
and implemented for low power and wireless communication
for IoT, we can classify them basically in two categories:
Low power local networks with a range less than 1000
m: They are applicable in short-range networks, but when
organized in mesh topology they can be used in larger areas.
This category includes IEEE 802.15.4, Bluetooth / LE, etc.
Low-power wide area networks with a bandwidth exceeding 1000 m: This category applies to low-power cellular
networks, where each cell covers thousands of end devices.
For this scenario includes LoRaWAN, but also protocols, such
as Sigfox, DASH7, etc.
This section provides a perspective on LoRaWAN by giving
a brief overview of these related IoT communication technologies.
A. Bluetooth/LE
With the proposal to replace cables to connect devices used
together with lower data rate (1 Mbps in max) in a short
distance range (in theory, officially up to 100 m) with low
power consumption, emerged Bluetooth technology, in which
, after of several revisions, will idealize the Bluetooth 4.0, that
is, Bluetooth / LE that provides simpler pairing functions and

higher data rate (24Mbps in max, WiFi-based) for a lower

power consumption, with the purpose of connecting sensors
and Actuators on the Internet of Things [7].
B. Sigfox
Sigfox is a cellular systems approach that allows end devices
to connect to base stations equipped with software-defined
cognitive radios using the Binary Phase Shift Keying (BPSK)
modulation [8], with a frequency band of 868 MHz, with the
spectrum divided into 400 channels of 100Hz. Each access
point can manage up to one million end devices, with a
coverage area of 30-50 km in rural areas and 3-10 km in
urban areas. Each end device can send up to 140 messages
per day at a data rate of up to 100 bps. This low power
technology takes place when an end device has a message
to send, so the Sigfox interface circuit wakes up and the
message is transmitted uplink from the end device. Then
the final device listens for a short duration and in case there is
data being sent downlink to another final device. Downlink
communication can only precede uplink communication after
which the endpoint device must wait to hear a response from
the base station which makes it interesting for data acquisition,
but for command and control scenarios it is uninteresting.

LoRa is a physical layer technology that modulates through

FSK used for long range communication link with low consume of battery, promoted by the LoRa Alliance. The advantage is of a single gateway or base station can cover entire
cities or hundreds of square kilometers. Range highly depends
on the environment or obstructions in a given location, but
LoRa and LoRaWAN have a link budget greater than any other
standardized communication technology. The data rate can
reach up to 50 Kbps when channel aggregation is employed.
The modulation technique is a proprietary technology from
Semtech [10].
The LoRa can commonly refer to two distinct layers, as
shown in figure below:

Fig. 2.

DASH7 is a stack protocol based on the interaction of
the OSI model where the sensor and actuator operates in
unlicensed band with 433 MHz, 868 MHz and 915 MHz [9].
DASH7 aims to provide communication over a range of up to
2 km, low latency, Mobility support, multi-layer battery, 128bit AES shared key encryption support, and data rate up to
167 Kbps. In addition, DASH7 extends and defines the stack
of protocols from the physical layer to the application layer.
The data link layer is responsible for delivery of frames
to the next hop destination. It also tries to correct any errors
introduced by the physical layer. This layer is often divided
into two layers: Medium Access Control (MAC) and Logical
Link Control (LLC). In the figure below, shown the recent
protocols of according with corresponding layer.

LoRaWAN network layers.

(i) a physical layer using the Chirp Spread Spectrum (CSS)

[10] radio modulation technique;
(ii) a MAC layer protocol (LoRaWAN), although the LoRa
communications system also implies in a specific access
network architecture.
LoRaWAN provides a medium access control mechanism,
enabling many end-devices to communicate with a gateway
using the LoRa modulation. While the LoRa modulation is
proprietary,the LoRaWAN is an open standard being developed
by the LoRa Alliance e will be describe in next Section.
LoRaWAN architecture is a star of stars structure defines
the communication protocol and system architecture for the
network while the LoRa physical layer enables the longrange communication link. The protocol have influence in
determining the battery lifetime of a node, in the network
capacity, the quality of service, the security, and the quantity
of applications served by the network.
A. LoRaWAN network
A typical LoRaWAN network is a star-of-stars topology:

Fig. 1.

Categories of protocols for IoT networks.

Fig. 3.

LoRaWAN network basic architecture.

