Everything You Need to Know about LoRaWAN®

In this blog, we discuss what LoRaWAN is, its benefits, key components, and how it differs from LoRa. We also touch on how to choose the right LoRaWAN architecture and how to deploy a private LoRaWAN network.

We'll showcase some case studies highlighting why businesses choose LoRaWAN, as well as answer some frequently asked questions about this technology.

What is LoRaWAN

LoRaWAN is a wireless networking protocol that enables long-range communication between IoT devices while minimizing power consumption and maintaining low operating costs. LoRaWAN technology is based on the LoRa (Long-Range) modulation technique.

The LoRaWAN network uses a star-of-stars layout, with gateways serving as intermediaries between end devices and the main network server. These gateways, linked via standard IP connections, simply transform RF packets into IP packets and vice versa. The long-range traits of the LoRaÒ physical layer facilitate wireless communication, enabling a one-hop connection between the end device and multiple gateways.

The network supports two-way communication and multicast addressing groups for tasks like Firmware Over-The-Air (FOTA) upgrades or mass message distribution, ensuring efficient use of spectrum.

LoRaWAN vs LoRa

When it comes to wireless communication for IoT devices, two terms you'll often encounter are LoRa and LoRaWAN. While they may sound similar, they refer to different aspects of the technology. Let's break down their differences:


LoRa stands for Long Range. It is a wireless modulation technique used for creating long-range communication links.

In simpler terms, it's the physical layer or the wireless radio frequency technology that enables long-range communication among IoT devices. It's designed to use minimal power while covering large areas, making it ideal for IoT applications where devices need to send small amounts of data over long distances.


On the other hand, LoRaWAN represents the network protocol on which LoRa operates. It defines the communication protocol and system architecture for the network while managing the communication between devices and the internet. This includes aspects like addressing, security, and the handling of messages.]

Advantages of LoRaWAN

Let's look at the advantages that make LoRaWAN a vital tool in today's tech landscape:

Long-Range Communication

LoRaWAN excels in facilitating communication over long distances. It can sustain connections up to 15 kilometers in rural areas and about 5 kilometers in urban environments. This makes it a perfect fit for applications that operate in remote areas, such as agricultural sensors or wildlife tracking devices.

Low Power Consumption

Another key advantage of LoRaWAN is its low power requirement. LoRaWAN devices can run on a single battery for years, making it an economical choice for large-scale deployments.

Robust Security Features

With LoRaWAN, you don't have to compromise on security. It employs encryption for communication between devices and networks, ensuring data privacy and protection against unauthorized access.


LoRaWAN can handle millions of messages per base station daily, making it capable of supporting growing IoT deployments.

Read more about LoRaWAN 101: All you need to know Before Getting Started

Key Components of LoRaWAN

LoRaWAN functions through a series of interconnected components. Understanding these elements can help you grasp how this technology operates and why it's advantageous for long-range, low-power applications. Here's a simple breakdown of the main components:

1. End Nodes or Devices

These are the objects in IoT networks that collect data. They could be anything from temperature sensors to tracking devices. Their primary function is to gather information and send it to a gateway using LoRaWAN protocol.

2. Gateways

Gateways serve as the bridge between end nodes and the network server. Gateways for LoRaWAN receive data from multiple end nodes and forward it to the network server. Importantly, they do not process this data—their role is purely to transmit it.

3. Network Server

This is the heart of the LoRaWAN system. The network server processes the data received from gateways, handles security checks, and controls data traffic. It also manages the network's overall performance and efficiency.

4. Application Server

Once the network server has processed the data, it sends it to the application server. This server is where the data becomes accessible to the end-user. Depending on the specific application, users might view this data through a web interface, mobile app, or another platform.

5. Join Server

This component is responsible for the device authentication process. It ensures that only authorized devices can connect to the network, enhancing the security of the entire system.

How to Determine the Right LoRaWAN Architecture

When setting up a LoRaWAN network, one of the key decisions you'll need to make is choosing the right architecture. While there's no one-size-fits-all answer, here are some factors to consider to help you make the best choice:

a) Coverage Needs

Consider the geographical area your network needs to cover. If you're dealing with a small area such as a single building or campus, a single-channel gateway might suffice. However, for larger areas or rural locations, a multi-channel gateway might be more efficient, as it can handle a higher volume of data from numerous devices.

b) Number of Devices

Think about how many devices will be connecting to your network. A higher number of devices might require a more robust network architecture to manage all the connections and data traffic efficiently.

c) Data Transmission Frequency

How often your devices will be transmitting data is another crucial factor. If your devices send data infrequently, a simpler architecture might work. However, if your devices transmit data frequently, you'll need a more robust network setup to handle the high data volume.

d) Security Requirements

Depending on the sensitivity of the data your network will handle, different levels of security may be needed. Ensure that the architecture you choose can meet these requirements. Learn more on GDPR certification

e) Cost and Maintenance

Lastly, consider the cost of setting up and maintaining your network. While a more complex architecture might offer more features, it could also be more expensive and require more maintenance.

