IPv6 over LPWANs: connecting Low Power Wide Area Networks to
the Internet (of Things)
Carles Gomez1, Ana Minaburo2, Laurent Toutain3, Dominique Barthel4,
Juan Carlos Zuniga5
1Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, 2Acklio, 3IMT-Atlantique, 4Orange Labs, 5Sigfox
E-mail: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, Laurent.Toutain@imt-atlantique.fr,
LPWANs have recently emerged as a promising solution for enabling industrial IoT
applications. To fully exploit their potential, LPWANs need to be connected to the
Internet. However, the severe capacity constraints of LPWAN technologies challenge
IPv6 support, and even 6LoWPAN-based adaptations are not sufficient. In this paper,
we present Static Context Header Compression and Fragmentation (SCHC), an
ultralightweight IPv6 adaptation layer designed for LPWANs, which is being
standardized by the IETF.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a networking paradigm whereby a vast number of
connected, typically resource-constrained devices (e.g. battery-enabled sensors and
actuators), sense or act upon the physical world to enable intelligent environments. This
vision constitutes a revolution that is expected to transform our society by substantially
enhancing productivity, sustainability, and human life quality.
The IoT is currently developing in several dimensions. As the number of connected IoT
devices grows steadily, the number of communications technologies for IoT devices
increases, too. Well-established IoT technologies, such as IEEE 802.15.4 and Bluetooth
Low Energy (BLE), are characterized by a rather short communication range, generally
in the order of tens or a few hundreds of meters. However, with such a reduced range, a
considerable amount of infrastructure (e.g. relay nodes and/or gateways) is needed to
ensure connectivity of IoT devices over a large area (e.g. a city). This approach requires
a potentially complex networking solution and leads to high network deployment,
maintenance and management cost.
In order to overcome the aforementioned issues, the category of wireless
communication technologies called Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWANs) has
emerged. LPWAN technologies define star topology networks whereby a single base
station covers up to hundreds of thousands of IoT devices with a multiyear IoT device
battery lifetime, while supporting a multikilometer link range . These characteristics
are achieved at the expense of extremely low data rates and small payloads, which are
sufficient to many common industrial IoT applications. In fact, LPWANs have quickly
attracted the interest of industry, academia and standards development organizations,
Author’s pre-print, accepted for publication in the IEEE Wireless Communications Magazine (2019-10-30).
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with 4 billion LPWAN devices predicted by 20251. Flagship LPWAN technologies
include LoRaWAN, Sigfox and Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT). Furthermore, the IEEE
802.15.4w task group has been recently chartered to optimize IEEE 802.15.4 for
To fully exploit the potential of LPWANs, Internet connectivity support is required.
Therefore, LPWAN devices need to be able to run IP. In particular, IP version 6 (IPv6)
is assumed, since it offers a massive address space and self-configuration tools.
However, IPv6 was designed for resource-rich networking environments (e.g. Ethernet),
whereas typical IoT network scenarios offer significantly constrained energy,
computation, and communication capabilities. For over one decade, the IETF IPv6 over
Low-power Wireless Personal Area Networks (6LoWPAN) Working Group (WG) and
the IETF IPv6 over Networks of Resource-constrained Nodes (6Lo) WG have
developed adaptation layers to enable and optimize IPv6 over a wide range of IoT link-
layer technologies, hereafter called 6LoWPAN/6Lo technologies. These include IEEE
802.15.4, BLE, ITU-T G.9959 (Z-Wave), Digital Enhanced Cordless
Telecommunications – Ultra Low Energy (DECT-ULE) and Near Field Communication
(NFC), among others . Nevertheless, 6LoWPAN/6Lo adaptation style would incur
unaffordable overhead over LPWANs, given the extremely restricted communication
resources of LPWAN technologies. For example, the sustained capacity of
6LoWPAN/6Lo technologies is of at least a few kbit/s, while some LPWAN
technologies are limited to as low as the mbit/s (i.e. millibit/s!) order.
In 2016 the IETF LPWAN WG was chartered to provide support of IPv6 and upper
layer Internet protocols over LPWANs . This WG is now reaching completion of the
Static Context Header Compression and Fragmentation (SCHC) specification, of which
we are authors . In this article, we motivate, present and evaluate SCHC.
