Senet’s LoRa build clocks in at up to 1/20th the cost of LTE buildouts

Senet's Will Yapp said the company’s ongoing buildout of a wireless network designed for the Internet of Things costs roughly 1/10th to 1/20th the amount it would cost to build out an LTE network to the same geography.

“The costs are in some cases anywhere from 1/10th to 2/20th the cost of what it would take to put a similar LTE backbone in place,” Yapp told FierceInstaller. Senet this week announced that its IoT-focused LoRa network, which is targeting the low-power, wide-area networks (LPWANs) space, recently expanded to an 10 additional major metropolitan areas of the U.S., including Los Angeles, New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, Seattle, San Diego, Atlanta and Denver.

With this announcement Senet now has a presence in a total of 225 cities and 23 states covering a population of nearly 50 million people, the company said.

“Because the [LoRa] gateways get much longer range [than LTE], they’re much lighter, they’re much smaller, they cost a hell of a lot less [than LTE],” Yapp explained. “The installation therefore costs less. The associated site prep and all that stuff costs less. So when it’s all added up we can light up a city for probably 1/10th to 1/20th what it would cost for similar LTE coverage.”

Yapp added that Senet, a startup that launched in 2009 selling a proprietary wireless network to companies that sold oil and propane, leverages a variety of techniques, partners and technologies to deploy its LoRa network into new U.S. cities. The company pivoted to LoRa network technology in 2013.

“We use a hybrid model to deploy,” Yapp said, noting the company uses mostly third-party, off-the-shelf gateways from a variety of suppliers. He also said Senet partners with various site owners including tower companies like American Tower and Vertical Bridge, as well as billboard and rooftop owners, where it installs its gateways.

Senet deploys its network through a mix of its own workers and third-party contractors. “That’s how we deploy and that’s what allows us to go so quickly with the best optimization of cost and coverage.”

Source: LoRa Alliance

Added Yap: “We look to balance cost and speed to deployment, and then coverage. So usually we’ll have one or two really tall assets in the area that give us broad umbrella outdoor coverage. And then we’re filling in behind those large assets with other types of assets like billboards and the rooftops. But there are buildings in some of the places we’re deploying building rooftop [gateways] that are 600 feet tall, and that’s going to give you very broad outdoor coverage when you can get up on an asset like that versus, in that particular case, we didn’t find a tower that tall that would give us the coverage we needed at the cost we wanted,” he said. “It varies by particular metro area and region that we’re putting in the equipment.”

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Senet is one of several companies working to build LPWANs, including Sigfox, Ingenu and others. Such startups will also face competition from the likes of Verizon and AT&T that have promised to launch LTE-M services that will also offer low-cost wireless connections to inexpensive devices that don’t require much battery power.

Senet said its LoRa network can connect over very long ranges (approximately 15 miles) while delivering very long battery power life (approximately 10 years) for “an extremely low total cost of ownership.” The company is generally selling its services to businesses and others in the industrial IoT sector.