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4G vs 5G private networks

Nokia podcast explains advantages and disadvantages of 4G/LTE vs 5G for enterprises deciding on the best time and technology to deploy private wireless for Industry 4.0.

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Stephane Daeuble

Head of Marketing for Nokia’s Enterprise Solutions division

So you’ve decided to pursue your Industry 4.0 ambitions using a private wireless solution. Should you use 4.9G/LTE or jump right away to 5G? What is the difference between them? Stephane Daeuble, Head of Marketing for Nokia’s Enterprise Solutions Division, addresses the history of these technologies, where they stand today and how to choose the best wireless connectivity to realize your Industry 4.0 goals.

Key points:

  • The history of 3GPP cellular mobile technologies from GSM to 5G
  • The difference between public and private 5G
  • Why private wireless will better meet the needs of some enterprises
  • What is 4.9G/LTE and why it is in most cases a better choice than waiting for 5G?

Podcast at a glance

Why Nokia is so excited about 5G and private wireless technology  

At Nokia, we are very excited about 5G. This is the first technology of its kind that has been designed from the start with industry in mind. Over time, it will bring significant improvement to almost 100 percent of industrial use cases.  

That’s why we have launched the industry’s first commercial, 5G SA private wireless solution. We felt the time was right because the 5G architecture of the future is set to be the base for all industrial innovation.  

Its features include ultra reliability, low latency, time-sensitivity and communication. All of these factors represent a leap forward compared to 4.9G and LTE.  

We want to provide the whole system and our partners with a highly reliable system that can really help to accelerate the 5G ecosystem. We want to show them what 5G can do, so that the ecosystem players can integrate this chipset inside their next generation systems.  

That element of ecosystem will help to kick-start the market. Without industrial systems and devices, you are quite limited in what you can do in real operation with a private 5G network.  

On top of the need for 5G spectrum, and the fact that industrial OEMs have a slow refresh cycle, we don’t foresee an overwhelming volume of 5G private wireless pick-up until about 2025. And 5G private wireless might not overtake private wireless based on 4.9G LTE until the end of the decade.

4.9G capabilities mean a smooth transition to 5G  

One of the reasons for this is that 4.9G includes capabilities that will stay on in the age of 5G. For example, LTE-M and Narrowband IoT provide the very deep and wide connectivity for low power, but long battery life, sensors – which is really important for many enterprise applications.  

Most private wireless solutions today that run 4.9G can and will provide a smooth evolution to 5G, which will be important in the coming years.  

4G dates back several years but, like a good wine, it has improved with age. With every new release from 3GPP, the technology has been enhanced. Plenty of critical connectivity and IoT features have been added, with the result that the most recent version was called 4.9G.

Where does the Automotive sector stand on the drive to 5G private networks?  

To put things in perspective, the private cellular market in 2021 remains about LTE rather than 5G in real terms. While key pieces of the 5G ecosystem are being developed, the good news is that 4.9G LTE can handle the lion’s share of current industry use cases.  

Most of Nokia’s customer deployments in the last couple of years have been very much based on 4.9G LTE, and we anticipate that many of our customers will be running 4.9G LTE – maybe with 5G – for at least the next five to ten years.  

Private wireless based on 4.9G LTE already provides massive leaps in capability and performance compared to former or existing wireless technology.  

Nevertheless, there are some specific markets where there is a bigger drive towards 5G than others. That early demand is particularly visible in the automotive manufacturing industry.  

The reason for this is that OEMs are designing today the factories that will build cars in five or six years’ time. They are eager to get their hands on a private wireless 5G capability that will drive the 5G industrial ecosystem space and ensure that when they build those factories, they can instantly take advantage of 5G. 

How has innovation unfolded in cellular communication?  

We should not forget that the history of cellular communication technology goes back nearly 30 years. Both 4G and 5G come from a standards body called 3GPP, which represents a large group of different shareholders, both in the telecoms space and the industry.  

The first technology that came from this group was GSM, or 2G, back in 1992, which is when the mobile phone became mass market. That was followed by 3G UMTS, before the creation of what we call today LTE or 4G in 2008.  

The common DNA for voice technology was the need to bring consumer and enterprise users a reliable mobile service, whether voice or data, in all possible environments.  

So the quest for innovation, and the need for reliable wireless communication, is not new. But it’s only in the last three of four years that the industry has realized the potential of reliable high-speed wireless data networks in commercial sites.  

We are now in a position where Industry 4.0, and the digitalization that you need, is happening now. By adopting early, with applications such as digital twins, you can start reaping the benefits of increased flexibility, efficiency, resilience and sustainability.  

There are plenty of benefits to connecting assets now, and getting real-time data, and an overview of what’s happening at your sites. And, when the time does come for 5G, you’ll be in a better position to make a smooth upgrade to add it to your sites. 

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