The remainder of this article is organized as follows. Section 2 introduces the main
target LPWAN technologies considered by the IETF LPWAN WG. Section 3 presents
the IPv6-based protocol stack for LPWANs. Sections 4 and 5 describe and evaluate
SCHC, respectively. Open issues are overviewed in Section 6. Finally, Section 7
2. Target LPWAN technologies
This section briefly reviews the LPWAN technologies considered by the IETF LPWAN
WG in the design of SCHC, namely: LoRaWAN, Sigfox, NB-IoT and IEEE 802.15.4w.
These technologies are discussed and compared with 6LoWPAN/6Lo wireless
1 https://www.abiresearch.com/press/4-billion-iot-devices-will-rely-lpwan-technologies (accessed on
August 22nd 2019)
LoRaWAN is a popular LPWAN technology that was first specified in 2015 by an
industry consortium called the LoRa Alliance. LoRaWAN defines a protocol
architecture that comprises a Physical (PHY) layer, a Medium Access Control (MAC)
layer and customer applications on top of the MAC layer .
At the PHY layer, LoRaWAN operates in unlicensed bands and uses the LoRa
modulation, which is based on Chirp Spread Spectrum (CSS). A range of Spreading
Factor (SF) options are supported, leading to different corresponding Data Rates (DRs)
and robustness levels. In order to save energy, a LoRaWAN IoT device typically only
turns its receiver on shortly after it transmits an uplink message, which is done
Sigfox is a technology created by the eponymous company, which was founded in 2009.
Currently, Sigfox has been deployed in more than 60 countries. In Sigfox, IoT devices
asynchronously transmit messages by using Ultra Narrow Band (UNB) in unlicensed
spectrum. Each message sent by an IoT device is transmitted three times, using a
different frequency for each of the three transmission attempts. If a device is willing to
receive messages, it indicates so in the uplink message, after which the device opens a
receiving window. Otherwise, when the device is inactive, it keeps its radio interface off
NB-IoT is specified in 3GPP Release 13, published in 2016. NB-IoT uses a subset of
the Long Term Evolution (LTE) standard, with the aim to meet IoT requirements, such
as low device cost and relaxed bandwidth requirements . In contrast with LoRaWAN
and Sigfox, NB-IoT operates in licensed frequency bands. In NB-IoT, the IoT device
remains by default in low energy consumption states, except for the periodic
transmission of location reports and monitoring of a paging channel for incoming
downlink data. Uplink data transmission may be carried out after a successful, IoT
device-initiated, contention-based random access procedure. Downlink data may also be
received immediately after uplink data transmission .
2.4. IEEE 802.15.4w
IEEE 802.15.4w is an IEEE 802.15.4 amendment currently being developed, intended
to address LPWAN use cases, by enhancing the existing IEEE 802.15.4k specification.
The latter was designed for Low Energy Critical Infrastructure Monitoring (LECIM).
The proposed enhancements, still being discussed at the time of writing, comprise
improved Forward Error Correction (FEC) codes, sub-packet spreading in time and
frequency, and a scalable multiple access frame structure. The intended goals include
improving interference resilience, energy efficiency, and scalability.
We now compare the communication capacity features of LoRaWAN, Sigfox and NB-
IoT with those of 6LoWPAN/6Lo technologies, focusing on the aspects that are relevant
for IPv6 support (Table 1). Overall, LoRaWAN and Sigfox are significantly more
constrained, whereas NB-IoT has similar characteristics to 6LoWPAN/6Lo
technologies, as discussed next.
In order to benefit link range, LoRaWAN and Sigfox use unlicensed sub-GHz bands
instead of higher ISM bands (e.g. the 2.4 GHz band). However, in some world regions,
the former are subject to spectrum access regulations, which both LoRaWAN and
Sigfox enforce by keeping the device radio duty cycle (RDC) below a given limit (e.g.
1% in the uplink, in some channels in Europe). As a result, message rates in these two
technologies may be extremely low, even down to a few messages per day. In contrast,
6LoWPAN/6Lo technologies either use bands that are not subject to such regulatory
constraints, or use alternative spectrum sharing techniques, therefore they do not suffer
the same issues. Note that, since NB-IoT uses licensed frequency bands, it is also free of
message rate limitations stemming from spectrum access regulations.
