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LoRaWAN distance world record broken twice: 766km using 25mW power (thethingsnetwork.org)
172 points by htdvisser on July 30, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 66 comments

LoRa looks like a really cool technology, but I'm always a little bit hesitant about advocating adopting a proprietary protocol, and LoRaWAN is very much proprietary.


I tried to make an open source radio system like LoRa before LoRa existed, but I mostly failed to deliver on my kickstarter. :-/

I did make a 915/868 MHz frequency hopping radio protocol that is open source, as well as ARM powered hardware to drive it, but it turns out everything I wanted to do was way more work than I realized.

Bummer that LoRa hardware is proprietary, but I suppose so was the cpu and radio chip I used. Would be nice to get some open source digital radio chips!

That sounds interesting. Could you please provide a link to the open source project?




I have lots of hardware I could share if anyone would pick it up in the Bay Area, and I can make all the IP CC0 or MIT licensed instead of copyleft it desired.

LoRa is.. But LoRaWAN is an open standard, governed by LoRa Alliance.

Using the LoRa PHY. Not much of an open standard at that point....

So, in the article, I saw the picture of a ‘base station’...where can I find more info about the towers (locations, hardware)?

Does a single company own/control all the towers?

Are you speaking about the gateway? If so you can have more info here:


These base stations (we call them gateways) are owned and operated by individuals, communities or companies. The gateways demodulate transmissions and forward them to The Things Network's public community network.

There are currently over 8000 of these gateways worldwide (see also the map on https://www.thethingsnetwork.org/map).

What is the incentive for a hobbyist to set up and maintain a gateway, given that the protocol is not open?

Most probably don't want to have a say in the protocol specifications, they just want to use the protocol and spectrum.

wifi and 3gpp can be considered proprietary as well, considering patents

80211 has no public specifications neither. Those specifications are behind paywalls.

Lack of public (official) specifications is much less of a problem than patents. Closed specifications can be reverse-engineered, but patents impede even independent clean-room implementations.

That's far enough to send email[1]. It's incredible the kind of distances that they've been able to demonstrate with LoRa, even with the low data rates it means that wireless sensors it monitoring can be done with small batteries and solar charging almost indefinitely. Weather stations and farms are perfect for this kind of thing.

[1] https://www.ibiblio.org/harris/500milemail.html

We have a classic use case monitoring a network of predator traps (to catch e.g mustelids, rats). Our required data rate is literally 1 bit per hour.

As far as I can tell the only reason such an insane result was possible is because the transmission was in clear air. Using LoRa in a city you'd be happy to get 10 km.

Yes, transmissions that have line of sight can go extremely far, mostly limited by the curvature of the Earth, which is why these records are typically broken using helium balloons. There have also been several interesting ground-to-ground records [1] [2]

The distances are of course much lower if there are obstacles (like concrete buildings) between the transmitter and receiver.

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adhWIo-7gr4 [2]: https://www.thethingsnetwork.org/article/atmospheric-duct

There is a Kickstarter attempt to use LoRaWAN from a satellite. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ambasat/ambasat-1-an-ed...

Inmarsat offer a commercial service https://www.inmarsat.com/press-release/inmarsat-actility-del... and Hiber have their own Hiberband protocol but provide LoraWAN gateways you can use to uplink an area https://hiber.global/

Are there good alternatives in this space that don't have super expensive base stations?

Could you use a general purpose sdr like an HackRF as a base station?

The cheapest 8-channel LoRaWAN gateways can be found for 69$ (https://www.thethingsnetwork.org/docs/gateways/thethingsindo...). Prices have come down significantly. Outdoor gateways with IP67 rating can be found for about 400$.

Alternatively two LoRa radios can just talk point-to-point between each other.

I thought the prices was licensing related

"Alternatively two LoRa radios can just talk point-to-point between each other"

Is this a new development? Last I checked this wasn't possible.

Can I connect up little $6 dollar ESP LoRa modules to talk to each other?

The comments here suggest it's not possible: https://www.cnx-software.com/2017/10/13/this-ttgo-board-comb...

