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Five common misconceptions about private wireless networks


A private cellular network serves a single business or organization, typically, to automate their processes with applications like autonomous robots that make the production process more efficient, more sustainable, or more secure. As it is wireless, it is more flexible than cabled networks and can provide affordable connectivity for sensors, machinery, devices, and even critical communications, making it a critical enabler for Industry 4.0.

A private network is purchased or subscribed to as a managed service and includes radio access points and a core network server, which means the enterprise is not dependent on public cellular networks. Unlike public cellular networks, private networks can be configured to be ultra-reliable supporting business and mission-critical use cases that require predictable performance. 

For many organizations, private wireless technology is new, and they may fear long integration processes or complex operations. That’s why Nokia has created One digital platform for Industry 4.0 transformation. Our solution includes the Nokia Digital Automation Cloud (Nokia DAC), the MX Industrial Edge (MXIE), Nokia industrial devices, and a catalog of our own and third-party applications. The end-to-end solution is provided as-a-service, and is mainly bought as a subscription, reducing upfront capital investments, and allowing enterprises to pay as they grow.  

Being a new technology for many enterprises IT and Operational Technology (OT) teams, there are still concerns about private wireless campus networks and how they work. I’ve summarized the top five misconceptions that we hear a lot. 

Misconception #1: Private Wireless will replace Wi-Fi

4.9G/LTE and 5G private wireless technology will replace Wi-Fi for industrial applications that require high bandwidth and/or low latency. Wi-Fi is too unstable for some of these business-critical applications, so customers like Lufthansa are using 5G private wireless for their virtual table inspection. 

Wi-Fi is not going away, as many parts of the IT and OT process can work on Wi-Fi. Having the right technology mix for the right applications is vital to digitalizing the OT process. Where basic connectivity for non-business critical processes is enough, Wi-Fi will continue to play a vital role. Nokia Digital Automation cloud now includes Wi-Fi capability providing an additional connectivity layer and seamless interworking with private wireless.   The value is in the end-to-end solution, as various OT applications and devices are connected to the same platform, giving industries the best of 4.9G/LTE, 5G, and Wi-Fi, working seamlessly together. 

Misconception #2: There are very few 5G devices available, so investing in private wireless is pointless for now.  

Of the enterprises interviewed in Omdia’s research, 31% stated that the lack of devices and industrial ecosystem for 5G is the number one issue. While it is true that many device suppliers don’t have large portfolios of 5G devices just yet, the hype around 5G has meant a real push to be ready for this market and device suppliers are racing to get there. 

Fig. 1.

More importantly, private wireless is much more than 5G. For 4.9G/LTE, there is a very developed industrial ecosystem with over 6,800 LTE-enabled non-phone-form factor devices. Many industrial systems come with built-in 4.9G/LTE modems. As many as 85% of industrial use cases can be supported by 4.9G/LTE already, so there is no need to delay private wireless investments. 

The Nokia private wireless campus solutions come with a wide range of devices and applications, which are fully tested and pre-integrated, so that industries can hit the ground running connecting their workers and machines. Nokia is growing its private wireless ecosystem with new wearable cameras and integrated devices using a growing partner ecosystem. For example, one of our recent partners, Savox, brings ruggedized LTE and 5G devices that will enhance safety and communications capabilities for workers.  

Misconception #3: The edge will replace the central cloud

One of the last pieces of the puzzle for digitalization is the introduction of edge computing for asset-intensive industries to process Industry 4.0 data on site. The edge cloud is an on-premises container compute platform that is tightly integrated with a high-performance network to support applications used for operational processes. While in the IT space the cloud plays an important role, for Operational technology the industrial edge cloud helps to meet the low latency capabilities needed for advanced digitization use cases, such as robots that need to react in milliseconds, because the data can be processed close to the manufacturing floor. This reduces the round-trip delays that processing in a central cloud would introduce. Fast-moving robots may need to be stopped immediately and these types of low latency requirements cannot be maintained with a cloud a hundred miles away. 

The Nokia MX Industrial Edge combines the simplicity and agility of an Edge as a Service model with a high performance resilient and secure Edge architecture designed to meet the mission critical needs of asset intensive industrial environments. It comes with a portfolio of ready-to-use industrial applications as well as industrial connectors to link to systems from a variety of vertically oriented OEMs. 

Despite the importance of the edge in industrial applications, central and edge clouds form a continuum with different applications and workloads running in different locations. Some data must be stored centrally for audit purposes. Machine-learning applications often need to analyze large amounts of historical data, which is done in the central cloud, although the resulting algorithm might be applied at the edge. For example, the real-time navigation data for an autonomous mobile robot (AMR) delivering supplies to the production line is processed locally for millisecond, near-real-time control, but the performance data can be stored centrally for future analysis of the AGV business benefits. 

