I talk with customers on a daily basis and I’ve noticed a big uptick in questions about private networks over the past months. As IoT grows, access technologies are expanding to serve evolving needs. Private cellular networks are another wireless connectivity option and are earning a lot of attention because they address some very common pain points organizations experience today.
- Clean spectrum: Spectrum availability is perhaps the single most important asset when it comes to connecting devices. Clean spectrum ensures no competing network traffic, which creates tremendous reliability. Private LTE/5G spectrum, as it is being allocated by countries across the globe offers clean new spectrum without having to worry about interference issues that come with unlicensed spectrum.
- Coverage: Private cellular provides far broader coverage with fewer access points which is especially useful where deploying large numbers of access points is logistically challenging or impossible (for instance in a sporting arena or outdoor concert venue).
- Reliable handover: Mobile assets serving mission critical use cases require reliable handovers between networks as they move from one location to another. Private cellular networks offer reliable handover and enable a higher level of digitization.
- Security: The inherent security of cellular networks offers the protection, visibility and network control to keep your business safe.
- Flexibility: Private cellular networks give organizations the freedom to make technical and economic choices that best suit their requirements. They can manage private networks themselves or buy them as a managed service from a cellular service provider/MVNO.
In February, Cisco IoT Control Center, the leading connectivity management platform announced the capability to support service provider-powered private cellular networks, targeting 5G standalone readiness before the end of 2020. The 5G benefits of speed, density and ultra-low latency combined with the flexibility of private cellular networks hold the promise of unlocking massive innovation with far higher levels of digitization. We have also made investments in eSIM technology which has applicability for private cellular use cases by enabling on the fly re-programming of SIMs.
Just as we dove into what a 5G-powered smart city could look like, let’s talk about how a couple industries are benefiting from private LTE and private 5G networks both today and tomorrow.
Private cellular in manufacturing
- Mobile robots and automated guided vehicles (AGVs) work with great precision and require low latency (<10ms) over a broad area. If the network is patchy, hand-offs lack reliability or if latency increases intermittently, AGVs can stall and production can grind to a halt. Private cellular, especially private 5G can keep a manufacturing floor humming.
- For Connected Car OEM’s, new cars need to be flashed with software and firmware as they move down the assembly line. The files are large – tens of gigabytes. With a private 5G network, a car OEM has the reliable network capacity to flash many cars simultaneously.
Private cellular in healthcare
- Private cellular powered push-to-talk devices in hospitals can easily connect every staff member through phones, with no hand off or interference related issues.
- Private cellular can also provide coverage for mission critical connectivity of healthcare equipment. This coverage can allow hospital staff to monitor patients and control intravenous dosage from centralized locations and quickly transfer large medical imagery files.
Private cellular in mining
A mine is one of the earth’s most inhospitable environments – wet, dusty, with toxic gases, and surrounded by thick rock. Keeping miners safe and mining equipment connected is a big challenge.
- Private LTE & 5G networks can keep 21-ton automatic loaders reliably connected, allowing for autonomous operations in dangerous and unstable conditions.
In summary, the hype is warranted. Private cellular – both LTE and 5G – are exciting access technologies gaining popularity to address specific organizational needs around coverage, mobility, spectrum availability, security and flexibility, while complementing Wi-Fi and public cellular access technologies. I encourage you to begin with the use cases you need to power. This video of the private 5G-powered manufacturing facility will help spur your imagination to consider the possibilities. You may discover, as many are, that private cellular networks offer an exciting new way to unlock innovation and value.