Also favoring a long link range, both LoRaWAN and Sigfox use PHY layer data rates
(102 to 104 bit/s) lower than those of 6LoWPAN/6Lo technologies (104 to 106 bit/s). In
consequence, their frame size needs to be small to limit device energy consumption due
to communication. The maximum frame payload size in Sigfox and in some LoRaWAN
scenarios is extremely short (of ~10 bytes), well below that of 6LoWPAN/6Lo
technologies. This feature also reduces the probability of collision and thus favors
network scalability. However, it also severely decreases sustained transmission
capacity. Furthermore, neither Sigfox nor LoRaWAN natively support fragmentation
and reassembly (hereinafter denoted fragmentation, for brevity), thus they do not allow
sending larger upper layer data units.
The extreme constraints exhibited by LoRaWAN and Sigfox motivated the
development of SCHC, a new adaptation layer specifically designed to support IPv6
over LPWANs, as detailed in the next section. While NB-IoT is not as limited as
LoRaWAN and Sigfox, it will also benefit from the high efficiency of SCHC.
LPWAN technologies 6LoWPAN/6Lo wireless technologies
LoRaWAN Sigfox NB-IoT IEEE 802.15.4 BLE ITU-T G.9959 DECT-ULE NFC
2400 868 (EU),
Type of band Unlicensed Unlicensed Licensed Unlicensed Unlicensed Unlicensed Dedicated Unlicensed
O-QPSK (2.4 GHz)
GFSK OOK, BPSK
-92 min. (sub-GHz),
-85 min. (2.4 GHz)
PHY layer data rate
0.25 ÷ 5.47 (EU),
0.1/0.6 250 (uplink),
Duty cycle < 1%
No No No No No No
Capacity per device
(order of magnitude,
100 (DR0, EU),
102 (DR5, EU)
104 103 (sub-GHz),
105 (2.4 GHz)
(at 1 Mbit/s)
(at 424 kbit/s)
MAC mechanism Aloha-based
(optional ACKs +
(random access) +
CSMA/CA, TDMA TDMA CSMA/CA TDMA TDMA link
payload size (bytes)
11 (DR0, USA) ÷
1600 105 23 158 38 125
No No Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Network topology Star Star Star Star, mesh Star, mesh Mesh Star Point-to-point
LoRa Alliance ™ Sigfox
3GPP IEEE Bluetooth SIG ITU-T ETSI NFC Forum
Table 1. Main details of LoRaWAN, Sigfox and NB-IoT. IEEE 802.15.4w is excluded from this table, since, at the time of writing, its features are yet to be
3. IPv6-based protocol stack for LPWANs
Over more than a decade, the IETF has developed a lightweight, IPv6-based protocol
stack suitable for IoT devices (Fig. 1.a). Such protocol stack includes three components
that have been designed for IoT scenarios: a 6LoWPAN/6Lo adaptation layer, the IPv6
Routing protocol for Low-power and lossy networks (RPL) , and the Constrained
Application Protocol (CoAP) . However, to provide the best fit for LPWAN
technologies, the IPv6-based protocol stack assumed by the IETF LPWAN WG
presents some particularities (Fig. 1.b). We now review the IoT-specific components of
the lightweight IPv6-based protocol stack and justify the protocol stack modifications
made for LPWANs.
The 6LoWPAN adaptation layer was developed to enable and optimize IPv6 over IEEE
802.15.4 networks . 6LoWPAN provides IPv6 and UDP header compression (which
saves energy and bandwidth resources), fragmentation (which allows carrying 1280-
byte packets as required for IPv6 over the 127-byte maximum payload size of IEEE
802.15.4 frames), and an optimized version of the IPv6 neighbor discovery protocol
(which offers parameter and device discovery for constrained devices). Subsequently,
6Lo adaptation layers have reused 6LoWPAN components to support IPv6 over other
IoT technologies . However, 6LoWPAN/6Lo-style of IPv6 adaptation is not suitable
for the extreme constraints of LPWANs. For this reason, the IETF LPWAN WG has
developed the SCHC adaptation layer, specifically designed for LPWAN technologies,
as explained in the next section.
At the network layer, a routing protocol is required for technologies that support the
mesh topology, such as IEEE 802.15.4 or Z-Wave. RPL is the routing protocol designed
by the IETF for IoT networks. RPL is optimized for data collection applications, while
minimizing IoT device memory and energy consumption. However, since LPWAN
technologies are based on the star topology, a routing protocol is not needed for
LPWANs, which simplifies the corresponding protocol stack.
