Low-power long-range (LPWAN) solutions for IoT and M2M
Low-power long-range (LPWAN) solutions for IoT and M2M

NB-Fi vs Competitors

Comparison of LPWAN technologies

There is a number of existing LPWAN-technologies competing to provide M2M connectivity and secure niche in the IoT universe. Most of well known LPWAN approaches are quite recognizable thanks to sizable marketing efforts though most of it practically are not the right choice for the robust long-range and large-scale networks. We have compared the famous LPWAN technologies to provide a complete overview from the different prospectives.

Detailed comparison

There are several wireless technologies suitable for M2M and IoT communication.  Different LPWAN providers offering their proprietary solutions.  Just compare and make a decision which one is the best for your particular needs.

LPWAN comparison table: WAVIoT, Sigfox, LoRa, NWave, LTE-M

References and considerations

  • Link budget calculated for the similar urban environment for all technologies. See detailed calculation.
  • LoRa technology is present by Link-Labs, parameters taken from web-site link-labs.com
  • Sigfox using ultra narrow band (UNB) approach, for details see official web-site sigfox.com
  • RPMA from Ingenu calculations based on its white paper “RPMA to LPWA Comparison Support Material” at ingenu.com
  • This comparison shows what an application provider would actually receive when using each network. All calculations based on reported technical performance metrics.
  • WAVIoT minimum node cost is based on New WAVIoT NB-FI Trasceiver price.

Range comparison in city environment

Resulting effective range and operational area of each base station to cover an average city area with 99% reliability may be calculated for each technology. A graphic visualization of the base station coverage for a European city is provided below.

LPWAN technologies range comparison: NB-Fi, LoRa, Sigfox, Ingenu RPMA

References and considerations

  • Link budget is the central metric at a play when is comes to determining the range and coverage area of a wireless technology.
  • Even small differences in link budget result in exponential effects in the coverage area.
  • Another significant parameter is the overall penetration characteristic of a certain frequency.
  • Maximum range of the base station is figured out and indicated for an average European urban area with relevant legislation constrains.

Number of base stations to cover urban area

The comparison of base stations quantity needed to cover a certain urban area in Europe is pictured below.

IoT Gateway working area comparison: NB-Fi, Sigfox, LoRa, Ingenu RPMA

References and considerations

  • Given that the end-point revenues are relatively low for the M2M connectivity, network infrastructure costs should be extremely low in order to be profitable at the end of the day.
  • Each base station must have very high coverage to limit the infrastructure capex needs.
  • Less base station covering the same city area means less infrastructure deployment and maintenance costs.

Base station capacity and spectrum utilization

Analyzing the base station capacity characteristics is another important point to take into consideration. It depends on the following aspects: spectrum utilization, end-nodes link budget, the number of channels available, base station frequency band and bandwidth.


WAVIoT LPWAN gateway capasity
  • WAVIoT NB-Fi utilizes 5 000 channels in the 500 kHz band. Spectrum efficiency is theoretically limitless though you may find more precise details below.
  • Spectrum utilization algorithm is quite similar to LTE showing high efficiency.
  • WAVIoT NB-Fi can utilize up to 100% of available channels. Another advantage – more base stations and nodes can be added without disrupting the current capacity, range, bandwidth and data rate.


LoRa base station capasity
  • LoRa is showing very low spectrum efficiency. It is easy to find out that there are only 4 x 125 kHz-channels in the 500 kHz band. Coding gain negatively effects node coexistence and transmission time. Read more in blog.
  • LoRa is claimed to transmit simultaneously 8 demods in the one channel increasing the total number of channels up to 32 though practically reducing the link budget by -12 dBm.

Sigfox UNB

Sigfox base station capasity
  • Sigfox’s UNB allows to keep relatively good spectrum efficiency and link budget.
  • Sigfox theoretically declares 1 920 channels available in the 192 kHz band. Practically, when using ALOHA only 25 channels can co-exist without collision. Every next channel shall cause a collision for the 10% of messages and thus dramatically drop down the reliability.

Ingenu RPMA

RPMA base station capasity
  • RPMA uses 4 channels with 1 000 demods claimed to be available in each channel.
  • A high number of interfering demods in one channel should induce heavy interference and practically degrade the total link budget by -30 dB. This is schematically reflected in the picture.
  • In real life conditions, the resulting capacity of a base station shall reduce significantly for a higher number of simultaneously transmitting nodes.

Signal penetration

This infographic is simply showing how the resulting effective link budget and penetration capabilities differ affecting the signal behavior in the real life urban area.

LPWAN Technologies penetration comparison: NB-Fi, LoRa, Sigfox, Ingenu RPMA

References and considerations

  • Resulting range in the urban environment depends on the available link budget and signal penetration capabilities.
  • Higher frequency ensures fewer penetration capabilities. WAVIoT, LoRa, and Sigfox transmit on 868.8 MHz with better signal penetration characteristics compared to 2.4 GHz.
  • Fixed obstacles represent several walls made of different materials which are common when the smart device is placed inside of the building. For example, smart water or electricity meter installed in the water closet or basement.
  • Frequency determined obstacle loss factor equals to 1.3 for 2.4 GHz due to far worse penetration characteristics.
  • An Urban environment with random obstacles is the space between node and base station traveled by the signal in an average city area.
  • RPMA transmits on 2.4 GHz thus pretty like Wi-Fi it has lower signal penetration which reduces the effective range in the urban area.
  • 2.4 GHz loss is higher both for obstacles and air, this issue seems to lessen the radio legislation benefits for this frequency.

Link budget calculation

The link budget is a key parameter for the estimation of wireless link range. Link budget for each technology has been based on the reported technical performance and calculated in relation to an average urban environment of a European city.

LPWAN technologies link budget comparison: NB-Fi, LoRa, Sigfox, Ingenu RPMA

References and considerations

  • The link budget is calculated for a similar average urban environment for all of the technologies.
  • The effective link budget is taken as a minimal of UL or DL link metrics.
  • Resulting effective range is calculated to breach an urban area: air, fixed and variable obstacles.
  • Nodes with more than 14 dB TX power has higher power consumption and lower battery lifetime, which is to be considered.
  • Sigfox obviously has quite serious cable losses due to a longer coaxial cable connecting the base station and antenna, LNA does not help enough to keep the SNR.
  • UL has been adjusted by -10 dB for all technologies due to permanent environment noise on top of the buildings.
  • RPMA uses nodes with antenna diversity for better performance. It gives +8 dB though it should increase the cost and size of its modules by 5+ cm to ensure the proper antenna separation.
  • LTE-M has quite a low range though the sensitivity is far better than LTE. Power was significantly increased in order to support the autonomous work on batteries. Standard frequency is 2.4 GHz, which obviously has poor penetration capabilities.
  • This comparison represents the actual results that an application provider or an end-user would achieve with each of the LPWAN technologies in the real life urban environment. All calculations are based on technical performance metrics reported by the companies adjusted by the consistent assumptions. To receive more detailed comments and calculation please contact us at info@waviot.ru. Read the full text of disclaimer.

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