Unlocking unlicensed private wireless networks with the world’s first MulteFire solution
In a recent blog, I mentioned that CBRS in the US leads the world on vertical spectrum and that Nokia is addressing this opportunity with some key partnerships and innovations. I am happy to share that Nokia is now unlocking the global unlicensed spectrum with the industry first MulteFire 4.9G/LTE private wireless network solution. This solution features the industry’s first certified MulteFire device: the Nokia Industrial MulteFire router 700.
The importance of MulteFire
The availability of licensed spectrum is often seen as a barrier to the deployment of new private wireless networks. While the situation has improved in quite a few countries, it is not yet ideal for all markets. When it comes to unlicensed spectrum, some countries allow the use of LTE-U on the unlicensed 5.8 GHz bands, which are traditionally used by Wi-Fi or wireless backhaul. But these bands are mainly used for static point-to-point applications and mobility is not allowed.
MulteFire now makes it possible to quickly set up and tear down a private LTE/4G network anywhere that Wi-Fi is allowed in 5.x GHz spectrum without worrying about spectrum availability, site footprint and boundaries, regulatory consent or licensing costs. It is a new very important option for small and medium-sized enterprise (SMEs), and we hope it will help take private wireless to the mass market.
Communication service providers (CSPs) should also rejoice because MulteFire gives them a tool to tap into the SME market and offers private wireless more easily in countries where they don’t own any spectrum. Value-added resellers and distributors will also find MulteFire private wireless networks to be an ideal fit for their high-volume models.
One of the cherries on the cake with MulteFire is the potential to add capacity to existing licensed networks by deploying a few extra MulteFire access points. These access points can use the existing core network and operations and maintenance (O&M) functions.
Finally, MulteFire opens-up many new segments that lack access to licensed spectrum for some of their use cases. For example, MulteFire could be used to build temporary networks for events, construction sites, broadcasting, public safety operations, defense sites or field operations.
Putting MulteFire specifications to work
This MulteFire private wireless solution is the product of a long journey that started in October 2015, when we co-founded the MulteFire Alliance (MFA). The MFA aimed to create a global ecosystem for applying 4G/LTE and next-generation mobile cellular technology in configurations that use unlicensed spectrum, including the 5 GHz band. Its first objective was to build a 3GPP standards-based specification that would make LTE/4G compliant for use in 5 GHz unlicensed spectrum around the world, ensure coexistence with Wi-Fi, and provide the performance needed to enable Industry 4.0.
The resulting MFA 1.0 specification defines several key capabilities such as an adaptive Listen Before Talk (LBT) procedure, which allows for transmission in the unlicensed spectrum for a known duration and opens channel access to ensure that MulteFire can coexist with neighboring Wi-Fi using the same channel.
Comparing MulteFire with Wi-Fi
Our solution is the first to achieve MFA 1.0 certification for base transceiver stations (BTSs) and user equipment (UE). The results of our recent field tests confirm the important benefits that MulteFire brings compared to Wi-Fi systems that use the same frequency band, including:
- Predictable performance: With MulteFire, latency and multi-user cell throughput are stable, even with increasing numbers of users. With a Wi-Fi access point, throughput quickly decreases to a few Mbps under the same loaded conditions.
- Improved coverage and penetration: The field tests showed that our MulteFire device can attach to the network at a distance of more than 700 m from the access point and behind windows. Under the same conditions, the Wi-Fi device could not make it at more than 200 m.
- Seamless mobility: MulteFire supports mobility, including high-speed mobility. Wi-Fi cannot maintain connectivity during handovers between access points.
- Strong security: MulteFire offers inherent 3GPP-defined security features that are suitable for mission-critical networks, including SIM-based authentication and end-to-end encryption.
Breaking free from regulatory and deployment constraints
By taking advantage of these characteristics, the Nokia Industrial MulteFire router 700 can break free from deployment and regulatory constraints to reliably connect a broad and growing range of IoT and digital assets in areas such as:
- Communications, including LAN, business- and mission-critical communications, Industrial Ethernet and Machine Type Communication (MTC)
- Visual intelligence, including video surveillance, image recognition and video analytics
- Asset insights, including tracking, predictive diagnostics and supply chain management
- Cloud automation, including automated guided robots (AGRs) and vehicles (AGVs) and remote machine control
By opening the world, new uses and making private wireless easier for SME, MulteFire further enhances Nokia Digital Automation Cloud (DAC) plug & play and easy-of-use capabilities. The solution can be delivered using an as-a-service package approach with a quick set-up service and includes a catalog of applications. We recently announced that we have deployed 300 as-a-service networks and counting using the DAC platform.
With such announcement, Nokia opens-up the field of the unlicensed spectrum to drive growing MulteFire ecosytem and pave the way for the future 5G NR-U market and use cases. Visit our website to find out more about how our solutions and deployment options can help you deploy an industrial-grade private wireless network that takes your business into the digital age.