Finally, CoAP is a lightweight request/response application-layer protocol, based on the
same architectural principles as HTTP, albeit with significantly lower complexity and
overhead (e.g. its base header, without options, has a size of 4 bytes). While CoAP was
originally designed to be transported over UDP (with optional end-to-end reliability and
congestion control supported by CoAP itself), issues with middleboxes, such as UDP-
unfriendly corporate firewalls, have led to the recent design and publication of a CoAP
specification over TCP . However, the larger TCP header size and the connection
establishment overhead are inadequate for LPWANs, thus only UDP is assumed at the
transport layer for LPWANs.
Figure 1. a) 6LoWPAN/6Lo IPv6-based protocol stack, b) LPWAN IPv6-based protocol
Figure 2. SCHC functionality overview: header compression and fragmentation
4. SCHC adaptation layer
This section describes the SCHC adaptation layer. SCHC is located between IPv6 and
an underlying LPWAN technology. SCHC comprises two sublayers: header
compression, and fragmentation (Fig. 2). The next two subsections present the main
design principles and features of these two sublayers, respectively.
4.1. Header compression
Without proper adaptation, IP-based protocols would introduce a large overhead over
LPWANs, since typical packet header sizes are significant when compared with the
extremely low LPWAN frame payload sizes. Several header compression mechanisms
have been developed in the past for efficient packet transmission over different
technologies. Work in this area has been carried out since the 90s, when Van Jacobson
proposed a mechanism based on exploiting intraflow packet header redundancy to
compress TCP/IP headers over slow serial links . Subsequently, specialized header
compression mechanisms have been designed for the characteristics of different
constrained environments. The last such IP-based packet header compression efforts are
Robust Header Compression (ROHC)  and 6LoWPAN header compression. We
now review these two mechanisms, we highlight why they are not suitable for
LPWANs, and we then present SCHC header compression.
4.1.1. Use of ROHC over LPWANs
ROHC was designed to compress network- and transport-layer headers of multimedia
flows over low bitrate and high packet loss rate links, such as 3G cellular links. ROHC
exploits packet header redundancy within a packet flow. To this end, packets are
initially sent uncompressed, and subsequently only packet header differences are sent
(after being efficiently encoded). In ROHC, an IPv6/UDP header may typically be
compressed down to a minimum size of 3 bytes. Packet header information is
maintained in a context on both compressor and decompressor sides. ROHC defines
signaling that allows a decompressor to report to the other endpoint when context is
damaged, e.g. due to channel losses. Such event causes context desynchronization,
which is solved by transmitting an uncompressed header. However, this behavior is
unsuitable for the capacity constraints of LPWANs. Furthermore, ROHC has not been
defined to compress the CoAP header.
4.1.2. Use of 6LoWPAN header compression over LPWANs
6LoWPAN header compression was designed for efficient IPv6 (and UDP) packet
transmission over IEEE 802.15.4 networks. ROHC-style header compression was
considered too complex for the resource-constrained devices that characterize such
networks. In order to reduce context desynchronization problems, 6LoWPAN header
compression is partly based on stateless techniques. It leverages two 6LoWPAN
properties: i) the receiver ability to reconstruct some IPv6 header fields based on layer
two header fields, and ii) a statistical expectation that other IPv6 header fields will carry
values that are typical in 6LoWPAN. A bitmap at the start of the compressed header
format indicates what fields have been compressed and how they can be decompressed.
Stateless UDP header compression is also supported. Because stateless approaches
cannot compress global IPv6 addresses, a stateful, yet quasi-static mechanism based on
network-wide shared context is also used in 6LoWPAN. 6LoWPAN provides no
method to compress any application-layer protocol header (when 6LoWPAN was
designed, CoAP had not yet been created).
With 6LoWPAN header compression, a typical 48-byte IPv6/UDP header can be
compressed down to a 7-byte format. This result is suitable for the maximum payload
size in IEEE 802.15.4 frames, which is in the order of ~100 bytes. However, for an
underlying technology with a frame payload size of ~10 bytes, as occurs in many
LPWAN scenarios, a 6LoWPAN-compressed IPv6/UDP header would incur a too big
4.1.3. SCHC header compression
SCHC header compression has been purposefully designed for LPWANs, and is
applicable to protocols such as IPv6, UDP and CoAP. SCHC relies on static context
shared between the compressor and the decompressor, which leverages a priori
knowledge of the traffic to be compressed. In fact, new applications are not expected to
be frequently installed on an LPWAN device over its lifetime. The static context
approach avoids the complexity of context resynchronization mechanisms and the need
for receiver feedback, while allowing ultralightweight header compression.
