The Things Network Sets 702 Km Distance Record For LoRaWAN

Many of us will have at some time over the last couple of years bought a LoRaWAN module or two to evaluate the low power freely accessible wireless networking technology. Some have produced exciting and innovative projects using them while maybe the rest of us still have them on our benches as reminders of projects half-completed.

If your LoRaWAN deployment made it on-air, you’ll be familiar with the range that can be expected. A mile or two with little omnidirectional antennas if you are lucky. A few more miles if you reach for something with a bit of directionality. Add some elevation, and range increases.

A couple of weeks ago at an alternative society festival in the Netherlands, a balloon was launched with a LoRaWAN payload on board that was later found to have made what is believed to be a new distance record for successful reception of a LoRaWAN packet. While the balloon was at an altitude of 38.772 km (about 127204.7 feet) somewhere close to the border between Germany and the Netherlands, it was spotted by a The Things Network node in Wroclaw, Poland, at a distance of 702.676km, or about 436 miles. The Things Network is an open source, community driven effort that has built a worldwide LoRaWAN network.

Of course, a free-space distance record for a balloon near the edge of space might sound very cool and all that, but it’s not going to be of much relevance when you are wrestling with the challenge of getting sensor data through suburbia. But it does provide an interesting demonstration of the capabilities of LoRaWAN over some other similar technologies, if a 25mW (14dBm) transmitter can successfully send a packet over that distance then perhaps it might be your best choice in the urban jungle.

If you’re curious about LoRaWAN, you might want to start closer to home and sniff for local activity.

17 thoughts on “The Things Network Sets 702 Km Distance Record For LoRaWAN

  1. Well Sigfox managed 1258 Km also with 14dBm but these records are hard to reproduce: I don’t normally keep my nodes on high altitude balloons (LoRa) or on a sailboat across the ocean (Sigfox)

    1. Sad to say: No

      Most of the cost lies with the Lorawan Concentrator. One such as iC880A will easilly set you back ~150$. You also need something to process it (R-Pi), An appropriate antenna and preferably a casing for a more permanent setup. All combined and one can understand why they cost so much.

  2. it is a commercial enterprise with kickstarter and what not, in the good old days, there was the packet-radio, where the community provided the protocol and the participants built the hardware and also used it

  3. Does anyone know the LoRa radio parameters that allowed this range: Spreading Factor, Coding Rate and Bandwidth? I’ve played with the radios but don’t know much about LoRaWAN itself. The code base they used seems to have multiple possible settings that are selected from by the protocol.

  4. I went to a con that handed out LORA run badges. Little weather station that was pretty fun to toy around with. Is interesting. A small low-data protocol.

    Then i came home and learned that there were little to no the thing network gateways in the vicinity (except for one 10km away out of reach due to suburban environment) and to set up my own would cost a few hundred.

    That was all it took for me to lose all interest in this initiative sadly. A few gateways were supposed to activate, but they since turned into duds or simply shut-down shortly after.

    1. While that’s true, that shouldn’t have you lose your interest in this technology. Here in Spain there are like 4 or 5 TTN gateways deployed…(closest to me is 100Km away).
      But I enjoy playing with plain LoRa (not LoRaWAN), direct node to node communication and so on. I have a TTGO board at home (it has a LoRa interface, a wifi ESP32 chip, and an OLED 0.96″) so it works as a gateway from my other remote LoRa nodes to internet, while I see on the screen what it’s relying. I placed a LoRa32u4 board + Neo6 GPS board in my car which transmits GPS coordinates over LoRa (which are picked and relayed to the cloud by this board at home), so I always have google maps pointing at where I’ve parked my car in the neighborhood.
      I find it entertaining enough and I actually prefer not to use any TTN gw, I now have full control on what I do with my messages…

      1. I use the same sort of setup. In house a Raspberry Pi with a LoRa hat from Adafruit. A couple of small MCU feather boards with sensors to track environmental data in my hothouse in the garden.

        Those have a Solar power module but honestly would run for months on a battery if I bother to put the board in deep sleep

        The Pi reads the LoRa data, endowed as a straight string in the packet, with a Python script and uses MQTT to transmit it to a visualization on a cloud server.

        I put a small oled screen on one of the MCUs and biked around the town to map the signal strength as an exercise

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