Connecting the smart factory: Ericsson foresees private LTE networks
Tomorrow’s low-latency 5G networks are expected to help carriers win new smart factory business, and Ericsson plans to be a major supplier of radio equipment for these efforts. Anders Svensson, principal solution manager at Ericsson, said the company expects enterprise customers to deploy private LTE networks to support smart factory operations.
“It will be covering a certain manufacturer’s site,” Svensson said. “The aspect of controlling certain machines will be very local even if they might have long distance connectivity for remote control.”
Private LTE networks will probably require more edge nodes than operator networks need, Svensson said, especially if the enterprise wants to run application onsite rather than in a remote cloud.
Ericsson expects the shared 3.5 GHz spectrum bands to support private LTE networks for factory equipment. Svensson said enterprise customers may be able to buy equipment directly from Ericsson, since the radios may not need to support spectrum that is licensed to a particular network operator. Some of the 3.5 GHz spectrum is expected to be deployed by companies that do not operate proprietary networks.
Still, companies may want the security of a relationship with a mobile network operator for their smart factory operations. Svensson said the business models for smart factory operations are still emerging.
“It’s not really technical; it’s more how do you build the business model around it?” he said. “Should this be managed by an operator for [the enterprise], and then they buy a service in the local areas, and also maybe provide all the processing power, or is it the other way around that they buy equipment directly from us?”
Svensson said that in the second scenario the enterprise might want to manage the network itself, or might want to make different choices.
Much will depend upon the ultimate disposition of the 3.5 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Service spectrum in the U.S. The Federal Communications Commission is considering relatively short-term leases in small geographic areas, but the carrier community is pushing for longer-term leases covering larger areas.
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