A new era has opened up for global enterprises, the public sector, and small operators, thanks to new cloud packet core solutions. That’s because the scale and flexibility of a native cloud architecture lets these organizations take advantage of powerful LTE capabilities that were previously available only to mobile operators.
In other words, a flexible cloud packet core that is dimensioned to the global enterprise and public sector (GEPS) enables cost-effective private LTE networks that support mobile broadband, Internet of Things (IoT) machine-type communications (MTC) applications and services. So these organizations can now deploy creative new tools to address wide-ranging business goals and social needs — such as accelerating the move to Smart Cities, improving staff efficiency and safety, and broadening the pool of available services and applications.
This article takes a closer look at the business opportunities these solutions enable — as well as the technical capabilities that are essential for success and the market trends that are driving the changes.
From IoT/MTC apps to Smart Cities: what’s possible now
Private LTE networks are increasingly becoming a preferred approach to deliver IoT/MTC applications and services in the business and critical communications industry. Here are just a few examples of how the new capabilities can enhance productivity and deliver innovation — such as remote industrial locations like an oil rig or mine site or smart grids for utilities.
- Transportation: At train stations and platforms, apps can streamline onboarding, enable mobile ticketing, and improve operations with video feeds and alarm notifications. They can also provide passengers with communication and entertainment services on demand.
- Oil and Gas: MTC can be used to control and monitor oil and gas processing in the refinery, with real-time processing and relaying of rig production information to a network operations center (NOC). Employees can wear biometric clothing to monitor their health — and take advantage of a “flotel” to access the same services they have at home.
- Mining: End-to-end visibility can be provided for controllers and schedulers at an NOC, using a high-bandwidth, low-latency video view of operational plant equipment. Staff can optimize vehicle movement throughout the mine with real-time GPS positioning, while real-time alarm notifications help control equipment issues.
Beyond these initial examples, the possibilities are nearly endless. The GEPS market continues to embrace an ever expanding variety of mobile devices to increase business productivity and collaboration. There is a growing demand for MTC services and applications such as sensors, monitoring, control, tracking and metering to deliver operational and structural innovation and advantage. With the continued evolution of LTE and 5G on the horizon — promising increased speed, greater connective density, and reduced delay (latency) — the potential new business and mission critical services and applications are even greater.
Crucial building block: the cloud packet core
When GEPS organizations or operators are ready to take advantage of these new business opportunities, there’s one key consideration for success. They need to understand the service characteristics of mobile broadband and IoT/MTC services and apps — which will vary across one or a combination of bandwidth and latency demands, as well as the number of endpoints, users, and devices.
Consider some scenarios that demonstrate these varying service characteristics that must be supported:
- IoT devices such as municipal power and water meters potentially connect to the network and transmit data very infrequently. But there are potentially a large number of these devices that will need to connect to the network infrequently to transmit a very limited amount of data.
- Some industrial control and monitoring applications such as emergency shutdown on an oil rig or refinery may have latency tolerance considerations driven by real-time processing requirements of the services or applications.
- Security and health care applications such as facilities protection or telemedicine may have bandwidth and latency tolerance considerations also driven by the nature of the application.
To deliver apps and services with these kinds of specialized requirements, the organization will need an LTE network that provides a high degree of flexibility, scalability, and reliability. And the cloud packet core — dimensioned for private LTE network deployments — will be a crucial building block in delivering the necessary performance.
Here are the key characteristics organizations need to consider when choosing the right cloud packet core solution to support mobile broadband and IoT/MTC services and applications.
Flexibility: The service characteristics of new business and mission-critical mobile broadband and MTC services and apps are driving an evolution in network architecture. The trend will be towards more distributed deployment architectures. This approach can help deliver the latency, bandwidth, and local processing requirements of some mobile broadband and MTC services/applications.
As a result, some new cloud packet core solutions, such as Nokia’s Cloud Packet Core for GEPS, offer the flexibility of a dual-deployment capability, which allows them to operate in both centralized and distributed architectures. As part of this deployment flexibility the solution functions can be used purely as a mobile gateway — or as a combined mobility manager and mobile gateway.
Scalability: A powerful cloud packet core needs to be dimensioned for cost-effective deployment and operations. But it should also be able to expand rapidly to maintain reliable performance as the number of users and devices keeps growing. For example, the Nokia Cloud Packet Core solution for GEPS has been dimensioned for 10s of thousands of mobile broadband, IoT, and MTC users and devices by supporting up to 50,000 simultaneous access users and devices and 100 eNodeBs.
Reliability: Many of the new applications and services that private LTE network operators will develop will be business and mission-critical — requiring highly reliable performance. This dependability is enabled, first of all, by the network architecture and scalability, already described, augmented by resiliency capabilities within the cloud packet core solution. But in addition, the private network should be able to interwork with public mobile networks, so it can maintain essential coverage and business continuity capabilities.
With these essential capabilities in place, a cloud packet core can be a platform for transformation — upgrading business operations, improving communications, keeping employees and communities safer, or building Smart Cities.
What’s driving these changes?
New mobile broadband and IoT machine type communications services and applications are being embraced to deliver revenue, as well as operational and structural innovation and advantage.
We are moving beyond just voice evolution to a plethora of business- and mission-critical applications and services with an ever-expanding range of devices. The adoption of LTE, growing use of cloud technologies, and anticipated move to 5G are being viewed as key enablers for these new business- and mission-critical services and applications.
However, the service requirements of new mobile broadband and MTC services and apps will also drive an architectural deployment evolution. Based on these service characteristics, we will have to evolve from the more centralized deployment architecture to distributed and centralized deployment architectures.
Flexibility, scale, and performance will also be key to delivering these services and applications as the number of users and devices is expected to scale into the 10s of thousands.
To learn more about packet cloud core solutions, including the Nokia Cloud Packet Core for GEPS, take a look at the related materials we’ve provided.