LoRaWAN vs. LTE-M to read water meters


Clearly, both technologies allow for remote reading of water, electricity or gas meters. But if you dig a little deeper, it's clear that for this use case, being less energy consuming is a big advantage since the transmitter (wireless sensor) that reads the water meter runs on batteries. Then there are the monthly operating costs for the connectivity which have a significant impact if we evaluate the costs over 10 years or more. Finally, the ability to penetrate basements, concrete, metal or glass is an important attribute for reading water meters, often installed in basements.

According to an independent study published at the end of 2021 by a group of renowned universities including the University of California Berkeley, LoRaWAN would consume 6 times less energy than LTE-M. Therefore, to have the same battery life, LTE-M would have to have 6 times more capacity. This is really not surprising since there is a direct link between bandwidth (the amount of information that can be sent per second) and power consumption. LoRaWAN bandwidth is 290 bps - 50 Kbps while LTE-M is 200 kbps - 1 Mbps. Other use cases requiring higher bandwidth than water meter reading or other telemetry would then be better served by LTE-M. 

Since LTE-M is a cellular technology, each connected meter comes with a monthly subscription for cellular connectivity that costs several times more than LoRa connectivity. In addition, this connectivity cannot be used to carry data from other sensors as each meter's cellular plan cannot be shared.

Secondly, as LoRaWAN is a highly secure, bi-directional protocol, it is no match for LTE-M in terms of remotely configuring the sensor as required.

Finally, LoRaWAN's penetration capacity and resistance to interference is far superior to that of LTE-M. This is a significant advantage, since if LTE-M connectivity is poor in a basement, there is not much to be done. On the other hand, with LoRa, you can always add an inexpensive LoRa gateway in the neighbourhood to improve coverage if needed. Needless to say, this new LoRa gateway can also be used to carry data from hundreds of other types of LoRa sensors for all sorts of applications.

Finally, LoRaWAN is now used in almost every country in the world to read electricity, water or gas meters. Currently in France, 64% of the 60 million connected meters are LoRa (or Sigfox), compared to only 7% LTE-M. The same is true in many industrialised countries for obvious reasons.

When it comes to competing technologies, there are always those who push their solution by spreading falsehoods about the competing technology, so it's important to do your homework and draw your own conclusions. 

Eric Bourbeau, B.Eng, MBA,

March 2022

X-TELIA is a Canadian technology company specializing in Internet of Things and LoRaWAN solutions. It supports companies and cities that want to deploy wireless applications based on highly secure, low-cost and low-power long-range connectivity. X-TELIA offers solutions that have been proven elsewhere in the world, as well as leading-edge expertise to facilitate the shift to the Internet of Things. X-TELIA also operates a next-generation wireless network dedicated to the Internet of Things, specifically designed to support new applications that make cities smarter, industry more efficient and citizens safer.

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