US cable provider Comcast is trialling machineQ, a new service tailored for low-power internet of things (IoT) services that could lead to commercial deployment of LoRa technology across its markets.
Comcast said it will use the trial to work with select commercial partners on proof of concepts, and use its network to allow companies to “gather, transmit, and analyse data from connected devices distributed throughout their organisations”.
The company, which is stepping up in mobile after recently announcing an MVNO roll-out, scheduled for 2017, will use Semtech’s LoRa wireless radio frequency technology to deploy network trials in Philadelphia and San Francisco later this year.
Comcast will also buy up to $30 million of Semtech’s stock, under a warrant agreement, based on network and coverage goals of the trials.
And should the trial prove successful, Comcast will deploy LoRaWAN networks and LoRA related services, with the goal of completing the roll-out across its markets in the next 18 to 30 months,
It will focus on use cases including utility metering, environment monitoring and asset tracking through LoRa technology enabled devices and network services.
LoRa is one of the main non-cellular technology options for powering the LPWA (low power wide area) market, and is rivalling three main cellular-based technologies (EC-GSM, NB-IoT and LTE-MTC/CatM1), which are backed by standards body 3GPP.
The vast majority of mobile operators are expected to deploy either NB-IoT or LTE-MTC once the technologies become commercially available in 2017. Indeed, AT&T plans to pilot a LTE-M network in the San Francisco market starting next month. A launch across its commercial LTE network will follow in 2017.
However, LoRa has also scored some early success (including operator deals with KPN, Bouygues, Orange, SK Telecom and SoftBank), and Comcast is clearly a fan.
Sam Schwartz, Comcast Cable’s chief business development officer, said “technologies such as LoRA are setting the era of connected devices, and we think our network potentially has a role to play in connecting the millions of internet-enabled devices deployed within our enterprise”.