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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.

Stephane Daeuble

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

4G/LTE and 5G wireless networks are part of decades-long evolution of 3GPP mobile cellular radio standards, which began in the early nineties with GSM mobile telephone technology and has evolved to today’s 4G/LTE. 4G/LTE technology has been in use for over a decade in public, wide area cellular mobile networks. With the development of 5G, 3GPP is focusing on the needs of industrial users with much lower latencies (time-sensitive networking), support for massive IoT sensor networks and network slicing.

Is there a difference between private 5G and slices of public 5G networks? Enterprises do have need for wide area slices, which are already being used for public safety networks over 4.9G/LTE networks. 5G slicing will be more flexible, able to support users on demand with dynamic allocation of network resources as required.

For many industrial settings, however, public mobile networks will not be able to provide the coverage needed. Enterprises will require some local small cells that aren’t well served by public networks. Many industrial users also want data to remain on premises, and will also require higher reliability and availability than they can get with public networks. They will also require redundancy for highly critical OT connectivity and latencies that are only possible with private networks, where core and edge processing is physically present to the application for minimal travel time.

4.9G or LTE Advanced is the current standard from 3GPP and already contains many of the features of 5G. It can provide connectivity for networks of low-powered IoT sensors. It can be engineered for limited slicing, lower latencies and higher bandwidths. It is designed for a seamless evolution to 5G.

Early versions of 5G, which are available today, are waiting for Releases 17–18 (due in 2022–23) for the full set of features most important to industrial use cases. In a few countries, the radio spectrum for private wireless is only available for 5G. But spectrum for 4.9G/LTE is available in the majority of countries for private wireless use by enterprises. For those markets where 5G is the only option, they will struggle to obtain the 5G-capable devices. The chipsets needed for the development of new fully 5G devices will take another couple of years to roll out, meaning that full 5G implementations will not happen before 2024 as the device ecosystem matures.

In the meantime, therefore, 4.9G/LTE is the best bet for most enterprises. It will cover most use cases today. It is capable, ready to migrate to 5G, and has a good ecosystem of devices. Enterprises thinking about implementing Industry 4.0 shouldn’t wait for the arrival of 5G if 4.9G/LTE private spectrum is available in their country. 4.9G/LTE is good place to start learning about what these cellular radio technologies can do for your business and they operate in tandem with 5G for many years to come.

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