QUESTION: How does a Sigfox and LoRaWAN weather station work as compared with a GPRS/GSM/LTE/NB-IoT weather station?
ANSWER: All of the following weather station technologies use long distance wireless data transmission (as compared to Wifi) to transmit weather data to the internet (Web).
Advantages of each wireless technology follow:
GPRS, GSM, EDGE, 3G and LTE have been the standard way to transmit weather station data over long distances wherever there is cellular phone network coverage. Costly satellite communication was used in very remote locations without cell phone coverate.
These cellular technologies can transfer larger amounts of data than the newest NB-IoT, Sigfox and LoRaWAN technologies and differ between themselves in the speed of transmission (LTE is fastest, GPRS/GSM is slowest), power consumption (LTE ~800 mA, GPRS/GSM ~2.5 Amp peak power consumption) and network coverage (GPRS/GSM has largest coverage, LTE least coverage but growing).
NB-IoT is an Internet-of-Things wireless standard adopted by T-COM, T-Mobile and their partners. Its inherent advantage is in stationary applications where it is able to outperform Cat-M1 wireless technology in terms of power consumption (Cat-M1 is more efficient in mobile tracker applications). Both NB-IoT and Cat-M rely on LTE cellular network coverage but offer much less data bandwidth than LTE and 3G service and much lower power requirements. Compared to Sigfox and LoRaWAN which are designed for very low data rates and NB-IoT data rates and transmission speeds are more flexible and depend solely on the available power and solar panel size of a weather station.
Sigfox is an Internet-of-Things wireless standard which is probably the most power efficient (lowest power consumption) but has a very rigid requirement for maximum data packet size of 12 bytes (96 bits). It transmits on three frequencies simultaneously to achieve higher reliability of packet transmission but is dependent on the local Sigfox network operators to build up network coverage.
Sigfox offers the most hassle free setup which amounts to turning on the device and entering the device code into the Sigfox application.
Monthly cost of Sigfox data plan is about $1 per month for a typical weather station application like the MeteoHelix IoT Pro.
The Sigfox Micro gateways are available for lease from many Sigfox operators to fill gaps in their network coverage, similar to cable modem leasing from internet operators.
LoRaWAN is an Internet-of-Things wireless standard which is being adopted by many Open IoT organizations and private network builders. LoRaWAN devices’ power consumption is on par with Sigfox with added flexibility to send more data at different data rates but just like with Sigfox, data transmission time is limited by local government regulations. This also limits LoRaWAN to very low data message lengths of 12 bytes at the lowest transmission speed for regular messages every 10 minutes for weather stations. Power consumption is just about directly proportional to the amount of data sent, so for low-power weather stations where transmission range and data reliability are important, data limits are basically the same as for Sigfox.
LoRaWAN networks are built with privately owned gateways which are similar to WiFi routers and require an internet connection. Their costs range from $100 and up.
An account with a LoRaWAN server service provider is necessary to be able to transmit, receive and decode data from a LoRaWAN weather station. Free service providers are available with fair usage policies for hobbyists and paid service providers are available for more demanding applications and offer easier LoRaWAN device and gateway set up. LoRaWAN Network server examples: https://www.thethingsnetwork.org, https://www.loraserver.io, https://www.resiot.io, https://www.loriot.io
LoRaWaN has no monthly data costs if the user owns a gateway. However, depending on the use case and data amounts, free plans of LoRaWAN server service providers may not be sufficient for a weather station.
Just like with Sigfox, local LoRaWAN network operators do exist and provide hassle free LoRaWAN device setup, gateway leasing for a small monthly fee.