Connecting two Lora modules ad hoc has always been possible. The catch is you won't be part of the LoraWan network.

I would say boycott LoraWan.

You are only feeding Semtech, the Microsoft of Lora, which has the patents on basic information encoding/decoding.

The only gateways you can have which listen on multiple channels are damn expensive.

Gateways are about 200$ fully assembled, it's not that expensive. (Source: I built a gateway with 8 channels)

What's the benefit of being part of this network?

Isn't LoRa basically just intended to be used one-way/upstream, i.e "node --> gateway --> end-device"? What am I missing?

You can use other gateways in the same network to communicate in both directions with your device. There are also proposals to allow roaming for devices to communicate over multiple networks.

See ttnmapper.org for the level of coverage and https://www.thethingsnetwork.org/docs/network/architecture.h... for an explanation of "downlink" return messages

Oh yes they can connect p2p. The ESP32/ESP8266 modules you see at 6$ don't have a lora module though, that's extra (but still a good combo) more like ~15$.

I bought two with old screens and don't have any base stations. I beleive they can be connected in mesh with more too (not sure how many channels are needed)!

When you say they "don't have a lora module" but they still work in p2p, what does that mean? Parts are done in software that normally would be in a hardware module?

My bad, I mean the ESP32/ESP8266 modules on their own don't have any LORA capabilities (The ESP32 has both Bluetooth BLE and Wifi, ESP8266 has just wifi).

However LORA itself does work over P2P, and a common module is the ESP32 + LORA + OLED screen, which I have used and tested without any gateways.

Also I think separate from LORA altogether - There's something called ESPNOW which lets the ESP's mesh network, but that's not related to LORA and I haven't ever played with it.

I bought some LORA module for 3eur (AI Tinker RA-01).

I got these dev boards, quite pleased for $20USD each. The display is great but the battery does not seem to last very long.


Make sure you get the right frequency for your country to be legal to transmit. 868/915MHz for usa, 433 for euro.

What frequencies are these using? Also what is the speed? I assume its low frequency and pretty slow.

Being in Europe, I would assume 868 Mhz. And the data rate depends on SF (spreading factor) used. https://docs.exploratory.engineering/lora/dr_sf/

LoRa can be as low a 4 bytes per second IIRC. Yes, bytes per second. I’m not sure where it tops out. 10’s of byres per second maybe?

It took a surprising amount of clicks to find this but the baud rate can be up to 50kbps. See "data rates":


250 bits/s with a maximum payload of 59 bits is the lowest limit on LoRa.

Wow! Way faster than I remembered! It was a while back. I spent some time trying to design a payload for a slow application with connectivity challenges once upon a time.

If you're also wondering what are the SF7, SF9, SF11 and unused SF12, I just found [0]

[0] - https://docs.exploratory.engineering/lora/dr_sf

How will this scale with lots of active transmitters? Are the doing some kind of distributed SIMO?

The technology is designed to scale to tens of thousands of active end devices per gateway (base station), but for that it does assume that most traffic is from end devices to the network. Larger scale can be achieved by adding more gateways.

End devices hop over multiple channels. Most gateways can receive simultaneously on 8, 16 or up to 64 channels (using 1, 2 or up to 8 antennas). The network can dynamically adapt the channels used by each end device to distribute traffic over the available channels.

End devices will use different data rates (spreading factors) for their transmissions (depending on required range). The LoRa modulation allows gateways to receive multiple transmissions on the same channel simultaneously if those transmissions use different spreading factors (most of the time, the spreading factors are "almost orthogonal").

You can deploy more gateways to create smaller cells. The network can then tell end devices to lower their transmit power.

More details in this video: https://privatevideos.hubs.vidyard.com/watch/iXBL8d2mjyjubK8...

It doesn't/didn't, unless they have relaxed some rules or opened more frequencies for experimentation. Last time I checked LoRa guidelines required each node to stay quiet most of the time for very good reasons, that is, one could transmit only for a short time (iirc just a few minutes per day). More than enough for remote sensors/alerts etc but hardly usable for any other purpose beyond research. Still impressive results though! Let's hope its success will push for opening of more bands so that traffic rules can be relaxed a bit, but I'm not expecting free (as in unregulated) public availability anytime soon: that would be a mess.