In SCHC, a context is defined as a set of Rules, each one provided with a Rule identifier
(Rule ID). A Rule comprises a set of descriptions of how each packet header field is to
be compressed (Fig. 3). A Rule may be used for the compression of one or more
protocol headers, e.g., an IPv6 header, the set of IPv6/UDP/CoAP headers, etc.
When a packet needs to be sent, the SCHC compressor first selects the Rule in the
context that best matches the header format and header field values of the packet being
handled. Then, the sender replaces the original packet header by the Rule ID
corresponding to this Rule. When a Rule ID cannot unambiguously represent a
complete packet header, a compression header residue is generated. The concatenation
of the Rule ID and the compression residue (if any) constitute the compressed header.
The Rule ID size is expected to be small, while still allowing the encoding of a large
number of Rules (e.g. a 1-byte Rule ID supports a Rule space of up to 256 different
Rules). When receiving a compressed packet, the decompressor reconstructs the original
packet header based on the received compressed header and on the stored context.
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IPv6 requires any underlying layer to support the transmission of packets of at least
1280 bytes. This measure was introduced in the IPv6 specification with the aim of
achieving high performance (e.g. throughput) for data transmission over a presumed
resource-rich Internet. However, LPWAN networking is fundamentally different, as it
has been designed for infrequent message exchanges of short-sized payloads. In fact,
some LPWAN technologies and scenarios offer an extremely short maximum frame
payload size, even down to ~10 bytes. Even after applying the highly efficient SCHC
header compression, many IPv6 packets will not fit into a single LPWAN frame.
Besides, neither LoRaWAN nor Sigfox mode supports fragmentation and reassembly
functionality. To overcome this issue, fragmentation is used at the SCHC adaptation
layer, in the form of a sublayer located below the header compression one (Fig. 2).
In order to provide a solution for fragmentation over LPWANs, 6LoWPAN
fragmentation was first considered as a possible basis. However, 6LoWPAN
fragmentation had been designed for IEEE 802.15.4 networks, which present significant
differences with LPWANs. First, IEEE 802.15.4 networks are often deployed as mesh
networks, which requires 6LoWPAN fragmentation to handle out-of-sequence fragment
delivery. Since LPWANs follow the star topology, fragmentation over LPWANs can
avoid the related complexity. Secondly, the maximum frame payload size in IEEE
802.15.4 is up to one order of magnitude greater than the LPWAN ones. Thus,
minimizing fragmentation header overhead is a considerably stronger requirement for
the latter. In fact, the 6LoWPAN fragmentation header yields an overhead of 4-5 bytes
per fragment, which is too high for ~10-byte LPWAN maximum frame payload sizes,
as it would exacerbate frame encapsulation overhead. Leveraging the star topology of
LPWANs, and using short-sized fragment identifiers, SCHC fragmentation supports a
variety of options and mechanisms with even a single-byte fragmentation header size.
Finally, a singular characteristic of LPWANs is the severe, even extreme, message rate
limitations in some technologies. Under such circumstances, each LPWAN frame
transmission becomes very expensive. However, any fragment loss (e.g. due to wireless
link corruption) would lead to unsuccessful delivery of the whole higher layer packet
being carried. In LPWANs, amortizing the scarce transmission resources consumed by
retransmitting only the lost fragments may be desirable. However, 6LoWPAN
fragmentation does not offer fragment retransmission, as of today. In order to provide
flexibility to satisfy the heterogeneous needs of different LPWAN technologies or
scenarios, SCHC fragmentation offers three fragment delivery reliability modes: No-
ACK, ACK-Always, and ACK-on-Error.
