Yellow areas have publicly announced LoRa deployments. (Image: LoRa Alliance)
Comcast is one of the largest of about 30 service providers that have joined the LoRa Alliance including Orange, SK Telecom and Softbank. The group is approaching 500 members, about four dozen certified products and a board that now includes Khorram of Comcast along with representatives of Cisco, IBM and ZTE.
“The ecosystem is big…I think the alliance has reached critical mass,” Khorram said.
Comcast kicked the tires of the technology in its own field tests before jumping in. “We were very happy with propagation in rural, suburban and urban settings at 12-20 Kbits/s for up or down links, and in harsh environments it performed as expected,” he said.
The alliance’s meeting in Philly last week was timed to coincide with the annual conference for water utilities and their vendors where Khorram spoke. LoRa needs to make a bigger splash with such big vertical markets, he said.
At the technical level, the group continues to hammer out a way to offer geolocation services without GPS. It’s also working on lifecycle management issues such as techniques for firmware updates. So far, technical road maps and evolving business needs seem well aligned, he added.
Khorram joined Comcast about four years ago after working at private equity firms and a variety of telecom and Web startups. As early as 2007 he was investigating startups in smart parking in San Francisco and vehicle tracking in Toronto.
“One of the key observations that intrigued me was connections for things rather than people used existing [cellular] networks, but the business models weren’t prepared to address them because it was all about data plans. We saw the cost was overkill and you didn’t need all the bandwidth, so I started working on a thesis that narrowband would have contrarian value,” he said.
Now that pre-IoT concept has a name with a class of so-called LPWA (low power wide area) networks such as LoRa, Sigfox and Ingenu as well as up-and-coming cellular rivals. But just how it will play out remains to be seen.
— Rick Merritt, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, EE Times