For basic architecture, according Figure 3, several components are defined in the LoRaWAN network as: end-devices,
gateways (i.e., base stations),the network server and applications.
1) The End-devices communicate with gateways using LoRa
with LoRaWAN.
2) The Gateways forward the LoRaWAN frames from
devices to a network server over a backhaul interface with
a higher throughput, typically Ethernet, 3G/4G, Ethernet,
satellite, or Wi-Fi.
3) The Network Server being responsible for decoding the
packets sent by the devices, perform security checks,perform
adaptive data rate, and generating the packets that should be
sent back to the devices.
4) Each application receive data of the network server,
where should decode the packets of security and use the
information for decide the action in your application.
Unlike traditional cellular networks, end devices are not
associated with a particular gateway to gain access to the
network. The gateways simply serve as a link layer relay and
route the packet received from the end devices to the network
server after adding information about the reception quality
(QoS). Thus, an end device is associated with a network server,
which is responsible for detecting duplicate packets, choosing
the appropriate gateway to send a response (if any), to the
end devices. Logically, the gateways are transparent to the
end devices.
B. Battery Lifetime

C. Network Capacity
In a long-range star viable network, the gateway must have
high ability to receive messages from a large number of
nodes. This high capacity is allocated using adaptive data rate
and using a multi-channel transmitter so that simultaneous
messages can be received.
Critical factors influencing this capability are:
The number of simultaneous channels;
The data rate;
The length of the payload;
The frequency that the nodes transmit.
A LoRaWAN network can be deployed with a minimal
amount of infrastructure and, with the capacity achieved in
the future, more gateways can be added, shifting data rates
by reducing the amount of overhearing to other gateways by
making the network scalable in 6-8x of the minimum capacity.
Other alternatives do not have the scalability of LoRaWAN
due to technology trade-offs, which limit downlink capacity or
make the downlink band asymmetric to the uplink bandwidth.
D. Device Classes
In a control or actuator application, the downlink communication latency is an important factor to decide the used
battery power. With purpose, the LoRaWAN utilizes different
device classes. The device classes trade off network downlink
communication latency versus battery lifetime.
LoRaWAN has three different classes of end-devices for
needs of used applications:

With reference to the ALOHA method [5], the nodes must

be available to synchronize with a mesh network or with a
synchronous network,for example mobile network, and check
the messages. This synchronization will consume significant
energy and reduces battery life. So in a LoRaWAN network,
nodes are asynchronous and communicate when have data
ready to send through events or scheduling.

Fig. 5.

LoRaWAN communication profiles classes

Class A (bidirectional) - Devices have a scheduled uplink

transmission window followed by two, short downlink receive
Class B - Devices have additional, scheduled downlink
Class C - Devices have nearly continuously open receive
Fig. 4.

Camadas layers do LoRa

In a recent study and Scientific Research Publishing Inc

comparison [11] of the various technologies that address the
LPWAN space, LoRaWAN showed a 3 to 5-fold advantage in
economic of energy compared to all other technology options.

E. Security
This feature, security, is of extreme importance for future
IoT networks, since it will guarantee the operation of the
thing without external interruption. LoRaWAN uses two
layers of security: one for the network and another for the
application, as shown in Figure 6.

tion to power consumption in long distance communications.

Another point of view is that a LoRaWAN network can be
deployed with a minimal amount of infrastructure and, with
the capacity achieved in the future, more gateways can be
added to reduce the amount of overhearing to other gateways
and subdivide the data rate, making the scalable network at 68x of the minimum capacity. In future works, could create
a survey about the analysis and performance evaluation to
propose possible solutions for performance enhancement for
this protocol.

Fig. 6.

AES 128 encryption scheme

A LoRaWAN network solution comes with an authentication framework and security framework based on the AES 128
encryption scheme. The AES-128 key encrypts the frame for
confidentiality and generates MIC (Message Integrity Code)
for integrity, and each end device have key assign by the
device manufacturers or the application owner. Compared to
some other systems that depend on a single key for authentication and encryption, the LoRaWAN framework separates
authentication and encryption so that it is able to authenticate
packets and provide integrity protection.
There have a few articles related to LoRa in the literature. In
[12], [13], different long-range technologies, including LoRa,
are compared. Petajajarvi et al.[14] studied the coverage of
LoRa and proposed a channel attenuation model. This article
provide an overview and functional description of LoRaWAN,
given the semi-proprietary nature of LoRaWAN, because, parts
of the protocol are not well documented. In complementing
the work of this article, should be describe the follow issues
about analysis and performance evaluation of the protocol, as:
estimation of the collision rate, total capacity and channel
load, single device maximal throughput and MTU, scaling
networks to massive number of devices and mobility/roaming
, to propose possible solutions for performance enhancement.
LoRa is a long-range and low-power telecommunication
systems for the Internet of Things. The physical layer uses
the LoRa modulation, a proprietary technology with a MAC
protocol. LoRaWAN is an open standard with the specification
available free of charge [15].
This paper gives a analysis about the LoRaWAN protocol
based in the basic architecture, battery lifetime, network capacity, device classes and security.
It was determined that this protocol showed a 3 to 5-fold
advantage compared to all other technology options in rela-

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