5G private wireless has arrived. Long live 4.9G!
We are announcing the world’s first 5G standalone (SA) private wireless solution. This is arguably the moment that everyone has been waiting for — and Nokia is leading the way! 5G is an incredible technology and we believe the time is ripe. Many of its features have been explicitly designed from the get-go to support Industry-4.0-type applications with, for example, ultra-low latency, machine synchronization and support for massive IoT.
So why am I celebrating 4.9G in the same headline?
I don’t want to take anything away from our accomplishment in releasing this world-first commercial 5G private wireless solution. It is a big deal and we are celebrating it. Some of our industrial customers and ecosystem partners are thrilled to be able to set up 5G trial networks. It allows them to begin testing the technology in the real world and validating their use cases with OEMs, machine vendors and system integrators to prepare for the factory of the future.
Other customers, in markets like Germany, Japan or the UK, will also be pleased since their vertical local spectrum, in cmW or mmW, is only suitable for 5G or there is no 4.9G ecosystem in that band. So, they are driving for early adoption of the 5G technology and related ecosystem to ensure they jump on the digitalization boat as early as possible.
Today, Nokia has more than 30 enterprise customers that fall into these two camps. In the first case, for example, we have the automotive industry, which needs to start planning today for factories that will be built in 2023; there are also industry research centers and OEMs that run test facilities to design the solutions of the future. In the second case, because of spectrum limitations for 4.9G in their countries, some of our customers have decided to start their private wireless journey from the beginning with 5G.
However, for most of our private wireless customers, 4.9G/LTE is still the right answer for now and for the longer term with its much more mature ecosystem of devices. There are many validated industrial use cases in operation today that provide tangible business benefits that make them more competitive, resilient, sustainable and agile.
When Nokia Bell Labs did a deep dive on the uses industries and enterprises have for private wireless, it showed that the performance of 4.9G/LTE was good enough for more than 85 percent of today’s applications — hence many enterprises are likely not to need 5G in the mid-long term.
I once heard from one of my colleagues working in the 3GPP standards team, that “Rome was not built in a day” when referring to the 5G standard work. 3GPP’s ambition from the start of 5G was to bridge the gap between mobile technologies and industrial use cases, which meant that a lot of careful work, consultation and planning had to be put into the new standard.
And much of that work still needs to be done. 5G R.16 was just finalized this month (July 2020) and together with R17 (planned for 2022) it will bring critical machine connectivity features such as ultra-low latency and time-sensitive networking. These next two releases are critical steps for Industry 4.0 applications, as they will bring significant benefits for private wireless, enabling the bulk of the 15 percent of applications not possible today with private 4.9G. R.18, which is due in (2023) should bring the final piece of the puzzle with massive IoT connectivity — the successor to 4.9G/LTE LPWAN IoT features (LTE-M and NB-IoT).
As has always been the case with 3GPP standards, it is only when they are finalized that interoperability testing can begin between the different industry players. Only then can performance be tested against real applications. These critical steps are the “green flag” needed for the ecosystem players to start building 5G into their machines, sensors and devices. This is also why Nokia decided to bring 5G SA early, to enable the work to begin with 5G R15 SA, as it provides the baseline architectural foundation for all future 5G innovation.
My message is that it’s good to have choices. This release of a standalone 5G private wireless solution is a big milestone and, for some of our customers, it’s going to be very important. For the many segments where only a few applications or only future applications really need the 5G “oomph”, 4.9G/LTE private wireless already brings an awesome improvement to existing IT-centric wireless solutions, which currently limit their digitalization efforts and constrain them from implementing various use cases.
Finally, it’s also important to note that the cloud-native core network for the Nokia private wireless solutions DAC and MPW can be seamlessly upgraded to handle 5G. So, if you decide to invest in 4.9G, that investment is safe. Your 4.9G network will run most of your OT applications for years to come. When you are ready to make the switch to 5G — when the ecosystem is ripe or you are introducing new use cases that needs 5G — the upgrade will be seamless.
The long-term potential of 4.9G is the reason why we are continuing to invest in it, bringing expanded capabilities to private 4.9G networks and integrating the latest standards evolutions. For instance:
- Nokia recently launched the world’s first Band 87 (410MHz) radio solution for private wireless. Like the 450MHz, 410MHz is a former CDMA band with massive coverage potential and now standardized by 3GPP for LTE. The 410-450MHz spectrum allows for cost-effective deployment of nationwide deep penetration private wireless networks for public safety, transportation or utilities
- In recognition of the fact that most industrial use cases are uplink intensive, Nokia announces the industry’s first support for TD-LTE config 0 for its private wireless solutions. Config 0 allow for 75 percent of the TD-LTE bandwidth to be allocated for uplink traffic, significantly increasing the uplink capacity of LTE and better serving upstream-intensive machine and video use cases
- The Nokia private wireless solution can now also support pre-5G slicing capabilities. Slicing brings the ability to create, from the same physical network and using existing devices, end-to-end virtual networks that can guarantee performance and security KPIs for certain use cases. Slicing will significantly simplify the management of use case priorities in private wireless networks going forward.
For these reasons, and many other too numerous to cover here, there is no reason to put off investing in 4.9G private wireless today. It will serve you very well for years to come. And, it is easily upgraded to 5G when and if you have use cases that need its capabilities. If you are ready to take the 5G plunge today because of the nature of your industry or regional constraints, we have that too — an industry first!
I expect both standards will be around for years to come powering all kinds of interesting public safety, industrial and enterprise applications around the world. And we at Nokia will be with you all the way, just as we have been since 2015 when we launched the industry’s first private wireless solution.
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