As near as I can tell, it's a kind of grassroots alternative internet access strategy. Out of goodwill you apparently install a LoRa TTN gateway and connect it to your internet. Then anyone (?) within range (which can be fairly far, since it's LoRa) can connect their LoRa nodes with your gateway, as well as any others within range. Initially, there's not much density. If it takes off, though, then it could be considerably meshed. In the town where I live there are around 5 of these gateway points, but none are currently within range of where I live.
It's not clear to me whether anyone using your TTN network must reciprocate by setting up their own LoRa gateway too. Seems to me that's how it should work, or else there'd be a free-rider problem.
Anyway, a basic gateway isn't all that expensive. A Dragino gateway with one antenna costs $66 on amazon, and one with two antennas costs $79. There's also a 4 antenna version that's >$200.
Since TTN supports LoRaWAN, one apparent benefit should be the ability to do OTA firmware updates to your LoRaWAN devices.
I think if it encouraged others to setup their own TTN gateway that meshed with mine, it might turn out to be a cheap way to ensure redundant/fallback communication to the internet for IoT nodes. That way if my internet connection went down, maybe my IoT traffic could use one of the meshed gateways in range as a fallback until it came up again). So, if you build this field of dreams, and they come, then I presume this fallback would all be free for everyone who participates, aside from the initial gateway cost. And since you'd presumably would want to have an IoT gateway for your LoRa devices anyway (since that's the simplest way, unless you want to build your own Private Network of Everything), the incremental cost probably isn't much.
I need to look into it further, but it *may* turn out that all you need is a LoRa transceiver and an inexpensive CPU such as a Raspberry Pi to run the LoraWAN software on. If that turns out to be true, then the cost to participate might be even lower.
Update: from what I've read the Dragino isn't LoRaWAN compliant, but the Raspberry Pi route may be viable.
Edited by NeverDie, 29 October 2019 - 12:38 PM.