In this article, you will learn the difference between LoRa and LoRaWAN. Let’s explore their features and how to choose the right option: LoRa vs LoRaWAN.

Let’s start by describing each of these terms.

What is LoRa?

LoRa is an acronym for the words long-range and refers to a wireless modulation technique based on the technology chirp spread spectrum (CSS).

LoRa is a proprietary technology developed by Semtech, so all the LoRa chips are manufactured by this company. However, this does not prevent these chips from being widely used by other manufacturers, who offer all kinds of products with LoRa interfaces.

Long range, low power, and low bitrate

These are the three factors that characterize LoRa technology.

In wireless communications, there is always a compromise relationship between these three factors. So the improvement in one or two of them affects the third. In this way, you can obtain long distances and very low power consumption with LoRa, at the expense of a very low bitrate (up to 21 kbits/s).

However, having a low bitrate does not make it impossible to send a few bytes from remote nodes. This makes LoRa an ideal technology for connecting IoT devices in circumstances where other technologies are not applicable.

Let’s think for example of a sensor that is in the open field, 20 km away from electricity and an Internet connection. A LoRa device with a small battery could transmit for years without the need to replace the battery.

Types of connections

Since LoRa refers only to the type of modulation used, you can use his technology both for connection to LoRaWAN gateways, or simply to connect two LoRa nodes.

For this reason, a solution that uses LoRa should not necessarily be in a LoRaWAN network. In this way, it is possible to use LoRa modulation to connect two or more devices over long distances.

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What is LoRaWAN?

To put it quickly, LoRa represents the physical layer within a LoRaWAN network. Thus, LoRaWAN is a wide area network within the LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Network) group.

Therefore, the term LoRaWAN refers to a network of LoRa nodes that communicate through gateways and whose messages are managed by a network server. At this point, it should be clarified that with the LoRaWAN 1.1.1 version the join server, is responsible for the authentication of IoT devices.

In this way, the entire device registration process is separated from the network server, which implies an improvement from a security point of view.

In the following figure, we can see a typical architecture of LoRaWAN (version 1.0).

lorawan architecture
Source: https://www.semtech.com/lora/what-is-lora

What is the network server for?

The network server has several functions:

  • Until version 1.0.x it was responsible for the joining process of the nodes, as of version 1.1 this function is performed by the join server.
  • The main function of the network server is the handling of received messages. That is the routing of messages, the elimination of duplicate messages, and the discarding of messages that do not belong to the network.
  • With version 1.1, network servers can forward messages to other network servers, if there is an active forwarding policy. roaming between providers.
  • Finally, the network server provides the data that is used by the application server to present the information to the user.

Conclusions

When we evaluate LoRa vs LoRaWAN, we see that actually LoRa is part of LoRaWAN, but we can also use LoRa without implementing LoRaWAN.

In simple projects, using LoRa technology without building a LoRaWAN network can be enough. While for more complex projects and with a considerable number of nodes, it is convenient to create a LoRaWAN network.

In other words, a LoRaWAN network offers scalability, security, and management.


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