No-ACK is a best-effort mode whereby fragment retries are not supported, and the
fragment receiver does not inform the fragment sender regarding the transmission
outcome. Both ACK-Always and ACK-on-Error provide selective fragment
retransmission mechanisms (i.e. data integrity), based on Acknowledgments (ACKs)
issued by the fragment receiver. The fragment receiver sends an ACK only after a
window of fragments (i.e. a subset of the fragments carrying an IPv6 packet) has been
transmitted. An ACK reports whether each fragment of a window has been received or
not. For efficiency, this information is encoded by means of a bitmap, where the n-th
bitmap bit indicates whether the corresponding n-th fragment has been received or not.
In ACK-Always, the fragment receiver unconditionally sends an ACK after a window
of fragments. In contrast, in ACK-on-Error, the ACK is only sent when at least one
fragment in the window has been lost, except in the last window, where an ACK is
always sent to indicate whether the fragmented packet transmission has been successful.
In order to avoid low performance due to ACK losses, in ACK-on-Error, upon reception
of the last fragment of a packet, the receiver may send ACKs reporting missing
fragments from the whole packet. While the frequent feedback in ACK-Always allows
early detection of severe link problems, ACK-on-Error reduces message overhead.
Even though these fragmentation mechanisms have been designed to transport long
IPv6 packets, the mechanisms can equally be applied to non-IP data messages.
5. Performance evaluation
We next evaluate SCHC, focusing on both header compression and fragmentation
5.1. Header compression
Fig. 4 illustrates the header compression performance of ROHC, 6LoWPAN, and
SCHC, when applied to an IPv6/UDP/CoAP header. For the sake of comparison, an
uncompressed header is also included in the figure. We assume the header uses IPv6
The main drawback of ROHC is that packets intended for context initialization or
resynchronization are sent uncompressed. In LPWANs, this would represent low
performance, further degraded by the need to apply fragmentation to such packets when
the underlying LPWAN technology maximum frame payload size is ~10 bytes. In
addition, such packets need to carry an additional ROHC header to describe their
content, yielding a negative compression gain for them. In addition, CoAP compression
is not supported by ROHC.
6LoWPAN-style header compression can reduce the size of the IPv6/UDP/CoAP
header by a factor close to 5. However, the resulting header size is still too large for the
frame payload sizes in many LPWAN scenarios.
In contrast with ROHC and 6LoWPAN, SCHC can yield a 3-byte IPv6/UDP/CoAP
compressed header, which is a much better fit for LPWANs. This result can be obtained
for a Rule optimized for a specific packet header (e.g. Rule 1 in Fig. 3), assuming a
1-byte Rule ID. For comparison purposes, Fig. 4 also includes the case of SCHC header
compression where the Rule used produces a 2-byte compression residue.
Figure 4. Comparison of header compression mechanisms applied to an
We next evaluate the performance of the three SCHC fragmentation modes (No-ACK,
ACK-Always, and ACK-on-Error), in terms of the average number of fragment
transmission attempts and the number of ACKs, for the range of packet sizes required
by IPv6, and for different Frame Loss Rate (FLR) values. We assume a 10-byte
maximum frame payload size, uncorrelated frame losses, and equal uplink and
downlink FLR values. For ACK-Always and ACK-on-Error, we also study the impact
of the window size. In order to investigate the upper bound of all performance
parameters considered, an infinite number of retries is used. Results are shown in Fig. 5.
Since No-ACK neither supports fragment retries nor receiver feedback, it yields the
lowest amount of transmitted frames, at the expense of low reliability. For large-sized or
critical-data packets, ACK-based modes are recommended. While ACK-Always
exhibits the highest overhead, both in number of fragment transmission attempts and in
number of ACKs, it yields the highest Packet Delivery Ratio (PDR). ACK-on-Error
behaves minimalistically, by sending ACKs only when fragments are lost (except for
the mandatory ACK sent at the end of the packet transmission).
For ACK-based modes, increasing the window size (W) decreases the number of ACKs.
However, it may also increase the fragment identifier size, and in turn, the fragment
header size (F). Fig. 5.a) depicts how F=2 tends to increase the number of fragments by
Figure 5. Performance evaluation of fragmentation modes and settings: a) average
number of fragment transmissions, b) average number of ACKs
6. Open issues
At the time of writing, the design and standardization of SCHC is reaching completion.
However, areas of additional functionality development and potential performance
improvement have already been identified. This section reviews the main SCHC-related
open research issues and standardization items.
