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LoRaWAN Network Upgrade: Impact & Mitigation

· 3 min read

On Tuesday, May 12th, we plan to start a network upgrade both to the blockchain and the LoRaWAN compliant infrastructure at 8 am PDT / 11 am ET. The operation is expected to be complete no later than 8:59 am PDT / 11:59 am ET. Progress will be reported live here.

The upgrade focuses on many infrastructure improvements which are designed to help the network scale and continue to decentralize as adoption continues to grow. We consider that upgrades with potential disruptions should be infrequent and avoided whenever possible, but as our adaptation of LoRaWAN to a decentralized model for network infrastructure has matured, such an upgrade is necessary at this time.

In addition, be aware that there is only the potential for disruption and, in fact, many devices with resilient LoRaWAN implementations should experience minimal interruption. That being said, the reality is that resilience is often at odds with simplicity, and as such, many LoRaWAN implementations have opted for simplicity and may not navigate the upcoming changes without intervention.

The upcoming updates include the following:

  • A blockchain transaction for registering LoRaWAN identifiers (ie: AppEui, DevEui pairs) to the blockchain; Organizational Unique Identifiers (OUIs) all maintain their own table of these which allow Miners to know that the OUIs LoRaWAN Network Server (or “Router”) is interested in JoinRequests from these devices. This effectively enables permissionless registering of devices to the network.
  • A blockchain transaction for reserving a subnet, ie: bits in the DevAddr space; after the Join, a Router may allocate any of its reserved subnet space to any of its devices. This permits the co-location of many devices on the same public network despite having disparate private network servers.
  • Switching to subband 2; We've made the decision to adopt subband 2 (switching from subband 7, our current selection). As we’ve on-boarded various existing LoRaWAN devices and gateways to the network, it’s become apparent that standardizing on subband 2 will increase usage and reduce onboarding friction. And though there is some traffic on this subband already, we have determined that it's minimal and shouldn't pose a problem for our Network users. By reducing friction, we increase adoption of the network, which in turn drives Data Credit usage and thus the incentivization for Hotspot operators.

There are several potential disruptions resulting from these changes:

  • Due to the new DevAddr scheme, existing sessions will expire and devices will need to Join again. Many LoRaWAN stacks detect network presence with occasional ADR commands or ConfirmedUplinks and will Join again on their own. However, if your device stack does not have such logic - specifically if it's not configured to join on all potential subbands - a manual resetting to trigger a new Join may be necessary allowing for a DevAddr to be assigned that is compliant with the new scheme
  • Due to the subband switch, devices will need to issue Joins on subband 2 rather than 7 to Join the Helium Network. In theory, LoRaWAN-compliant devices should attempt to Join on many subbands. In our experience, however, many LoRaWAN stacks are pre-configured for a subband and only attempt to Join on said subband. If this is the case, you will need to reconfigure the subband or update the LoRaWAN stack so it attempts to Join on other subbands than the preconfigured subband. In both cases, manual intervention may be required.

If you need help determining if and how this may impact your devices, please reach out to or join us on Slack.