Four prime sectors for industrial LTE in private or shared spectrum
The steady liberalisation of radio spectrum for private and shared usage in various markets, along with the growing realisation among traditional network operators that their licensed spectrum mat be better used for dedicated applications in under-covered locales, means the industrial set has a number of options, suddenly, to deploy cellular connectivity.
MulteFire is among the pioneers to open up spectrum for dedicated cellular deployments. It has focused in the main part on the unlicensed 5 GHz band, commonly occupied by Wi-Fi traffic, creating a developing cellular LTE solution that can be deployed by industrialists for private usage.
But the MulteFire Alliance, headed by big telecoms equipment and chip vendors (Nokia, Ericsson, and Qualcomm), is adding new bands and capabilities. The latest 1.1 spec adds 2.4 GHz and sub-1GHz spectrum bands to the fold, plus the 1.9 GHz DECT band in Japan. It also introduces low-power wide-area (LPWA) capabilities to ape LTE-M and NB-IoT.
Meanwhile, a 3GPP work item proposes a pathway to make cellular technologies work in the unlicensed 5 GHz and 6 GHz bands; the work of the MulteFire community has been seminal, and informs this work.
But the biggest shake-down in the spectrum landscape has come with the reallocation of the old 3.5 GHz CBRS band in the US for private and shared usage, including by mainstream operators to extend and bulk-out coverage in rural and densely populated areas.
CBRS airtime is being auctioned as an LTE resource, in the first instance. But spectrum is precious, and the mid-band presents a rare opportunity and neat balance in terms of coverage and capacity for industrial enterprises, as well.
Moves by regulators in Germany and the UK, notably, have followed the US move on CBRS spectrum, and seek to make spectrum available to cover for the historical coverage failures of mainstream telcos, and to drive industrial innovation and efficiency.
Important technological advances, notably the slow-burning development of MulteFire, and crucial regulatory advances, led by the US move on CBRS, reflected in markets like the UK and Germany, have created opportunities to run networks in both unlicensed general access (GAA) and licensed private access (PAL) spectrum.
It is a shot in the arm for the Industry 4.0 movement, which has struggled to connect remote and complex terrains, even as it continues to struggle with the gnarly issue of animating, integrating, and extending the life of a generational mishmash of legacy machines and systems. But new spectrum – whether it is licensed, shared, or sub-leased – brings the promise of LTE and 5G to industry.
In a recent white paper (commissioned by the MulteFire Alliance and CBRS Alliance), Harbor Research puts focus on four industrial sectors that stand to benefit from MulteFire and CBRS, or else from equivalent combinations of easy-fit mobile broadband and dedicated spectrum.
Below, in a straight copy from the original paper (which can be found here), is Harbor Research’s killer quartet of industrial LTE/5G cases.
1 | Mining
Challenge: Commodity market volatility is continually putting pressure on mining companies to achieve greater operational efficiencies to meet tighter margins and ensure a larger bottom line. This capital-intensive market is undergoing significant adoption of networked equipment to support automation, remote monitoring and predictive maintenance applications.
Solution: Particularly in remote areas where IP access is limited, a dedicated LTE network will provide the throughput, latency, reliability, coverage, and mobility requirements of critical mining operations while ensuring high security as the convergence of information and operational technologies (IT and OT) bring greater susceptibility to cyber attacks.
Impact: A dedicated LTE network will provide the network infrastructure for automation applications to achieve greater safety and efficiency metrics of mining operations. Furthermore, with increasing cybersecurity threats to mining industries, a private LTE network will isolate threat actors over public or macro networks.
2 | Shipping
Challenge: Increasing container traffic is overwhelming port operators, ultimately congesting distribution and straining asset health.
Solution: A private LTE network could support the secure automation of mobile equipment within the port while also supporting wireless IP security, computer vision applications such as optical character recognition (OCR) and remote monitoring of capital intensive port equipment (STS cranes, tractors and trucks).
Impact: A single, integrated wireless network that could support automation, security and remote monitoring functions will streamline operations from ship to shore to distribution, allowing port operators to keep pace with increasing container traffic. Enabling these remote monitoring and automation applications ultimately improves the safety of employees by taking them out from under containers moving through the port.
3 | Manufacturing
Challenge: Manufacturers are constantly seeking ways to improve operations efficiencies and production capacity, but are faced with limited network solutions to enable heterogeneous device systems.
Solution: Private LTE will enable key remote monitoring applications for a diverse equipment environment and support data services for mobile equipment and human machine interfaces (HMIs) allowing for greater visibility into system performance.
Impact: Bringing reliability, security, throughput and latency requirements to these business critical systems will improve overall system intelligence, enabling a broader set of devices and applications.
4 | Healthcare
Challenge: Day-to-day operations are highly business critical, where the cost of network downtime can translate to the well-being of patients. For example, visibility into the location of mobile equipment to support the operations around an incoming ICU patient can mean the difference between life or death.
Solution: A dedicated LTE network can ensure low latency, high reliability and improved security for the communication of mobile equipment, patient data and practitioner logistics. Trials by member companies in the MulteFire and CBRS Alliances have proven that in instances of interference, the LTE-based technology achieves more consistent throughput than competitive technologies. The closed nature of the network also allows the network manager to determine what data remains on site and what data is transmitted to the cloud, further driving the security of sensitive data.
Impact: This will bring reliable communications to an environment with dense infrastructure that can cause significant interference. The critical nature of patient data and the stringent HIPPA standards that are required in the communication of this data will be reinforced by another level of network security with a private LTE network using dedicated equipment.