5G vs LoRaWAN part 8: Use cases

I am continuing with the eighth post in my series LoRaWAN vs 5G. As I was speaking about 5G at a LoRaWAN event (ThingsConference 22nd of September 2022), I found it appropriate to dig into the aspects of LoRaWAN vs the current 5G standards for LPWAN. In the last post, we compared the cost of ownership. This post will focus on use cases. Some of my posts referred to a comparison from LoRa Alliance; this topic is also in the comparison by LoRa Alliance.

LoRaWAN: Largest global collaborative ecosystem -vendor choice ensures future proof
LTE: Ecosystem is based on a continuation of cellular M2M

Again Lora Alliance misses the target. M2M and IoT are two different things. M2M with cellular was deprecated as a term at least before LoRaWAN was born. M2M means proprietary systems where machines talk to machines without sharing data. IoT means ecosystems where devices and applications can share data with other systems.

Use cases for each technology?

Can the IoT market be divided into use cases that fit one technology over the other? Art Reed puts it like this: Many people compare LoRA and NB-IoT technologies as if they were battling it out for dominance in the IoT market. In reality, they are two branches in an emerging LPWAN ecosystem.
My line to quote is

IoT is not a question of technology; it’s a question of digital transformation.

I think the market for 5G massive IoT and LoRaWAN are quite the same. We have a vast variation of IoT, from Smart Buildings, Construction sites to Energy applications like charging stations, solar panels, consumer applications like smart homes, Health & Life Science, as well as digital signage, industrial areas, Transport & Logistics, Security, smart cities, public Safety and various Information and Communications Technologies. IoT is found almost everywhere, so what to choose and when?

A simple table would look like this:
5G vs LoRaWAN applications

So, how should I approach the question?

If you want to know how I would prioritise, well, these are the main questions I would ask myself:

1. Can I afford the solution to go offline?

If you use LoRaWAN, there are no guarantees that the frequency is available. If you use 5G, you call the operator, and they can find the problem for you. If you can not afford to lose contact, 5G is the better option.

2. Do I want the ease of integration?
If you want to unpack and get cracking, you need to talk to an operator, no matter your choice.

3. Do I want long-term stability?
Sorry for nagging; the only ones that can guarantee spectrum are the 5G operators because they own it. If you want long-term stability and LoRaWAN, ensure your operator will be financially stable for the next ten years.

4. Do I need many sensors in a constrained area?
If yes, here is a great sweet spot for LoRaWAN; if you can live with the fact that you may have collisions and package losses, LoRaWAN is the way to go.

5. Do I need frequent updates with minimal outages from my devices?
Smart metering, for example, needs a specific update frequency in some countries; it is mandatory in Sweden. In that case, no matter the number of meters installed with LoRaWAN, I would not recommend using anything but 5G. Reverse back to my blog post on TCO if you want. The pitfall is that you have to guarantee your solution for 20 years, but the spectrum usage is out of your control.

6. Do I want to build the network myself?
As my last blog post mentioned, 5G is more expensive to build yourself. LoRaWAN most likely has the upper hand if you want just a small network.

7. Do I need mobility?
Using a tracker or other moving device, use 5G if you want a larger ecosystem of operators.

8. Do I need roaming?
I think 5G has the advantage with the best worldwide ecosystem. Even the new NB2 standard of 5G will support roaming but avoid NB-IoT NB1. LoRaWAN uses different frequencies in different countries, so avoid LoRaWAN for intercontinental applications.

The main differences?

Here is a very simple infographic I have put together; it shows the most important differences between 5G and LoRaWAN.
5G vs LoRaWAN


So if we look at the LoRa Alliance statement again.

LoRaWAN: Largest global collaborative ecosystem -vendor choice ensures future proof
LTE: Ecosystem is based on a continuation of cellular M2M

I would love to change this to:

LoRaWAN: The largest global ecosystem of devices, a large ecosystem of operators
5G: Large global ecosystem of devices, largest ecosystem of operators

Your IoT-journey

If you ask me all these blog posts has been just about one of the 10 steps you should take on your IoT journey

1. What benefits do we want to create?
2. The real business opportunity?
3. What skills do you need?
4. The right IoT partner?
5. The right technical solution?
6. How do we solve the connectivity issue?
7. Collecting data
8. Proof of Concept
9. Proof of Value
10. Minimum Viable Product

If you want to discuss IoT from an even more detailed view, reach out to me.