France's Orange has hailed the emergence of low power, wide area (LPWA) network technologies including LoRa as a "big rupture" that will help it to realize a goal of generating €600 million (US$655 million) in revenues from Internet of Things (IoT) services by 2018.
The French operator is currently rolling out LoRa in 17 French cities and says it will gradually be deployed across France as part of its IoT strategy. (See Eurobites: Orange Fine-Tunes IoT Vision.)
LoRa is about 15 times more energy-efficient than cellular when used to support Internet of Things (IoT) applications that do not require huge amounts of bandwidth, according to Olivier Ondet, marketing and customer experience director at Orange Business Services , the operator's enterprise division.
"With technologies like LoRa we can divide by 15 the quantity of energy you need to carry small information to do with parking meters, whether a door is open or closed, whether there is a water leak," said Ondet during a conversation with Light Reading's Telco Transformation website.
A number of LPWA technologies using unlicensed spectrum have recently burst on to the IoT scene, but Orange (NYSE: FTE) preferred the "open ecosystem" of LoRa to alternatives such as Sigfox. Ondet believes this openness will help to foster the development of new types of device used in low-power IoT settings. (See How IoT Forked the Mobile Roadmap.)
LoRa has also received a boost from Orange rival Bouygues Telecom , which this week launched a dedicated IoT subsidiary called Objenious that will also make use of LoRa technology.
Bouygues says its LoRa network has already been rolled out in 15 of France's biggest towns and cities and is aiming to cover 50% of the French population by mid-2016 and the whole country by the end of the year.
The Objenious subsidiary has 20 dedicated employees and is being led by Stéphane Allaire, the head of content and services for Bouygues Telecom.
Despite the immediate attractions of LoRa, however, Ondet says Orange is ultimately committed to using standardized cellular technologies running in licensed spectrum bands, warning that fragmentation could otherwise occur. "With 4G we are expecting optimized versions for objects that are less energy consuming," he says.
That means LoRa is likely to have a shelf life of between five and ten years at Orange before it is replaced by a cellular technology. After 2020, the 5G standard could provide a catch-all for low power and more energy-intensive mobile network services, according to Ondet.
Orange has not revealed details of how much it is spending on the LoRa deployment, but Ondet told Telco Transformation the operator is using mobile sites that are already in place during the rollout. That should obviously make the project far more economical than if Orange had to start from scratch.
LPWA is not the only breakthrough that will help Orange to reach its IoT targets, according to Ondet.
With the use of more sophisticated algorithms, Orange is developing big data analytics capabilities that will help customers gain insight into patterns of behavior affecting their operations.
One project in the retail sector entails the creation of what Ondet calls a "data lake," comprising information about consumers gleaned from loyalty cards. Working with analytics software specialist Splunk, which has developed an algorithm for data analysis, Orange is looking to generate more valuable consumer statistics for its retail clients.
Orange evidently faces strong competition from software companies targeting the big data opportunity but says its strategy is to have a presence in all parts of the IoT value chain.
Some areas are clearly more important than others, however. While Orange is looking to partners to supply the bulk of its devices, it appears determined to take the lead in the security space.
When it comes to data management, Orange says it can work in other platform environments if customers are already using those technologies. And with connectivity and systems integration, it is forming partnerships in areas where it does not have an actual presence.
Bouygues similarly says it wants to cover "every segment of the IoT value chain" with Objenious but is relying on a data management platform from Hewlett Packard Enterprise and security solutions from Atos.
The operator said it would unveil a range of B2B and B2B2C IoT offerings in the coming weeks.
Orange is currently in talks about an acquisition of Bouygues Telecom that could lead to the creation of a LoRa powerhouse, given the IoT investments the two operators are making. (See Orange Gets Serious About $10.9B Bouygues Takeover – Report.)
Ondet would not indicate how fast Orange's IoT business is growing in revenue terms but said the operator is now supporting more than 9 million "objects," that number having nearly doubled in the last two years.
— Iain Morris, , News Editor, Light Reading