When people say to me “I can’t wait for 5G to arrive, it will change everything,” I encourage their enthusiasm — 5G will be great — but I also remind them that 5G is an evolution of LTE/4.9G, and many of the most interesting vertical capabilities of 5G are already available now. Except in a very few cases, there are no good reasons to delay. In this blog post, I cover five of the best reasons to move to private wireless now.
The 3GPP family of mobile wireless technologies hasn’t been seen much in the private networking space previously because spectrum has been exclusively licensed to mobile operators. With the recent development of unlicensed versions of LTE, such as MulteFire, the possibility of using 3GPP-based wireless is open to everyone using spectrum currently used by WLAN technologies — although much more efficiently and deterministically. Governments around the world are also opening up specific bands for private use. Unlike public mobile LTE networks, which typically achieve three 9s reliability (99.9% uptime), private wireless LTE networks can be engineered to four and five 9s (99.99% and 99.999%), which means they are business- and, even, mission-critical. Finally, mobile operators are also much more keen today to lease spectrum for vertical deployments.
Before I get into my top five reasons for adopting private wireless today, I want to address the differences between 4.9G and 5G. 4.9G is the latest version of 4G/LTE, bringing many enhancements and capabilities compared to the initial standard – making 4.9G a solution not just for mobile broadband but also for critical machine communications and IoT. LTE/4.9G networks will easily morph into 5G over the next four to five years and 4.9G is the first big step in that direction. In other words, you might as well get on board for the ride today. Here are five reasons why.
Reason number one is IoT. This is the introduction of hundreds and thousands of sensors and other devices into our industrial environment measuring everything from the state of machinery to the presence of dangerous chemicals. There will be so many of these devices that the prospect of wiring all of them into our cabled LANs boggles the mind. It’s not just the expense of installation, but the inflexibility that will result. Industrial-strength private wireless will be critical to affordably connecting these IoT devices with the cloud and maintaining flexibility and agility to reconfigure processes in the future. 4.9G is configured to support low-powered (battery-powered) IoT sensors, whereas other wireless technologies, such as Wi-Fi, are not.
Reason number two is support for low latencies (e.g., the roundtrip time for information to go from a sensor to a device causing an automated response). 5G is often touted for the ultra-low latencies it will support (1ms), but most industrial automation protocols, such as Profinet, will work just fine at 10–15ms, which a private LTE/4.9G network delivers. LTE/4.9G is a deterministic protocol that can predictably guarantee latency rates, unlike either standard Ethernet or Wi-Fi, which are both ‘best-effort’ network protocols.
Reason number three is mobility. Most enterprise wireless applications today barely touch on the mobile component because WLAN technologies only support it in a very limited way. Thus, you may not have even considered the mobility element before now. LTE/4.9G opens up a whole new terrain for use cases involving mobile workers, autonomous and remote-controlled vehicles, drones, and other fast-moving equipment.
Reason number four is operational consolidation. Most industries today have multiple communications networks devoted to different systems or applications. Some of them are older communications systems for everything from SCADA to CCTV, TETRA/P25 for Push-to-talk to WirelessHART.
Upgrades, maintenance and security tasks multiply with every network you run. By being consolidated onto an LTE/4.9G network, many of these costs disappear. Some use cases will still need cabled Ethernet, but many could simply use wireless access.
Because LTE/4.9G is IP-based, software-defined network services supported by IP/MPLS can also be enforced across the LTE/4.9G network so that security, latency and other performance criteria can be assured end to end through policies, with much of the maintenance and administration automated.
The fifth and biggest reason for deploying private wireless today is that your competitors are already trialing it and integrating it into their Industry 4.0 transformations. You could keep fiddling with Wi-Fi trying to keep it going until full-blown 5G is here, but you’re just getting further behind the learning curve, missing out on the enhanced efficiencies your operation would gain. With an industrial-grade private LTE/4.9G wireless network you can begin to realize opportunities that are already here today.
To find out how Nokia’s next-generation industrial-grade private wireless can accelerate your journey to Industry 4.0, check out our roadmap here.
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