How to Deploy a Private LoRaWAN Network

Deploying a private LoRaWAN network involves several key steps. Here's a simple guide to help you get started:

Step 1: Acquire a Gateway for LoRaWAN

This device acts like a "base station" for your network. Its placement is important for optimal performance - it should be positioned at a height and away from obstacles that can interfere with the signal.

Step 2: Register the Gateway on Your Network Server

Once your gateway is in place, you need to register it on your network server. You'll do this by entering its unique identifier and other necessary information.

Step 3: Activate LoRaWAN Sensors

Next, activate the sensors you plan to use with your network. This is typically done in OTAA (Over The Air Activation) mode, or ABP (Activation by Personalization) mode if necessary. Activation involves encoding the parameters or scanning the QR code provided with the sensor.

Step 4: Start the LoRaWAN Sensor

After activation, start the sensor. It will establish its first connection with the network server and negotiate its encryption keys for secure communication.

Step 5: Connect the Network Server to Your Application

Now that your network is active, you can connect the network server to your application. This is usually done via an interface that the network server provides, such as MQTT, Web Services, or Web Sockets.

Step 6: Add More Gateways (Optional)

If you need to improve coverage or ensure a better quality of service, you can add more gateways to your network. Simply install the new gateway and register it on the same instance of the network server.

Step 7: Manage the Network

Finally, remember to monitor and manage your network regularly. This includes checking device connections, data transmission, and network security.

Case Studies: Why Businesses Choose LoRaWAN

Real-life Applications of LoRaWAN

Let's take a look at some real-life examples that highlight why individuals and businesses choose LoRaWAN for their projects.

Energy Solution for Power Measurement

One RAKwireless customer sought to build an energy solution capable of measuring voltage, power factor, and aggregated apparent energy. Their choice fell on LoRaWAN primarily due to its low power consumption advantage.

The solution they developed does not rely on batteries but instead generates energy magnetically. This approach not only makes the solution eco-friendly but also cuts down on maintenance efforts. Here, LoRaWAN's low power consumption technology proved to be an ideal choice, aligning perfectly with the customer's need for an energy-efficient solution.

Hospital Solution

Another RAKwireless customer was tasked with deploying a solution for a hospital. In this scenario, LoRaWAN's scalability and ease of management were key advantages.

If they had opted for Zigbee technology, they would have been required to deploy hundreds of gateways to achieve full coverage. This would have not only been challenging to maintain but also could have introduced significant security risks.

With LoRaWAN, they were able to achieve full coverage by deploying just two or three gateways, dramatically reducing maintenance efforts.

These case studies demonstrate how LoRaWAN's unique features - low power consumption, scalability, and ease of management - can be crucial factors in deciding the right technology for specific use cases.

Read more about RAKstars Success Stories

Frequently Asked Questions on LoRaWAN

Q: LoRaWAN vs Other LPWA Network Solutions?

A: LoRaWAN stands out for its long-range capabilities and low power consumption, making it suitable for IoT applications where devices need to send small amounts of data over long distances.

Q: What is Uplink and Downlink in LoRaWAN Networks?

A: Uplink refers to data sent from the end devices to the gateway, while downlink is data sent from the gateway to the end devices.

Q: Is it legal to use LoRaWan? Is there a need for an authorization or a license?

A: Yes, it is legal to use LoRaWAN. However, the exact regulations vary by country. In some cases, you may need a license for certain frequency bands.

Q: What is the range of a LoRaWAN network?

A: The range of a LoRaWAN network varies based on several factors but typically, it can cover up to 10 km in rural areas and 2 km in urban settings.

Q: Can LoRaWAN networks be hacked?

A: Like any network, LoRaWAN networks can be susceptible to hacking. However, they have built-in security features that help protect against such threats.

Q: Can LoRaWAN be used for real-time applications?

A: LoRaWAN can be used for near-real-time applications. However, due to its low data rate, it may not be ideal for applications requiring high-speed data transmission.

Q: What is a Gateway for LoRaWAN?

A: A Gateway for LoRaWAN acts as a bridge between the end devices (like sensors) and the network server, receiving data from the devices and forwarding it to the server.