LPWAN Technologies Enhancing Industrial IoT


The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) emerges as a transformative force, knitting together the vast potential of digital connectivity with the traditional industrial ecosystem. At the core of this integration lies the Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) technology enabling a myriad of devices to communicate over extensive distances while maintaining low power consumption.

As industries increasingly pivot towards smart automation and data-driven decision-making, the need for robust, scalable, and secure wireless communication solutions becomes paramount. LPWAN technologies, known for their far-reaching coverage and energy-efficient operation, are pivotal in addressing these needs. However, the journey from their inception to becoming an IIoT staple involves continuous evolution and overcoming significant technical challenges.

Basics of LPWAN in IIoT

With its ability to provide long-range communication coupled with minimal energy consumption, LPWAN stands out as a beacon of innovation in industrial connectivity.

In an industrial setting, LPWAN’s extensive coverage enables the seamless integration of remote sensors and devices, facilitating real-time monitoring and control over sprawling industrial complexes.

The embrace of LPWAN within IIoT is underpinned by a suite of technological enablers that address the unique challenges of industrial communication.


Figure 1: LPWAN in IIoT Key Enablers

Radio Frequency Innovation

One of the most significant enablers of LPWAN technologies is the advancement in radio frequency (RF) communications. With the ability to operate on sub-GHz frequencies, LPWAN technologies benefit from longer wavelengths that can penetrate through obstacles and cover larger areas with fewer base stations. This capability is essential for industries spread over vast geographical locations or those situated in RF challenging environments.

Energy-Efficient Protocols

LPWAN’s hallmark feature of low-power consumption is enabled by innovative energy-efficient protocols. These protocols, such as duty cycling and adaptive data rate, ensure that devices consume power only when necessary, substantially prolonging battery life. Energy-efficient protocols are critical in industrial applications where device deployment can be in hard-to-reach locations, making battery replacement a complex and costly endeavor.

Advanced Modulation Techniques

LPWAN technologies utilize advanced modulation techniques, such as LoRa’s Chirp Spread Spectrum (CSS) and NB-IoT’s Quadrature Phase-Shift Keying (QPSK), to optimize signal robustness over long distances. These techniques allow signals to maintain integrity against noise and interference, ensuring reliable data transmission even in industrial settings fraught with electromagnetic disruptions.

Network Architecture Flexibility

The architectural flexibility of LPWAN networks, with their ability to support star, mesh, and hybrid topologies, enables tailored deployment strategies suited to diverse industrial landscapes. This flexibility ensures that LPWAN networks can be designed to optimize coverage, capacity, and resilience to environmental challenges.

Security Mechanisms

In IIoT, where data integrity and security are paramount, LPWAN technologies incorporate sophisticated security mechanisms. These include end-to-end encryption, mutual authentication, and unique network keys that secure communication channels against potential breaches.

Scalability Solutions

To accommodate the growing number of IIoT devices, LPWAN technologies offer scalability solutions through efficient spectrum utilization and network management. Techniques like orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) and time division multiple access (TDMA) allow LPWAN networks to handle an increasing volume of devices without a proportional increase in spectral congestion.

As industries often operate with a mix of new and legacy systems, LPWAN technologies support interoperability standards to facilitate integration. By adhering to widely accepted communication protocols, LPWAN ensures seamless data exchange within a heterogeneous technological environment.

LPWAN Technologies

Among the various LPWAN options, NB-IoT, SigFox, and LoRa/LoRaWAN have garnered significant interest. Below is a comparative table that highlights the key technical specifications and operational characteristics of these three LPWAN technologies, offering insight into their suitability for different IIoT applications.

