The Rise of Private LTE Networks
Guest Blog by Ian Ross, SP Business Development Manager
As businesses globally begin to recognize the potential of the Internet of Everything (IoE) in terms of how they structure, manage and improve their operations, it’s leading waves of network-led transformations. Whether in resources, energy, transport or utility verticals, the network is adopting an instrumental role in supporting the production systems that can improve productivity, safety, cost efficiency, visibility and control. With many of these environments being dynamic, distributed and highly mobile, the need for mission-critical, high-performance wireless networks has become obvious, and with it the demand for solutions that offer more throughput, better access and reduced complexity.
While a range of wireless technologies are available, LTE has been gradually seizing mindshare of OT network managers and strategists as a platform for the future. Enjoying global standardisation courtesy of domestic mobile networks, it also provides the low latency and high throughput required for specialist telemetry and control applications, while also providing the extended reach that allows sensor and control systems – both static and mobile – to be easily connected over vast areas. Perhaps the most significant attribute is LTE’s traffic management and the ability to extend QoS over-the-air to devices in the field, and even remove lower-priority users from the network in favour of those with higher priority. This allows multiple traffic types with different criticalities to be brought together onto a single infrastructure without sacrificing the integrity or dependability of the overarching applications.
The fact that these attributes make LTE attractive in industrial applications isn’t surprising. When a wireless network is responsible for controlling a 400 tonne Autonomous Haul Truck in a mine, or ensuring that emergency services are deployed with full situational awareness, or keeping essential services such as electricity and water flowing in a city of millions, there is no latitude for compromise.
It’s important to keep in mind that there is a difference between the capabilities of the technology and the experiences we may have had with it. Many enterprises looking towards LTE adopt an initially dismissive view, influenced by their personal experiences with Service Providers and mobile networks that have been designed for millions of consumers to make phone calls, send messages or check Facebook. While utilising public LTE networks is one path to wireless connectivity, a private approach also exists. With virtualisation and the liberalising of telecoms markets, the barriers to entry for LTE networks are lowering to the point that many organisations are putting themselves on the path to owning and operating their own private LTE infrastructure, for their internal use, and in complete independence to existing Service Provider mobile networks.
The trigger for these investments comes when the enterprise has specific design, operational and performance requirements that can’t be met by a service provider. Private LTE networks give the enterprise authority over coverage (especially in remote areas), capacity (for uplink/downlink and eliminating contention with other network users), capability (leveraging the full functionality of an LTE network rather than a productised sub-set) and control (which users connect, how resources are utilised and how traffic is prioritised). Private LTE networks are quickly becoming the future networking platform for industrial enterprises with mission-critical mobility needs.
Cisco has taken its leadership in providing LTE packet core networks to the largest of service providers, and by combining with our expertise in virtualisation, have created the Premium Mobile Broadband system. It’s a comprehensively tested end-to-end system and architecture for providing LTE wireless services to a single enterprise at defined locations, and makes private LTE a realistic and viable prospect for enterprises to achieve their production business outcomes.
Of course, being Private doesn’t preclude SP’s from a role in enabling them for enterprise. More about that in my next blog.
Meanwhile, we’d love to hear from you on what you’re looking forward to in the mobile market. Tweet us @CiscoSPMobility for questions or comments.