Wednesday, April 4, 2018

LoRaWAN in central New Jersey in early 2018?

I bought a couple of LoRa RF modules, including a 915 MHz Hope RF RFM95, last fall. The plan was to hook it up to an Arduino and use IBM's LMIC library to make a simple LoRa transceiver, get a developer account with a LoRaWAN service provider and start experimenting.

However, there was a snag. Senet does offer developer accounts, but doesn't currently have coverage in my neck of the woods, in central New Jersey, about halfway between Philadelphia and New York City. Comcast offers LoRa service, but calls it "machineQ", and also doesn't currently have coverage at my location. I didn't find any information about Comcast LoRa developer accounts. In fact it sounds like it's mandatory to use the Murata mQModule with the Comcast mQSpark dev kit to connect to the Comcast LoRaWAN, not very developer friendly.

So not only is there currently no coverage by commercial LoRaWAN service providers, they might not let you connect with your uncertified $5 RFM95 transceiver. The cheapest certified LoRa RF module I can find is the $15 RN2483, not only a bit pricey for use with an IoT sensor, but might still not let you connect with machineQ.

recent blog post by Omkar Joglekar documents how he built a LoRa transceiver very similar to what I had in mind, but much more ambitious with nice weatherproofing and a fancy monopole antenna with ground radials. He was able to get credentials to connect to the Tata Communications LoRaWAN. Clearly Tata Communications knows how to get early buy in from developers!

My current Plan B is to join The Things Network (TTN) by setting up my own LoRa gateway, since the nearest gateways on their coverage map are about 20 miles away, way too far even for LoRa. I have a single-channel LoRa gateway on the way on the slow boat from Shenzhen.