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Private Wireless Explained  

It was in the early 2010s, and Alan Seery was at a Rio Tinto mine in Pilbara in north western Australia mulling why the autonomous trucks had begun to mysteriously stop working. Examining the comms set-up, the Principal for Infrastructure and Communications Strategy counted six different communications network infrastructures supporting nine different networks at the top of one hill. After extensive investigation it was discovered that a third-party contractor had commissioned a WiFi link to connect two buildings together. The interference caused by this link had impacted the network supporting the autonomous trucks and caused them to stop working.

Alan knew there had to be a better way. Following an audit of all wireless applications, it became obvious to him that only a licensed-spectrum solution could provide the assurance that the business needed. And so, the first 4G/LTE private wireless network in the resources industry globally, and the first private 4G/LTE private wireless in Australia was born.

Chris Antlitz

Telecom Principal Analyst
Technology Business Research, Inc.
One minute explanation of Private Wireless  

Industry gets connected 

Industry 4.0 enables industries to drive automation, increase business efficiency, safety and agility, and shrink their environmental footprint by fusing physical with digital processes. To digitally transform their processes and systems, these industries need to connect all sensors, machines and workers in the most flexible way available. Tethering them to a wired network infrastructure is expensive and, ultimately, it will limit the possible applications of Industry 4.0. Industrial-grade private wireless is the best way to cost-effectively implement the widest range of Industry 4.0 applications while providing the reliability and security of typical of ethernet cables.

Characterized by computing and the internet, the third industrial revolution profoundly impacted services businesses such as financial services and the media. But asset-intensive industries with a lot of heavy equipment, production lines and materials handling missed out on this ‘digital revolution’. The cabling and WiFi networks that work well in an office setting, aren’t designed for mobility, making them inappropriate for asset-heavy industries with operational technology application needs. 

But that is set to change with the fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0, which will be powered by mobile networks starting with 4.9G (super-charged 4G) and migrating to 5G as business needs emerge. 

The world is enthusiastically embracing the potential of Industrial IoT (IIoT), machine learning and AI. According to 451 Research, there are 1.3 billion IoT endpoints that will need to be connected by 2021. Industry 4.0 will require the digitalization of the infrastructure we use to sustainably extract resources, move them to market, manufacture, power, operate and service all aspects of our technological world, including the management of our cities and the well-being of people.

Mobile networks are designed to reliably connect devices which are on the move and in difficult radio envrionments, have greater capacity, large coverage and better signal penetration. And most importantly, they provide predictable lower latency, which is essential for machine to machine connectivity such as robotics where there can be no delay variation from instruction to reaction. 

1760 - 1840 Industrial Revolution ‘First Industrial Revolution’ Steam-powered mechanisation
1871 - 1914 Second Industrial Revolution ‘Technological Revolution’ Rail, telegraph, electricity
1947 - 2015 Third Industrial Revolution ‘Digital Revolution’ Computing, communication technologies
2016+ Fourth Industrial Revolution ‘Industry 4.0’ Robotics, AI, automation, IoT

Why private wireless?

Private wireless is a standalone network focused on industrial operational assets and users. A private wireless network provides broadband connectivity, similar to a public wireless network, but is owned and controlled by the organization that built or purchased it.

As well as at individual industrial sites, private wireless can be deployed for connected sites - field area networks - or even nationwide – wide area networks. For instance a rail operator will need to connect its train stations and shunting yards, as well as the trains on the lines. Logistics operators would need even broader coverage including its warehouses and everywhere their crews deliver. 

    vertical connectivity

    What’s involved?

    Organizations that want a private wireless network can either build and run it themselves, or outsource to a mobile network operator or another player in the market, such as a system integrator, or cloud service provider.

    Private wireless can take the form of mini public networks built using similar modules to a public network like Nokia’s Modular Private Wireless (MPW), or can be provided as an out-of-a-box solution such as Nokia’s Digital Automation Cloud (NDAC).  Nokia DAC is provided with edge computing hardware, radio access points, add-on applications, user equipment and spectrum options.

    Spectrum options? Please explain

    All wireless networks - including WiFi and mobile - use radio frequency spectrum for transmission. The radio spectrum is also used for radio, terrestrial and satellite TV, GPS, bluetooth, police and military radar. Each service uses different frequency ranges dependent on requirements. At lower frequencies the waves go further and are better able to penetrate physical objects, but they also have less bandwidth (capacity) to carry data. Conversely, higher frequencies are higher bandwidth but travel shorter distances and don’t penetrate physical structures such as buildings.   

    The radio spectrum is a finite resource. With so much competition, national governments have the responsibility for partitioning and providing spectrum licences limited by time and geography. For public mobile networks, spectrum has typically been allocated by auction to licencees such as communication service providers (CSPs). These spectrum bands are known as ‘licensed’ spectrum. For Wi-Fi networks, two unlicensed spectrum bands (2.4 and 5Gz) have been defined and are used the world-over.

    Private wireless networks can operate on both licenced and unlicensed spectrum and users will make a choice based on their locations, requirements and budget. Most licensed spectrum is currently in the hands of CSPs who can sub lease to enterprises. But governments, with the US (CBRS spectrum) and France at the forefront, followed by Germany, UK and Japan, are increasingly releasing spectrum for businesses in their support for Industry 4.0.  

    And, in some scenarios unlicensed spectrum using MulteFire is also an option, opening up private wireless to small and medium size enterprises and also new scenarios like short term construction sites that would be challenging for licensed spectrum.

    Who uses private wireless?

    There are a number of industry verticals and public sector domains that make excellent candidates for the use of private wireless including mining, utilities, factories, warehouses, ports, airports, public safety and smart cities. 

    Nokia predicts the potential need for 14 million global industrial sites to be equipped with private wireless connectivity in the coming decade. According to ABI, the private wireless market is expected to grow to USD 10.6bn by 2025. More immediately, their Q2 2020 survey of 600 manufacturing decision-makers found 74% of respondents are looking to upgrade their communications and control networks by the end of 2022 with more than 90% investigating the use of either 4G and/or 5G in their operations. 63% were looking to digitalize and improve existing infrastructure, 51% to automate with robotics, and 42% to improve employee productivity.


    • Intrinsic security with built-in encryption and authentication capabilities
    • Mission-critical reliability to keep systems up and running
    • Ubiquitous connectivity across large campuses sites, indoors and outdoors
    • Meet growing demands and a single wireless network for operational technology needs with predictable high data rates and low latency, but also support critical voice and low power sensors.
    • High multi-user capacity
    • Supports advanced applications on mobile assets and transparent handovers to public networks

    Learn more

    Nokia Industrial-grade Private Wireless

    About Nokia

    We create the critical networks and technologies to bring together the world’s intelligence, across businesses, cities, supply chains and societies. With our commitment to innovation and technology leadership, driven by the award-winning Nokia Bell Labs, we deliver networks at the limits of science across mobile, infrastructure, cloud, and enabling technologies.

    Adhering to the highest standards of integrity and security, we help build the capabilities we need for a more productive, sustainable and inclusive world. For our latest updates, please visit us online and follow us on Twitter @nokia.

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