What is LPWAN?

LPWANs (Low-Power Wide-Area Networks) are a type of radio-based connectivity used for wireless data communication for IoT devices and M2M (machine-to-machine) applications.

Most LPWAN solutions share common characteristics: They require less power, have extended operating ranges and typically can transmit a limited amount of data per day. Organizations looking to reduce the manufacturing and lifetime operating costs of IoT devices often select LPWANs.

Common features of LPWAN technologies

Among the features shared by LPWAN technologies are:

While some features are shared, others are available only with specific solutions. It’s therefore important to evaluate all of them to identify which best meets your requirements. Below we have a quick summary of some of the most popular LPWAN technologies.


LTE-M is a radio technology built to support a longer device and battery lifespan by allowing it to “sleep” when not in use. LTE-M is compatible with LTE networks and leverages existing LTE base stations. This enables device mobility and also means new antennas aren’t required to operate—carriers simply upload new software. Among LTE-M’s key benefits are:

Organizations should consider LTE-M when:

NB-IoT (NarrowBand Internet of Things)

NB-IoT is another LPWAN technology designed to reduce power consumption and improve system capacity and spectrum efficiency, especially in deep and remote locations. NB-IoT’s key selling point is cost savings that are derived from two factors: The lack of complexity in its underlying technology and its lack of need for a cellular gateway to aggregate and transmit sensor data. Among NB-IoT’s key benefits are:

Organizations should consider NB-IoT when:

LoRaWAN (Long-Range Wide Area Network)

LoRaWAN uses gateways to transmit messages between devices and network servers. These gateways translate the radio frequency packets they receive from end points into IP packets that travel across the network.

A LoRaWAN network server maximizes network capacity and battery life by using adaptive data rate (ADR) which allows for a dynamic tradeoff between communication range and message duration for each end point individually. Among LoRaWAN’s key benefits are:

Organizations should consider LoRaWAN when:

When is LPWAN the right choice?

Choosing the right connectivity technology is always difficult. There are LOTS of different options and LPWAN is just one type of connectivity technology (we have provided an overview of the most popular connectivity technologies here). LPWAN technologies are the best option when devices are located underground, in remote areas, or deep within urban infrastructures and t primary applications for LPWANs include smart lighting, smart grid, water metering, gas detectors and smart agriculture.