6.1. Optimizing SCHC for each LPWAN technology
SCHC has been designed with the aim to satisfy common requirements of LPWAN
technologies. Intentionally, SCHC offers generic functionality without specifying which
mechanisms (e.g. fragmentation modes) or parameter settings (e.g. Rule ID size,
fragmentation window size, etc.) need to be used over each specific LPWAN
technology. This approach allows optimizing SCHC for each LPWAN technology, but
requires specifications defining how SCHC is used over a given LPWAN technology.
Currently, initial draft versions of such specifications have already been produced for
0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200
0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200
LoRaWAN, Sigfox, NB-IoT and IEEE 802.15.4w. Nevertheless, design and research
work are still needed to complete, validate and evaluate the performance of SCHC over
each specific LPWAN technology.
6.2. Context provisioning
A currently open question on SCHC header compression is how the context can be
provided to the compressor and decompressor endpoints. Different alternatives include
using: i) preinstalled context, ii) out-of-band means, and iii) an in-band provisioning
protocol. Determining a suitable solution requires considering the crucial trade-off
between configuration flexibility and bandwidth demand, as well as the capacity of the
LPWAN technology in use.
6.3. Header compression for other protocols
SCHC header compression is based on a generic mechanism that needs to be applied in
a specific way to each target protocol. At the time of writing, SCHC header
compression has only been defined for IPv6, UDP and CoAP. However, further
protocols may be used in the future in LPWAN scenarios, and may therefore benefit
from SCHC header compression.
6.4. Packet-mode fragmentation
In the reliable fragment delivery modes offered by SCHC, an ACK is sent by the
fragment receiver (always or conditionally) after the transmission of a window of
fragments. An ideal reliable fragment delivery mechanism would be packet-oriented,
i.e., a single ACK would report on the delivery success of all the fragments that carry an
IP or non-IP data packet. However, fitting the fragment delivery report for a large
packet in a single ACK may be challenging, given the extreme frame payload size
constraints in some LPWAN technologies and scenarios. Different encoding techniques
may be used at the receiver to report any lost fragments. Alternatives to the bitmap used
in SCHC include using a list of lost fragment identifiers, and delta encoding applied to
the identifiers of lost fragments. The efficiency of each technique depends on the frame
error pattern. Determining the most suitable technique for each scenario needs to be
LoRaWAN, Sigfox and NB-IoT offer encryption and authentication services. However,
end-to-end security may also be needed in some IPv6-based LPWANs. There exist
different approaches for securing CoAP, including use of Datagram Transport Layer
Security (DTLS) and Object Security for Constrained RESTful Environments
(OSCORE). Only the latter protects CoAP messages across intermediary nodes such as
proxies, by transforming the messages into self-contained data structures with a header,
a potentially encrypted payload, and an authentication field. Currently, support for
compressing the OSCORE header by using SCHC is being developed.
Privacy is an open issue, as detection of (even encrypted) messages triggered by sensors
detecting certain events may be exploited. Mitigation techniques (e.g. sending fake
messages) are challenged by the capacity constraints of LPWAN technologies. The
latter also pose a problem for key management, as documents such as certificates are
usually bulky, and solutions are also needed in this space.
SCHC enables ultralightweight IPv6 support for LPWANs by providing specifically
designed header compression and fragmentation functionality. Developed under a
generic and flexible approach, SCHC can be configured for optimized operation over
various underlying technologies (e.g. LoRaWAN, Sigfox, NB-IoT or IEEE 802.15.4w).
SCHC is expected to become a fundamental contributor to the expansion of the Internet
Carles Gomez has been partially supported by ERDF and the Spanish Government
through project TEC2016-79988-P, AEI/FEDER, UE.
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An Overview”, IEEE Communications Surveys & Tutorials, Vol. 19, Issue 2,
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Expanding the Universe of IPv6-Supported Technologies for the Internet of
Things", IEEE Communications Magazine, Vol. 55, Issue 12, pp. 148-155,
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IETF", IEEE Communications Standards, Vol. 1, Issue 1, March 2017, pp. 76-
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Header Compression (SCHC) and fragmentation for LPWAN,
application to UDP/IPv6”, draft-ietf-lpwan-ipv6-static-context-hc-21, Jul. 2019.
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for IoT: From Technology to Application”, Sensors, Vol. 18, 3995, November
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Consumption Model”, Sensors, Vol. 19, 681, February 2019.
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