Avoguard blog

MeshLR™: LoRaWAN without a network server

MeshLR is a new mesh networking technology that enables LoRaWAN networks to run without a network server. It is a new way of thinking about LoRaWAN communication, and it is a game changer for many IoT use cases.

By Vit Prajzler

Gateways only. No network server.

Have you ever wished you could deploy a LoRaWAN network by simply buying and powering up a handful of gateways? No network server, no complex configuration, no hassle? Something more familiar, like Wi-Fi?

If you only need a single LoRaWAN gateway, you can readily buy one that translate LoRaWAN directly into e.g. MQTT or other IP-based protocol. That's because they are running a LoRaWAN network server.

But what happens when you need to deploy more than one gateway?

  • How long will it take to setup such a network?
  • How do you connect the gateways together?
  • Are you willing to trust a single gateway with the network server to be the single point of failure of your network?
  • Are you ready to invest in a dedicated network server, which will be another single point of failure of your network?

We have been deploying LoRaWAN networks since 2013, and have been asking ourselves these questions for a long time.

Introducing MeshLR

One of the main challenges of deploying a LoRaWAN network is the complexity of deployment of a multi-gateway network. Things become an order of magnitude more complex than with a single gateway. We wanted to build a product that keeps the deployment complexity of a multi-gateway network at the same level as a single gateway network. That product is MeshLR.

With MeshLR, deployment of a LoRaWAN network with two or more gateways becomes faster, easier, and more reliable. You can cover a greater area without the need for expensive backhaul. No more star / star-of-stars network. Just like Wi-Fi mesh, MeshLR is the LoRaWAN mesh.

It works with any LoRaWAN gateway and with any LoRaWAN device. Your existing LoRaWAN devices will not even notice if you migrate to MeshLR.

What is MeshLR

MeshLR is a networking technology that extends LoRaWAN capabilities. It is a software for LoRaWAN gateways, which adds new functionality on top of a standard hardware (Semtech SX130x series).

The software extends LoRaWAN by adding mesh functionality, similar to how mesh Wi-Fi extends Wi-Fi.

For you as a LoRaWAN network operator, the benefit is the ability to add gateways to the LoRaWAN network with minimum effort and without the need of separate wired or wireless backhaul. That means you can more easily expand the coverage and reliability of your LoRaWAN network.

Is MeshLR for me?

Companies that are looking to deploy LoRaWAN networks are faced with a choice between a network server vendor and an open-source network server solution. Either option has its pros and cons, but they both require a significant investment - time and capital.

MeshLR is a new way of thinking about LoRaWAN communication. It is a game changer for small and medium networks, that increases the ROI of LoRaWAN networks by reducing the time and money required to deploy them, and the infrastructure required to operate them, while increasing reliability by eliminating the single point of failure of a network server.

If you care about the ROI of your LoRaWAN network, MeshLR is for you.

There used to be an empty space between a single-gateway LoRaWAN network and a country-wide network.

MeshLR fills that space.

If you have a site that is too big for a single gateway, but smaller than a country or a US state, MeshLR is a cost effective solution for you.

What is the advantage of MeshLR over traditional LoRaWAN?

Since 2013, we have deployed LoRaWAN networks in cities, in industrial environments, in rural areas, and in buildings. We have deployed LoRaWAN networks in the US, in Europe, and in Asia / Pacific.

The one thing that all of these deployments have in common is that they all required a significant investment in time and money to get them up and running. The "time to first byte" was days, not minutes. That significantly increased the time before the network started generating value, and the time it took to cover the initial investment.

MeshLR was created to increase the ROI of LoRaWAN networks by reducing the time and money required to deploy them, and the infrastructure required to operate them, while increasing reliability by eliminating the single point of failure of a network server.

Key features

Easy deployment

Unlike traditional LoRaWAN networks, MeshLR doesn't rely on a network server and can be deployed just by powering up the gateways. No network server, no complex configuration, no hassle.

Easy expansion

Adding new gateways to a MeshLR network is as easy as powering them up. No need to configure them, no need to connect them to the network server, no need to configure the network server. MeshLR gateways can communicate with each other over the LoRa / LoRaWAN radio, without the need for each gateway to have an internet connection.

This reduces the cost of the LoRaWAN network infrastructure and enables cost-effective deployment over a wide area, especially in remote areas.

Save on backhaul

With the in-band mesh capabilities, you don't need a separate backhaul network for your gateways. That means significant savings on hardware, installation, and connectivity cost.

Self-healing network

MeshLR is a self-healing network. If a gateway goes down, the network will automatically reconfigure itself to use the remaining gateways. If a gateway comes back online, it will automatically rejoin the network.

No single point of failure

A frequent reason for a LoRaWAN network downtime is the network backhaul from the gateways, or a downtime of the network server. A MeshLR network is not affected by either of these issues.

MeshLR can run on multiple backhaul networks, including in-band LoRaWAN backhaul, which means that backhaul is no longer a single point of failure. Not having a network server means that there is no dependency on its uptime or availability.

No gateway backhaul problem or network server problem can bring a MeshLR network down.

Backwards compatible

MeshLR is fully backwards compatible with LoRaWAN 1.0.3 and 1.1, and supports older versions too. You can use your existing LoRaWAN devices with MeshLR without any changes to their hardware or software.

Device roaming

Devices can roam between MeshLR and regular LoRaWAN networks. Both active and passive roaming is supported.

Extending existing LoRaWAN networks

A MeshLR network can act as a mesh extension within an existing LoRaWAN network. MeshLR gateways can be configured to work with any LoRaWAN network server by emulating the behavior of a single LoRaWAN gateway.

Behind the scenes: How does it work?

Avoguard's MeshLR software gives gateways super-powers that regular LoRaWAN gateways don't have. We have developed a new software stack that interfaces with the radio chip directly, without any middleman in between (such as the UDP packet forwarder or the basic station).

Because the software talks to the same hardware, it can also behave just like a LoRaWAN network, or a MeshLR network. The networking mode is configured by the software - it's a software-defined LoRaWAN. And mesh mode is just one of the operating modes it supports.

If you are interested in the technical details of how it works, please reach out and our technical team will walk you through our technology stack.

Real-world examples

A typical MeshLR use case is in a large remote area without any internet connectivity and with no or limited cellular coverage.

In a smart agriculture use case, most gateways in a MeshLR network are solar powered and distributed across a large area of crop fields or pastures. One or two "edge" gateways connect to the internet via cellular backhaul, or connect directly to a local Wi-Fi network for on-premise compute infrastructure / network. The edge gateways act as a data bridge between the MeshLR network and your IoT application.

The LoRaWAN sensor data from the edge gateways is sent over an IP-based network using a higher level protocol such as MQTT or CoAP to their destination, like an MQTT broker, a database, or a historian.

How to get started

Getting started with MeshLR is easy. You can either migrate your existing gateways to MeshLR (they can still be configured back to a regular LoRaWAN gateway), or you can buy new gateways that are pre-configured with MeshLR either directly from us or from one of our hardware partners.

Contact us to get started.