Table 1: A comparative table of LPWAN Technologies in the context of IIoT Deployment

Feature NB-IoT SigFox LoRa
Coverage Up to 164 dB MCL Unspecified, large area Varies by SF
Frequency Band Licensed (e.g., 700 MHz) Unlicensed ISM Unlicensed ISM
Bandwidth 200 kHz 100 Hz 125, 250, or 500 kHz
Data Rate Uplink: 20 kbps

Downlink: 200 kbps

100 bps 300 bps to 11 kbps
Payload Size Up to 1600 bytes/message Uplink: 12 bytes

Downlink: 8 bytes

Up to 242 bytes
Modulation QPSK BPSK CSS
Communication Bidirectional Uplink-centric Uplink-centric
Access Mechanism RACH procedure RFTDMA Pure ALOHA
Business Model Network Operator/Provider Operator-like (proprietary) Flexible, varied usage


NB-IoT: Bridging the Gap in Industrial Communication

Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) is a standard that stands out for its impressive indoor coverage and capacity to support a multitude of low-demand devices within a single base station’s reach. It is particularly well-suited for smart metering in dense urban areas. With a maximum coupling loss of 164 dB, NB-IoT ensures reliable communication over extensive distances, facilitating an end-user data rate of 160 bps. This efficiency is further bolstered by its ability to coexist with LTE, operating in licensed frequency bands and utilizing a single LTE resource block.

NB-IoT’s design principles revolve around simplicity and cost-efficiency, catering to the typical requirements of IoT applications. It aims to offer a low-complexity solution that extends the lifespan of battery-powered devices. The NB-IoT protocol leverages the packet data convergence protocol (PDCP) for data transport and the radio resource control (RRC) for managing radio resources, emphasizing the reduction of signaling by suspending and resuming user plane operations.

SigFox: The Ultra-Narrowband Approach

SigFox presents an alternative LPWAN solution that utilizes ultra-narrowband communication, operating in unlicensed ISM bands. It has adopted a business model akin to mobile operators, deploying proprietary software-defined radios at base stations and connecting to backend servers through an IP network. SigFox’s technology supports random frequency and time division multiple access (RFTDMA), permitting nodes to access the medium without contention mechanisms.

The limited bandwidth of 100 Hz results in a maximum throughput of 100 bps, a strategic choice to minimize noise levels and power consumption. SigFox’s communication begins with the nodes, significantly reducing the duration for which they listen to the medium. The technology ensures communication reliability by retransmitting messages across different frequency channels, embracing time and frequency diversity.

LoRa: Leveraging Chirp Spread Spectrum

LoRa, introduced by Semtech, has distinguished itself with its chirp spread spectrum (CSS) modulation, which encodes bits with a chirp frequency trajectory. The technology’s bandwidth remains fixed, with the duration of the chirp determining the data rate. A higher spreading factor (SF) equates to a lower data rate but augments noise immunity.

LoRa has been the foundation for the LoRaWAN communication solution, which has gained traction for its flexibility and ability to manage diverse applications. LoRaWAN’s architecture is designed to simplify the wireless side of connectivity, with back-end servers centralizing network management procedures. It supports a star-of-stars network topology, creating a hybrid wireless and wired infrastructure that caters to the uplink-focused applications typical of LPWAN.

In conclusion, the LPWAN landscape comprises a variety of technologies, each tailored to specific industrial requirements. From the coverage prowess of NB-IoT to the simplicity of SigFox and the adaptive capabilities of LoRa, the LPWAN spectrum is rich with options for IIoT deployments, paving the way for innovative industrial communication solutions.

LPWAN Limitations: A Technical Perspective

While addressing the need for long-range and low-power communication, LPWAN also has technical limitations that still present challenges that require innovative solutions.

The growing complexity of IIoT systems often necessitates higher data throughput. Advanced coding schemes and multiplexing techniques are being explored to increase the data capacity of LPWAN without compromising its power efficiency or range.

Latency is a critical factor in many industrial applications. Techniques like edge computing and local data aggregation are being applied to reduce response times within LPWAN networks. These solutions enable quicker decision-making by processing data closer to its source, thereby reducing the latency inherent in long-range transmissions.

The scalability of LPWAN networks is crucial as the number of connected devices continues to grow. Adaptive network management protocols are essential to manage this expansion, optimizing resource allocation, and ensuring that the network can dynamically adjust to varying traffic loads and patterns.

