Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Leti LPWA field trials show benefits over LoRa and NB-IoT

Steve Rogerson
June 27, 2018



Leti, a French research institute of CEA Tech, has announced that field trials of its low-power wide area (LPWA) IoT technology showed significant performance gains in coverage, data-rate flexibility and power consumption compared with other LPWA technologies.
 
Leti’s LPWA approach includes its patented Turbo-FSK waveform, a flexible approach to the physical layer. It also relies on channel bonding, the ability to aggregate non-contiguous communications channels to increase coverage and data rates. The field trials were claimed to confirm the benefits of Leti’s LPWA approach in comparison with LoRa and NB-IoT, two LPWA technologies that enable wide-area communications at low cost and long battery life.
 
The results indicate the technology is especially suitable for long-range massive machine-type communications (mMTC). These systems, in which tens of billions of machine-type terminals communicate wirelessly, are expected to proliferate after 5G networks are deployed, beginning in 2020. Cellular systems designed for humans do not adequately transmit the very short data packets that define mMTC systems.
 
Designed to demonstrate the performance and flexibility of the new waveform, the field-trial results stem primarily from the system’s flexible approach of the physical layer. The flexibility allows data-rate scaling from 3Mbit/s down to 4kbit/s, when transmission conditions are not particularly favourable and/or a long transmission range is required.
 
Under favourable transmission conditions, such as a shorter range and line of sight, the Leti system can select high data rates using widely deployed single-carrier frequency-division multiplexing (SC-FDM) physical layers to take advantage of the low power consumption of the transmission mode. Under more severe transmission conditions, the system switches to more resilient high-performance orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM).
 
When both very long-range transmission and power efficiency are required, the system selects Turbo-FSK, which combines an orthogonal modulation with a parallel concatenation of convolutional codes and makes the waveform suitable for turbo processing. The selection is made automatically via a medium access control (mac) approach optimised for IoT applications.
 
“Leti’s Turbo-FSK receiver performs close to the Shannon limit, which is the maximum rate that data can be transmitted over a given noisy channel without error, and is geared for low spectral efficiency,” said Vincent Berg, head of Leti’s smart object communications laboratory. “Moreover, the waveform exhibits a constant envelope, that is it has a peak-to-average power ratio equal to 0dB, which is especially beneficial for power consumption. Turbo-FSK is therefore well adapted to future LPWA systems, especially in 5G cellular systems.”
 
In the new system, the mac layer exploits the advantages of the different waveforms and is designed to self-adapt to context, that is the usage scenario and application. It optimally selects the most appropriate configuration according to the application requirements, such as device mobility, high data rate, energy efficiency or when the network becomes crowded, and is coupled with a decision module that adapts the communications depending on the radio environment. The optimisation of the application transmission requirements is realised by the dynamic adaptation of the mac protocol, and the decision module controls link quality.
 
Founded in 1967, Leti pioneers micro- and nano-technologies, tailoring differentiating applications for global companies, SMEs and start-ups. It tackles critical problems in healthcare, energy and digital migration. With a staff of more than 1900, a portfolio of 2700 patents, 8500 square metres of cleanroom space and a clear IP policy, the institute is based in Grenoble, France, and has offices in Silicon Valley and Tokyo. Leti has launched 60 start-ups and is a member of the Carnot Institutes network.
 
CEA Tech is the technology research branch of the French Alternative Energies & Atomic Energy Commission (CEA).