October 16, 2020
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Private LTE (4G) and 5G networks are aimed at enterprises regardless of size and geographic locations. These networks are based on standards and have a lot of potential to unleash additional value. However, why would an enterprise allocate funds to run, own or manage a private network when they could leverage private WiFi or use a public cellular network and secure connectivity with other tools? Let’s ask Alex Duncan.
IoB: Why would an enterprise (manufacturer) invest in private wireless?
AD: There are a lot of good reasons to invest, but for a manufacturer, the ability to transmit large amounts of data with lower latency, higher reliability and the ability to control and manage its resources is the sweet spot. On a public LTE network, you cannot prioritize traffic as you wish, when deployed privately, however, you manage these resources (or they’re managed for you) and adjust as the needs of your users (machines and people) change. In some configurations, it also allows you to exit the four walls and roam onto the macro LTE networks to track a product through all phases of the manufacturing process all the way through to delivery of the product, thus enhancing supply chain visibility.
IoB: Cellular coverage isn’t reliable inside the four walls; how could I trust it as my network?
AD: There are ways to mitigate coverage issues for public cellular indoors by way of DAS and other solutions that would let you connect and hold a strong signal on your shop floor. With a Private Wireless network, the indoors RF distribution challenges are addressed early in the design stages so that you instantly get better signal propagation, lower latency, and increased reliability. It’s like deploying your own Macro Network in the middle of your production site and tuning it so that your machines, things, robots, forklifts, etc. get the best signal because you have a walled garden.
IoB: How does it compare to WiFi?
AD: I get this question a lot and the first thing I want to make clear is that it is not a WiFi vs Private LTE or 5G game. Each has a place in the manufacturing process and some of the decisions are made based on business cases and cost, not necessarily on technology. Private Wireless, as an example, is a superior choice when it comes to control and coverage; the first lets a manufacturer determine how resources are used, how and which users may connect and what performance they may experience. For coverage, you are in fact deploying your own network – so coverage is designed with your operations and situation in mind. Should your business case call for WiFi, we would happily discuss our SD WLAN solutions with your organization.
IoB: Where and How is Private Wireless being deployed? Which manufacturers have deployed them? How are they being used?
AD: There are hundreds of Wireless Private Networks deployed across the globe today and here in the USA. In the European Union for example, manufacturers apply for spectrum licenses which let them either self-deploy (in-house resource-intensive) or in tandem with a mobile operator (like a managed service). For our US-based Private Wireless solutions, we will leverage our massive, licensed spectrum holdings, while also offering unlicensed 5GHz.
An example of how these technologies are being used in the real world is Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communications. URLLC allows a network to process incredibly large amounts of data with minimal delay so that applications could instantly respond to changing data. This is essential for a plethora of use cases where humans and machines (like AGVs or robots) come in close proximity to each other, as well as optimizing machine learning models, like the one at Corning’s fiber optic cable manufacturing facility in Hickory, N.C., where they are using Verizon’s 5G technology to explore ways to enhance factory automation and quality assurance with machine learning, as well as augmented and virtual reality. Many technologies are solved for by LTE-A today so as we add 5G to the mix the solution set gets even better.
IoB: Is this replacing an IT or OT network? How?
AD: Replacing? No. Collapsing? Maybe. Enhancing? Yes – let me explain;
I say “no” to replacement because there are very few, fork-lift, rip & replace scenarios that have immediate ROI, however, as manufacturers continue to leverage modularity and re-tool an existing machine or bring new ones online, private wireless should be considered.
I say “maybe” to collapsing because many manufacturers keep IT and OT separated from a network perspective – arguments for and against these approaches abound – but private wireless and other advanced networks like SDN and VNS, are effectively bringing IT and OT together in a network sense, but still independently and logically caring for separation of business (IT) and operational (OT) applications.
I say “yes” because manufacturers today are leveraging and continue to embrace private wireless. Having an on-premise network tailored to enterprise needs, designed for high performance, enhanced security, and low latency, offering a seamless handover from the public to private (and vice-versa) is not only accelerating, but underpinning Industry 4.0 use cases and outcomes.
IoB: How does Private Wireless address QoS, security, latency, reliability and mobility?
AD: It has the capability to do all the things you would do to a device connecting on the Macro network. Including Provisioning, setting up a Private Network Traffic Gateway with QoS. Latency is reduced because you have the radio Access points as close to your core processing as you can make it. We’ve seen some LTE deployments with Latency under 25 m/s. That’s compared to about 5X-10x in the public world. Mobility is obviously even easier because of the ability for devices to “roam” onto the macro network.
IoB: How does private wireless care for reliability and latency requirements across machines, production lines and robots on my factory floor?
AD: The ability to deploy multiple spectrums depending on your needs and deploying new technologies like Edge Computing into the facility gives you an amazing amount of control over reliability and latency. Edge compute is like the fog before the cloud. It gives you the ability to do the heavy processing on your data on-premise for when you need a quick answer and then sending the rest of the info that doesn’t need to be acted upon immediately up to the cloud for processing (or leave it on-site if architecturally preferred). This kind of control is something that Network Engineers have been working towards for many years. Private 4G and 5G networks give you the ability to do it in a secure and controlled manner. 5G Non-Standalone gives you even greater control with technologies like Network Slicing. Think of that as a virtual network machine that allows you to apply QoS to each Virtual network you define.
IoB: How do I pick between private 4G and private 5G?
AD: First of all, you don’t have to pick because 4G to 5G is an evolution and if you need help deciding, we could partner with you and jointly decide what’s best to deploy where and how.
For example, you could deploy 4G today, add 5G Mid Band tomorrow and 5G Ultra-Wide Band (Millimeter Wave) in the near future, and run altogether. Additionally, IoT & IIoT specifications like Cat-M and Cat-NB are all part of the 5G standards as well so when you upgrade it to Standalone Mode in the future so you could take advantage of services like network slicing. Add some Licensed Spectrum in there and you have now created a network that you can control, secure and manage that gives you the ability to roam onto macro networks easily for end-to-end lifecycle coverage.
Verizon is really excited to be able to discuss these options with our customers and we have some pretty exciting news coming soon on this. If you are interested we can make sure your specialist can arrange to provide more details.
Alex Duncan is the Director of Connected Solutions in Verizon Business Group that is responsible for helping manufacturers leverage wireless technology to help improve operational efficiencies & build new revenue streams. Alex and his team help organizations implement 4G LTE & 5G strategies across multiple solution sets. He received his Bachelors’s degree in Business Administration from James Madison University and an MBA in Technology Management from the University of Phoenix. He also holds a Business Manager Certification from Rutgers University. Alex has been in the telecommunications industry for 20+ years working in different wireless leadership roles at Blackberry, Samsung and Verizon.
Want to contact us? https://enterprise.verizon.com/support/sales
Want to learn more?
5G versus Wi-Fi 6: Deployment considerations for enterprises; https://enterprise.verizon.com/resources/biz/whitepapers/5g-vs-wifi.pdf
Verizon & Corning;
Hear more from Alex by registering to listen to his Internet of Manufacturing presentation.