Firmware boost for LoRa direct satellite connections

January 12, 2022 // By Nick Flaherty
Firmware boost for LoRa direct satellite connections
Upgrade to Semtech chips boosts capacity in LoRaWAN networks and supports direct satellite connections with Lacuna Space

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

Picture: 
Swarm's LoRa-based IoT LEO satellite coverage

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