What BYOB means for the wireless IoT

by Nik Kitson @nikkitson

We all by now familiar with how BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) revolutionized smartphones and the mobile industry. The days of a managed service where the end device was configured, sold and managed by your mobile carrier are behind us. BYOD brought new challenges in terms of enterprise security, but it also gave us the ability access millions of new services that were built beyond the walled gardens of mobile operator managed devices. In Low Power Wireless Access (LPWA), there is a new phenomenon that is changing the way we access service called Bring Your Own Basestation or BYOB.

So why will BYOB fundamentally change wireless? The BYOB model prevailed in the wifi market for many years until the subsequent advent of outdoor wifi hotspots, where service providers started deploying a fully managed service inclusive of radio coverage. A self-build coverage model is completely absent from the cellular market, as this spectrum is so tightly controlled between the cellular operators and the regulator. In the emerging LPWA arena, spectrum is unlicensed offering same flexibility as WiFi or Bluetooth with a massive improvement in coverage that is greater than LTE. This makes LPWA the epicenter of the most exciting wireless technology revolution for the Internet of Things (IoT).

The current solutions in LPWA are optimized around the ISM, otherwise known as unlicensed frequency bands, just like WiFi or Bluetooth. This allows anyone to build and deploy devices and basestations, as long as they follow the design rules in the product set by various country regulators. The majority of wireless access have adopted the managed service model where the basestation and cloud service is from the same organization as a recurring monthly or annual fee. In a cellular managed service, the monthly fee provides both coverage and a service interconnection to the internet. This is precisely how SigFox, InGenu and other new wireless entrants have developed their model. If you want SigFox, you have to be in an area with SigFox coverage, you cannot BYOB to establish your own local coverage with SigFox. Even if you could provide coverage, there is no separate cloud-only service fee independent of the coverage component available within SigFox.

The LoRa ecosystem is interesting in that it supports 3 service delivery models:

  • Managed Service – Service Provider manages basestation and network services
  • Managed Cloud – Service Provider manages network services, allows customer to connect a basestation
  • Private Cloud – Customer provides network services and basestation

The Managed Cloud and Private Cloud are both examples of BYOB. The chief advantages of the BYOB approach is that you can get coverage at any of your enterprise locations. BYOB is less ideal if your end sensor node application is highly distributed or highly mobile, which favors a Managed Service approach with blanket coverage. Many enterprises are looking to connect locally such as smart building or connected campus, so the idea of BYOB is highly appealing. It worked for Cisco with the Meraki acquisition, which is one of the fastest growing business units in Cisco history and a leader in self-built + cloud managed wifi deployments globally.

LPWA IoT service providers can start to look completely different from a traditional mobile network operator. An LPWA provider could be any company, even those without billions in capital to afford spectrum. It will be interesting to see how the LPWA industry plays out and whether any of these different delivery models will see some action. Simply put, a BYOB model with LoRa technology gives any organization the ability to compete. What new players do you think will enter the wireless IoT market with this business model?

Next week’s blog will discuss different LPWA business models.

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