LoRa May Not Be for Long Haul at Orange
So it seems LoRa might eventually be entirely replaced by licensed technologies (Bretones does not go this far, preferring to say it will be "embedded" in regular spectrum, but he seems to mean the capabilities of LoRa rather than LoRa itself). The question is how disruptive such a process would be. And why, if Orange intends to largely phase it out, is the operator investing in LoRa at all?
The answer to the second question may be that Orange does not feel it can afford to wait for the availability of licensed alternatives as other players get their IoT acts together. Just last month, network rival Bouygues Telecom , which Orange is hoping to acquire, announced IoT plans that also rely heavily on LoRa technology. "It's a race," says Bretones, recognizing the need to gain experience and develop expertise as quickly as possible. "The number of IoT devices using LoRa is blooming." (See Orange CEO Sees 50:50 Chance of Bouygues Deal.)
The LoRa network, then, gives Orange more opportunities to test Datavenue, a data-management platform it launched in June last year, and explore new ways of selling IoT services to consumers and businesses. It is already collaborating with companies including SEB, a manufacturer of domestic appliances and cookware; Harmonie Mutuelle, a healthcare player; and AXA, an insurance specialist, on IoT services that make use of Datavenue's data-gathering and analytics capabilities.
Moreover, in France and Romania, it now provides a number of connected home services under the Homelive brand, some of which might feasibly sit more comfortably on a LoRa network. One option it is currently considering is the sale of LoRa lamps and tracker devices in a single package for customers living in areas of poor network coverage.
"All the knowledge we have gathered through this experimentation and all the assets we have will be very important," says Bretones, when asked if Orange will be able to reuse LoRa investments as it shifts to technologies based on licensed spectrum.
But it might not be all that straightforward, according to Heavy Reading's Bell. Once capital investments in LoRa have depreciated, Orange might face a situation where the LoRa network is much costlier to operate than licensed alternatives. That could leave Orange in a quandary about what to do next, and force it to make some big decisions now.
"They could sell the network and customers, migrate the customers at their expense or, over the next couple of years, invest in a virtualized core that enables them to efficiently run both networks," says Bell. "The reality is that there is no simple answer, but there will be a lot of learning for both operators and customers in the next two to three years."
— Iain Morris, , News Editor, Light Reading