The MXIE provides an ecosystem neutral platform that enables enterprises to swiftly adopt any edge cloud applications from public cloud providers, industrial partners and ISV applications to accelerate their digital transformation. 

Misconception #4: The return on investment (ROI) of Private Wireless technology is unclear

According to Omdia research, 66% of enterprises expect a return on investment within two years. Cost is a key obstacle that prevents 29% of respondents from deploying a private LTE/5G network. Our experience working with clients shows that depending on the use case and the deployment environment, achieving an ROI within two years is very doable. It is important to look beyond component costs, since often the costs of site radio engineering and consultation for other wireless technologies will outweigh the component costs. In other words, calculating the TCO is complex, thus for enterprises that are still unclear about ROI, we’ve provided a TCO calculator. The calculator often finds that Private wireless works out beneficial.   
One tip to keep costs down and realize ROI sooner is to work with a partner that provides a complete ecosystem of private wireless connectivity, applications, devices as well as the industrial edge. Many large enterprises don’t want to put all their eggs in one basket. However, devices, applications, edge servers, and connectivity solutions need to be integrated and tested to work seamlessly and to guarantee business-mission critical availability and reliability requirements. System integration can take time and, as a result, costs go up. 

Fig. 2.

Nokia MX Industrial Edge- a fully integrated edge solution to accelerate your OT digitalization

Alternately, a single vendor that can offer a pre-integrated platform combing the various technologies and all needed orchestration and southbound, northbound and cloud connectors can help enterprises to hit the ground running. Pre-set service level agreements can also ensure key performance indicators are met. Businesses can get to market faster and save on integration costs caused by unnecessary complexity.

Misconception #5 There is no spectrum available for private wireless 

Availability of spectrum is still one of the top technical challenges of deploying private wireless 4.G/LTE and 5G in manufacturing, for example. ABI has found that 36% of the manufacturing audience sees this as a top concern.  

The growth of private wireless networks is being accelerated by multiple recent initiatives related to spectrum. One example is the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) in the US, a joint effort in the US between the FCC and industry to share existing radio spectrum and make it available for private use. Such initiatives are expanding the availability of spectrum for private wireless in the US. Outside the US, more than 25 countries have now released local LTE/5G licensed spectrum for industries. Nokia has played a lead role in CBRS and has an integrated CBRS solution and we also have partnerships in place in 30 countries for spectrum use.

Other alternatives include the use of unlicensed spectrum such as MulteFire, based on 3GPP standards for the use of LTE in the 5GHz band (also used by other unlicensed technologies such as Wi-Fi). 5GHz can be used worldwide. Nokia announced, last year, the industry’s first MulteFire end-to-end solution. LTE-U is also allowed in 16 countries and 5G NR-U (new radio – unlicensed), will be used in the future. 

Finding spectrum is getting easier all the time. Private 4.9/LTE and 5G wireless networks are growing rapidly, making industries more sustainable, safer, and more productive. Spectrum shortage is a barrier that can and will be resolved, and this shouldn’t be a barrier to adoption. 

Check out some of our blogs in this space. 

Are you ready to lead the way in Industry 4.0?

Private Wireless campus connectivity is being adopted at record speed by industries including manufacturers, energy providers and transportation hubs. Some of the barriers for adoption that existed only two years ago are disappearing fast. 

Fig. 3.

The private wireless campus ecosystem is growing rapidly beyond connectivity as new devices and applications are coming to market and are being deployed on the industrial edge. This growing ecosystem will transform the way we live and work and make industry 4.0 a reality.

The question is not if private wireless campus technology will be adopted by the 14 million campuses around the world. The question is when. For those manufacturing companies, ports, airports or energy providers that want to stay ahead of the competition, it is vital to start the journey today. Nokia is the market leader in private wireless campus technology, and we are very happy to help you lead the way in Industry 4.0. 

If you are still unclear about the benefits of and use cases for the technology, check out some of the case studies from manufacturing, transportation and energy markets, as well as governments and smart cities, where private wireless has been deployed successfully. Or, contact us for a further conversation on how a private wireless campus can work for you. 

Carlijn Williams

About Carlijn Williams

Carlijn Williams currently holds the role of Head of Marketing for Nokia’s Enterprise Solutions business. She talks about how (5G) private wireless networks and solutions like edge cloud, devices and applications continue to change vertical industries. She gives insight in how industries can succeed in their digital transformation by using low latency, high bandwidth mission-critical communication networks. She believes topics like Automation, Security and AI-driven applications are vital to accelerate Industry 4.0. Dutch born, Carlijn holds a degree in Economics and Communications and lives in the UK.

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