Firmware boost for LoRa direct satellite connections

Firmware boost for LoRa direct satellite connections

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

Semtech has developed a software upgrade for its LoRa transceivers and gateways that significantly increases the robustness to interference and enables a low power and reliable direct data links from sensors to satellites.

The embedded upgrade can be used by second generation LoRa ICs to enable the LoRaWAN standard new data rate, Long Range Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum (LR-FHSS), recently ratified by the LoRa Alliance.  This allows more robust, longer range operation for applications such as smart meters as well as direct links to satellites in low earth orbit (LEO) that have a LoRa payload such as those from Lacuna Space and Swarm, now owned by SpaceX.

LR-FHSS features high interference resistance that alleviate packet collisions by increasing spectral efficiency with the ability for uplink frequency hopping modulation. This is accomplished by breaking up each data packet being sent from an end node into small pieces (each piece is around 50 millisecond long) and randomly spreading them over a defined frequency bandwidth which includes 137kHz, 336kHz and 1.523MHz depending on the region. In addition, LR-FHSS uses redundant physical headers on different frequencies to further improve the modulation robustness to in-band interference.

LR-FHSS is also key to providing direct data links from end nodes to satellites by using either the Industrial, Scientific and Medical (ISM) unlicensed band or a licensed spectrum and can support millions of end nodes in IoT services.

“We now have trials and demonstrations underway in many countries and regions that were previously thought to be inaccessible to IoT. Our collaboration with Semtech and the enablement of its LR-FHSS device accelerates IoT adoption for a safer, more resilient and resource-efficient world,” said Rob Spurrett, CEO at Lacuna Space. “With this collaboration, we expect to begin commercial services within the first half of 2022.”

“The addition of LR-FHSS to the LoRaWAN standard further increases capacity and resilience of ubiquitous connectivity,” said Marc Pégulu, vice president of IoT product marketing and strategy for Semtech’s Wireless and Sensing Products Group. “Lacuna’s application of this affordable and simplified technology will further expand access to connection through their satellite technology.”

Adding LR-FHSS to an existing LoRaWAN network can help expand capacity without the need to replace the existing network infrastructure. LoRa modulation and LR-FHSS modulation can co-exist at the same time. Switching between LoRa modulation and LR-FHSS modulation at an end node requires a single ADR command from the network server. Gateways with LoRa modulation and gateways with LR-FHSS modulation can co-exist in the same LoRaWAN network and this could also help free up LoRa modulation channels; for example, one could replace SF10, SF11 and SF12 with LR-FHSS in a LoRaWAN network, significantly expanding the network capacity.

A new suite of tools will be enabled on Semtech’s LoRa transceivers: SX1261, SX1262, LoRa Edge platform and the V2.1 gateway reference design. For LoRaWAN networks where V2.1 gateways are deployed, operators can enable the new capability with a simple gateway firmware upgrade. In addition to expanded capacity, LoRaWAN networks will be more robust in harsh radio conditions such as deep indoors and in basements for smart meters and in some regions will offer the possibility to increase terrestrial coverage.

“As the smart cities trend continues to proliferate globally, the new capability is a step for Semtech’s LoRa platform toward massive Internet of Things (IoT) deployments in densely populated areas,” said Pégulu. “In addition, the enablement of direct IoT to satellite services revolutionizes the industry with affordable ubiquitous connectivity for remote areas, ultimately creating a smarter and more secure planet.”

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