amazon sidewalk - telecom mobile operators and IoT

Amazon and LoRA, Telco

In Connectivity, Insight by Scott

Amazon Sidewalk + LoRA

The beginning of a new phase of telecom disruption?

Amazon just announced something very significant.

In a partnership with Semtech, Amazon just fired a warning shot over the bow of today’s telecom operators.

Last year, Amazon announced they’d been working on a feature called Amazon Sidewalk. The idea of Sidewalk is to create mesh networks between compatible devices in and around the home, and beyond.

“Amazon Sidewalk, a neighborhood network designed to help customer devices work better both at home and beyond the front door. Operated by Amazon at no charge to customers”

Today the “beyond” piece became a lot clearer.

Amazon has previously said they would be supporting a number of low power wide area communication protocols, the most notable being Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). It had also been suggested that Amazon might leverage the various other network technologies it had available via acquisitions, such as Eero and Ring.

Today’s announcement officially adds LoRA to the mix.

LoRA is an industry standard for Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity. LoRA enables IoT devices to connect and exchange data over wide areas (10s of KMs), with very low power.

Why is this significant?

The projections for the IoT market value are eye watering, Semtech quote IHS Markit’s value of $192 billion by 2023 in their press release.

IoT also happens to be one of the major predicted areas of growth for mobile operators.

Mobile operators are in a real bind right now, with competition increasing, markets saturating and revenues declining. In this context, one of the major strategies mobile operators are hedging on is to sell more products to more people, this includes 5G to enterprise but also IoT to consumer and enterprise.

LoRA was never really a threat to mobile operators because for it to really work, you need a lot of the LoRA gateways to be deployed, and that takes strategy and investment. Something Amazon is very good at, in fact last year they claimed 100 million Echos had been shipped.

It’s not clear today whether Amazon Sidewalk enabled devices, such as the Echo, will act as gateways for other LoRA devices, but if they don’t now, they could. And, frankly, if Amazon don’t do it the manufacturers of the other mass market smart speakers are probably some way down this path already.

Why am I excited by this?

Just yesterday I had a conversation about how some of the technological advances made in 5G (private networks, unlicensed spectrum, Cloud cores, for example) could open up the door to new connectivity competition for mobile operators.

Given Amazon’s history of disrupting major industries and relentlessly focusing on consumer experience (see Amazon’s Flywheel), Amazon Sidewalk could be yet another hint of its ambitions to take a slice of the global communications market.

On the other hand, it could just be technology to make the Amazon experience smoother, improving customer experience, reducing costs and helping build the inescapable Amazon ecosystem.

Nevertheless, if I was working in a mobile operator, I’d be having some restless nights right now worrying about my IoT market share forecasts and whether my brand is strong enough to compete with the Internet tech giants for communications.