The LoRa radio communication system is useful for low-bandwidth communication, and as many readers will be aware its special skill lies in delivering long range. For most of us that range tops out at a few miles, but pushing the limits of what is possible for LoRa has resulted in some significant records falling. Most recently this has reached an impressive distance of 1336 kilometres, or 830 miles.
The record in question was set from near the Portuguese coast, from where LoRa beacons on a fishing boat and its buoys were able to open up a gateway on the Spanish Canary islands. The conductive surface of the sea makes an excellent aid to propagation, and from amateur radio experience we’d guess that tropospheric conditions aided by the summer weather would have something to do with it too.
Radio amateurs on those coasts and islands chase those conditions and live in hope of making a rare UHF contact across the ocean to the Americas or the Caribbean. The difference in their respective frequency allocations notwithstanding, we wonder whether the same might be possible using LoRa given a fortuitous atmosphere. We’re not quite sure whether a set of dual-band LoRa gateways could be made to test this idea though.
This record breaks a previous one set between Germany and Poland. If you think you’ve seen a far greater LoRa record here before you’d be correct, but only in the modulation scheme and not the frequency.
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.