LoRaWAN: Lorix One outdoor gateway in long-term test

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Gateways are an essential part of any LoRaWAN-based IoT radio network. They are the base stations that IoT devices communicate with in order to reach the server. Ideally positioned, gateways can achieve ranges in the middle double-digit kilometers – provided the antenna and reception technology are well processed.

The Lorix One is intended to close the gap between inexpensive indoor gateways and comparatively expensive outdoor gateways with cellular connections. At a price of 499 euros, the Swiss manufacturer “Wifx” promises quick and easy installation and a structured web interface for setup, but also SSH console access with all administrative functions – for those who prefer it.

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The test package provided is extensive and at first glance contains everything that is necessary for installation: two 2 dBi antennas (indoor / outdoor), one 4 dBi antenna (outdoor), the power supply unit and plug inserts for everyone Gentlemen countries (and the EU), mounting material for wall and mast mounting, a PoE injector and the gateway itself. The Lorix One appears minimalist: The cylinder combines a small ARM Linux server and that on 20 × 4.5 centimeters SX1301 LoRa gateway module from Semtech. The N built-in connector for directly screwing on antennas is integrated on the top; On the bottom there is a microSD slot for storage expansion, the reset button and the USB port for console access if the network fails. In addition, the Fast Ethernet port (100 Mbit / s). What stands out in the set is that Wifx includes a purely passive PoE injector, which, plugged between the switch and the supply line, gives 24 volts directly from the power supply unit to the cable. A look at the data sheet reveals: The Lorix One can only work with it, standard-compliant Power-over-Ethernet (IEEE 802.3af / at / bt) is missing. We would have expected that for 500 euros; according to Wifx, the next hardware version will come with standard PoE.

The operating system, baptized Lorix OS, is preconfigured in DHCP mode, so that you can simply plug it in and find it in the network. The web interface is convincing with its clear sorting: The navigation runs via a drop-down menu list on the left; everything is clearly labeled and the interface works smoothly both in the desktop browser and on mobile devices. We were able to create and test the configuration for The Things Network (TTN) in less than five minutes. With the “manager” tool, Wifx makes configuration via SSH similarly easy. The detailed operating system documentation helps newcomers to understand more detailed configuration steps; Knowledge of English is required, as both the documentation and the web interface are only available in English. Regardless of this, Linux users can let off steam freely on the substructure (5.4.41), because the administrator account has superuser rights.

Only the OpenVPN integration did not work due to an encryption problem. According to the manufacturer, a second update has fixed this. Since the gateway was already in the outdoor test at this point, we didn’t take the risk of losing the connection. It also bothered us that Lorix OS does not support push notifications for error messages to the administrator, for example by e-mail – Wifx wants to offer this from firmware version 1.3.

Our test location is the 470 meter high Steinberg on the outskirts of the city of Goslar. Thanks to contact via the city administration, the Radio amateurs of the OV H09 and the relay interest group Steinberg easily available a place at your company building. Information on local technology can be found via the TTN mapper. In December 2020 we installed the gateway with the supplied 4 dBi external antenna on the 3 meter mast on the building. The internet connection ran via an OpenWrt router with a cellular modem. When the weather is good, you can see over 50 kilometers at the location – ideal conditions to achieve long ranges. However, it is also highly exposed to the elements, so the gateway had to endure cold winds, snow, and heavy rain.

From the test location on Steinberg in Goslar (470 meters above sea level) you can see over 50 kilometers in good weather.

In order to determine the coverage and its quality, we use T-Motion-Sticks and T-Beam-Trackers in vehicles that transmit their position via LoRaWAN at regular intervals. Only the spreading factor 7 (SF7, highest data rate) was used in order to be able to draw conclusions from the measuring points on the road to the interior coverage at the same point with more robust data rates. The data was forwarded to the TTN Mapper web service via TTN extension for map generation. Brandschutz Voss made a major contribution by having a tracker ride in their maintenance vehicle.

The trackers, which were moved almost every day in vehicles, had around 10,000 measuring points by April 2021. They clearly show that the Lorix One can easily and completely supply the small town thanks to its exposed position – provided the landscape is not in the shade. The greatest distance reached from a vehicle is 40 kilometers. In addition to the street measurement results, we checked the coverage from some ground floors and basements with more robust data rates, which confirmed coverage in the urban area.

Around 10,000 measuring points show that the gateway covers the city and surrounding villages very well. With high data rates, packets only arrive sporadically from areas further away or from areas covered by hills. The greatest achieved range was around 40 kilometers.

During the test, the gateway ran reliably despite heavy rain, a lot of snow and frost; There were no crashes. Only the “UDP Packet Forwarder” and the “LoRa Basic Station”, both of which were not developed by the manufacturer for forwarding software for LoRaWAN gateways, did not cope with the occasional restart of our cellular router and then refused to work until the DHCP lease expired. A significant reduction in the lease time circumvented the problem; Wifx is currently still examining a solution.

The Lorix One offers a good complete package for a LoRaWAN gateway installation (minus network cable and internet access) as well as good, easy-to-use software and documentation. At 500 euros, the gateway is not among the cheapest in its class. However, our measurements show that the manufacturer Wifx does not save on important points such as the antennas and software and that the gateway can reliably serve an entire city without any problems – provided that it is in an exposed position.

Wifx Lorix One

LoRaWAN gateway
Manufacturer Wifx, www.lorixone.io/www.wifx.net
System configuration ARM Cortex A5 (600 MHz), 128 MByte DDR2-RAM, 512 MByte NAND-Flash
tested firmware Lorix OS 1.2.2
Forwarder UDP, LoRa Basic Station, ChirpStack Gateway Bridge, LORIOT
connections Fast Ethernet, N antenna connection (plug), Mini-USB (console access), MicroSD
Power consumption¹ 3 W
price 500 €
¹ no LoRaWAN traffic, 8-channel reception

In c’t 12/2021 we are dedicated to the brand new Disinfec’t 2021 with four virus scanners including one year of free signature updates. We explore exciting smartphone apps for forays into nature and have tested boards for Core i-1000, external SSDs for data transport, video lights for the home office and smart displays for Alexa & Co. You will find issue 12/2021 from May 21 in Heise shop and at the well-stocked newspaper kiosk.


(amo)

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