The Things Network's public community network indeed has guidelines to ensure fair access for the entire community.

If you deploy a private LoRaWAN network with your own gateways and your own servers, you only need to comply with the limits imposed by local regulators for the (unlicensed) spectrum you're using. In Europe's 868MHz ISM band, transmitters are limited by a 1% duty cycle. In the US's 915MHz band, transmissions are limited to a 400ms dwell time. Other regions have similar limits.

Any open alternatives to LoRa? I would like to setup a network that would cover a 20km radius even if it is only 1kb/s

I don't know how open it is, but there is Wi-Sun to try out. They have a statement on open-ness: https://www.wi-sun.org/wp-content/uploads/Wi-SUN-Alliance-Po....

Ti's long range 15.4 implementation is not open but is much cheaper than LoRa, you just need two $20 Launchpad boards, one as a basestation and one as your client.

You could also just use the LaunchPad's packet radio api to implement your own simple protocol, you just need to remember to keep to the limitations imposed by the authorities (duty cycle, wait time).

What sort of bit rate are they getting with this? And to what extent is it directional?

SF10BW125 and SF11BW125 so 980-440 bits per second

Note that 'm' in this title is 'miles'. Not a great idea to use this format and abbreviations for alternate measurement systems.

Yeah, it should be "mi", rather than "m"; though I don't think it ultimately caused that much confusion.

well it reads meter to me.. So I figured it was at 476m altitude

Sorry about that, I had to shorten the title to comply with HN's title length limit, and when I saw my mistake I couldn't edit it anymore. It would be nice if a moderator could fix that.

Yep, I read that as 766km and 476m (766.476km).

Until I read the article and saw the transmitters were on balloons I figured it was the elevation of the tower (476 metres)

Yet another reason the metric system is superior.

I agree that metric is better but this is ridiculous. Miles should be abbreviated mi.

"This" being the HN submission. @moderators - can you #fix? The linked article uses the word miles.

Can the mods fix? They won't fix several other submissions which I've pointed out were misleading, so...

Easy proof the mods aren't neutral by any means. Recorded and added to the 3.2GB file of shame they've got on them (and that's the smallest one. I've got stuff from MicroSoft, RedHat, and Debian groups that would make the mods puke trying to figure out how to word the headline without causing a civil war. Too bad they'll never get it with their current behavior.)

I don't see the reason. Please explain.

Metric abbreviations are standard and there aren't any widely-accepted alternatives. Unlike, say, "/in, '/ft, lbs/lbf/lb, etc.

Non-metric units are objectively worse.

>Non-metric units are objectively worse.

The word you're looking for is "subjectively". There are lots of aesthetic reasons to like the metric system but realistically the best one is the one you have internalized.

You can only clearly judge two things if you have them both internalized.

I for example speak German and English and I can assure you that both these languages have their merits. German is a more precise language with more nuance and a bigger vocabulary, chaining of nouns allows for ad-hoc invention of new words which other people will quickly understand etc. English is much easier to learn, is less clunky to express everyday stuff and it lends itself to certain ways of thinking that I wouldn’t want to miss.

While these are based on subjective observations there is plenty of research that shows how language affects thinking and one could argue there are objective differences.

Are the benifits of metric prefixes, a decimal base, better interfacing with Si units etc really just subjective?

If you live in an imperial world, these benifits might diminish, but using this as an argument would be similar to saying “German is not a good language because where I live it is not spoken”

Yeah now that would be subjectively.

Please explain how you think Celcius is objectively better than Fahrenheit. For the layperson the only difference is that Celcius requires decimal points to distinguish between temperatures you can feel and has a simple water boiling and freezing poin

Back to the larger point: if your argument is that it's similar to comparing German and English, you've lost. Bringing it down to effectively a language barrier means it's obviously not worth any switching cost for a few minor conveniences.

And still my 4g and WiFi won't work that well

You probably get more than 100 bits per second.

Wow!!! Lorawans future is bright

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