Security in IIoT is crucial, and LPWAN must continuously evolve its security protocols to mitigate risks. This involves the implementation of advanced cryptographic techniques, secure key management systems, and regular security audits to protect against emerging threats.

LPWAN technologies typically excel in open environments, but signal penetration in complex indoor settings can be problematic. To address this, signal boosters, repeaters, and mesh network configurations are deployed to ensure consistent coverage within industrial facilities.

The longevity of battery-powered IIoT devices is crucial for reducing maintenance costs and operational disruptions. Energy harvesting technologies, alongside more power-efficient chipsets and sleep mode protocols, are being developed to extend the battery life of LPWAN-connected devices.

In conclusion, overcoming the technical limitations of LPWAN involves a multifaceted approach, combining advancements in throughput, latency reduction, scalability, reliability, security, interference mitigation, indoor coverage, and energy efficiency.

Security Aspects in Industrial Applications

The security of LPWAN begins at the physical layer. Here, techniques like frequency hopping and spread spectrum technologies are employed to reduce the risk of eavesdropping and jamming attacks. By dispersing the signal across various frequencies, the resilience of the network against physical layer attacks is significantly enhanced.

Robust Encryption Standards

Data transmitted over LPWAN must be encrypted to ensure confidentiality and integrity. The use of robust, industry-standard encryption algorithms such as AES-128 provides a high level of security for data in transit. Regular updates and security patches are crucial to protect against new vulnerabilities and to maintain a robust defense against cyber threats.

Authentication and Access Control

To prevent unauthorized access, LPWAN employs strong authentication protocols for devices joining the network. Access control mechanisms ensure that only authenticated devices can communicate within the network, thereby mitigating the risk of spoofing and relay attacks.

Secure Key Management

The management of cryptographic keys in LPWAN is of paramount importance. Secure key storage, distribution, and renewal practices are vital to maintaining the overall security of the network. Techniques such as Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) are implemented to manage the lifecycle of cryptographic keys securely.

End-to-End Security

LPWAN supports end-to-end security by encrypting data from the device to the application server. This ensures that even if the data is intercepted at any point in the network, it remains unintelligible without the appropriate decryption keys.

Resistance to Denial-of-Service Attacks

Given the low-power nature of LPWAN, it is essential to implement strategies that protect against Denial-of-Service (DoS) attacks, which could rapidly deplete device batteries. Rate limiting, anomaly detection, and behavioral monitoring are some of the measures taken to identify and mitigate these attacks.

Network Layer Security

Security at the network layer involves measures such as firewalls and intrusion detection systems that monitor and control the incoming and outgoing network traffic based on an applied security policy. Anomalies are logged and analyzed to prevent potential breaches.

Regular Security Audits

Conducting regular security audits and vulnerability assessments for LPWAN networks helps in identifying and rectifying security gaps. Penetration testing and the implementation of security incident and event management (SIEM) systems are part of a proactive security strategy.

Compliance with Industry Standards

Compliance with industry security standards and regulations is critical for LPWAN implementations in industrial settings. Adhering to standards like IEC 62443 for industrial network security ensures that LPWAN deployments are up to par with international security benchmarks.


LPWAN technologies such as NB-IoT, SigFox, and LoRa/LoRaWAN are pivotal in advancing IIoT. They provide long-range communication with low power usage, essential for the vast, interconnected networks of the industrial sector. Despite challenges in throughput, latency, and security, LPWAN continues to evolve, working in tandem with technologies like 5G to revolutionize industrial operations. As LPWAN matures, it promises to redefine IIoT with enhanced connectivity and smarter, more efficient systems.


  • 3GPP ETSI TS 23.501. System Architecture for the 5G System (5GS). V16.6.0, 2020-10.
  • Nurul Huda Mahmood, Nikolaj Marchenko, Mikael Gidlund, Petar Popovski, “Wireless Networks and Industrial IoT”, Springer, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-51473-0
  • Emiliano Sisinni and Aamir Mahmood, “Wireless Communications for Industrial Internet of Things: The LPWAN Solutions,” Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021, p.79