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Community Blog Increasing IoT Network Coverage with Alibaba Cloud Link WAN

Increasing IoT Network Coverage with Alibaba Cloud Link WAN

In this article, we will briefly introduce the LoRa technology and discover how Alibaba Cloud utilizes this technology for Internet of Things (IoT) applications.

By Alibaba Cloud Link WAN Team

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At the Computing Conference 2018 in Hangzhou, an airship hovered over the conference serving as a LoRaWAN gateway for Internet of Things (IoT) services on the ground. With the words "Alibaba Cloud LoRaWAN" clearly displayed, the airship was an attention grabber. At the core of the service, Link WAN, an IoT network management platform, was mounted to the airship to enable gateway management and fast device access to the cloud.

In 2018, Alibaba Cloud IoT Division announced that it would cooperate with China Unicom Zhejiang to jointly build the LoRaWAN metropolitan area network (MAN) by using the proprietary IoT network management platform—Link WAN. This was one of Alibaba's industry chain strategies after it joined the LoRa Alliance. Link WAN has also become an important LoRaWAN access platform in China. It is compatible with international standards and meets the requirements for large-scale and high-concurrency access.

What Is the LoRa Technology?

In 2012, Semtech acquired the French company Cycleo, owner of LoRa IP. In August 2013, Semtech introduced a new spread-spectrum communication chip named LoRa to the industry. This chip works in the Sub-1 GHz band and has a receiver sensitivity of down to –148 dBm, aimed for the low-power wide-area (LPWA) IoT wireless communication market. This technology mainly applies to unauthorized frequency bands worldwide.

The LoRa technology can be a perfect solution to LPWA problems. In complex urban environments, the transmission distance of a low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) can exceed that of a traditional cellular network. The transmission distance can exceed 15 km in an open area and even reach 100 km under certain conditions. LoRa has a high penetrability, ensuring that signals can be received in many harsh environments. LoRa supports narrowband data transmission, thereby greatly lowering network communication costs. Due to the low data transmission rate and the introduction of various power-saving technologies during network design, LoRa-based devices consume little power and their batteries can supply power for years or even decades.

The following figure shows the features of the LPWAN using LoRa compared to networks using other technologies. (Source: LoRa Alliance)

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What Are the Highlights of the Gateway on the Airship?

The airship carries the IP67-rated waterproof and dustproof LoRaWAN gateway, which works with the exhibition ground station to form an IoT through Alibaba Cloud IoT's Link WAN.

The station on the airship uses the omnidirectional fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP) antenna that has a transmit power of up to 24 dBm and a receiver sensitivity of down to –140 dBm (SF12, 125 kHz) and can process the SF7 to SF12 spread-spectrum channels simultaneously.

Signals can be sent or received beyond a 30-km radius, stretching from 40 km above the ground to 20 m below the ground.

What Is Link WAN Used for?

Link WAN is Alibaba Cloud's network management platform. Its fast deployment feature allows a gateway to access it in only three steps. The airship can stay airborne for a long period, and the ideal height ensures long-distance communication performance. The network management platform provides visualized debugging interfaces, greatly reducing the time required for engineers to mount the gateway to the airship. The platform collects and forwards the access data to Alibaba Cloud MaxCompute in time for analysis, thus providing users with end-to-end Alibaba Cloud data services.

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What Are the Features of Alibaba Cloud's Link WAN?

Alibaba Cloud's Link WAN provides gateway management, node management, network maintenance, and traffic computing features.

The gateway management feature simplifies operations management. A gateway can access the platform in three steps, enabling everyone to operate the network. The node management feature is compatible with the latest LoRaWAN protocol. By binding a network access credential, users can collect massive amounts of sensing data and subscribe to data streams. The network maintenance feature allows visualized management of the LoRaWAN protocol layer on the platform. The channel monitoring and alerting feature helps users maintain the network in a real-time manner. The traffic computing feature allows the platform to use Alibaba Cloud's big data computing and real-time traffic statistics features at the bottom layer to ensure accurate, real-time network operations.

The preceding features allow users to independently build and maintain their LoRaWAN networks after purchasing LoRa gateways on the market. In addition, developers who do not have to construct gateways can buy LoRa communication modules on the market and connect the modules to their networks. For example, you can build the IoT of a campus within one day by deploying three gateways.

"Every family has Wi-Fi now and every enterprise will have LoRa in the future." BeJo, leader of Alibaba Cloud's Link WAN, said that massive IoT connections rely on the LPWA connection technology. As one of the highest performing LoRaWAN platform in China, Link WAN meets the needs for massive device access and provides users with the most inclusive connections.

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Currently, Alibaba Cloud's Link WAN has been successively deployed in the main urban area of Hangzhou, Hongshan IoT Town in Wuxi, and Cainiao Logistics Park, covering an area of over 500 square kilometers. Large and small projects are being deployed as required and more scenarios will be supported in the future.

To learn more about Alibaba Cloud's suite of IoT products and solutions, visit www.alibabacloud.com/solutions/IoT

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