Private Industrial LTE VS Public Commercial LTE… Just like Industrial VS City Pickups!

As more and more companies are looking at Private LTE networks to help supplement their current existing broadband networks, let’s look at some of the justifications and differences.

LTE is certainly a standard that is getting a lot of market visibility.  After all, most of us have LTE capable smartphones and use LTE technology daily.   However, the smartphone use case we are experiencing in our everyday life is of commercial grade, and certainly not industrial grade.  Industrial grade networks are not for best effort traffic, but guaranteed connectivity and communications reliability.   Unlike Commercial grade LTE networks, Private industrial grade LTE networks are designed based on use cases, business applications, and their specific user groups.

Enterprise network managers in many industrial, public safety, transportation, military and other verticals, are now requiring supplementing their existing broadband networks with robust LTE mobility.  This requirement is driven by the realization that the commercial grade network is just not good enough for their use cases.

For Industrial and Mission Critical applications, Private LTE networks are better than Public networks for the following reason:

  • Security of the network and data being transporting
  • Industrial approach to the network design and redundancy
  • Distributed EPC Core implementation for resiliency
  • Seamless integration with legacy LMR systems for a smoother transition
  • Experience full LTE network performance vs. sharing and oversubscription involved in Public networks
  • Exclusive use of a spectrum, to add reliability, security, and control
  • True fit-for-purpose SLA by business units and use cases
  • Implementation of LTE standard features that are not common in Commercial networks, but extremely valuable in Private networks.

Whether the enterprise is in resources, energy, utility, transport, and/or military verticals, the Private LTE network is providing a critical role in supporting the production systems that can improve productivity, safety, cost efficiency, visibility, and control. With the existing broadband networks in place, there is still a need for mobility, however solving that requirement has not been easy until now.  For some time, most of the outdoor WIFI vendors have tried to use various implementations of MESH to do so, but the Wi-Fi mesh technology just does not have what it takes to deliver seamless handover for mobility.  Any attempt is lacking critical mobility performance with predictable and stable latency.

Private LTE networks mindshare and acceptance is growing very quickly within the IT & OT community.  The ability to deploy a real Mobility network to supplement the existing infrastructure and to do so within standards-based architecture, interoperability and integration, means that the decision, investment, and efforts are all heading towards a simpler and more integrated future.  Industrial and Critical IT/OT managers are now counting on private LTE networks to benefit from standards-based, over-the-air QoS, security, and benefits of LTE network solutions and its ecosystem of vendors, integrators, and resources.

Architecting, designing and implementing a Private LTE network is not much different than doing so for a Public network.  While the steps are very similar, the skills and tools required are sophisticated.  The main differences are in the objective of the network and selection of the equipment.

Private LTE networks for industrial or critical networks are not about targeting thousands of cell phone users being active randomly on the network.  It is not about best effort services.   No, it is about connecting people and machines in a way that they will be able to count on the SLA (Service Level Agreement), dedicated QoS and guaranteed connectivity, security, data integrity, reliability, and performance.  The Industrial and Critical networks’ data traffic patterns also are different from Commercial grade networks.   In a Commercial network, it is all about how much the users can download.  In Industrial and Critical networks, it is very often the opposite and all about how much the user can upload to the network.  Think about O&G, Mining and utility IoT traffic and exponentially growing SCADA traffic.  Think about video feeds from either surveillance or dash cams and real-time video sensors; the public networks are just not designed for this, nor should they be, they serve a different purpose.  However, Private LTE networks are leveraging the full functionality of an LTE network rather than a productized sub-set and control (which users connect, how resources are utilized and how traffic is prioritized). In addition to the current multipoint fixed broadband network in place, Private LTE networks are quickly becoming the future networking platform for industrial enterprises with mission-critical mobility needs.

LTE has the fastest adoption rate versus any previous wireless technology.  Many of the LTE standards functionality not used in public networks are leveraged in a Private LTE network.   There are more than 1,000 specific parameters when setting up an LTE cell site designed for a fit-for-purpose network.   The public network builders optimize the network parameters to suit their needs.   Private networks for Industrial and Critical use cases have unique needs, and the Private network builder will leverage these 1,000 parameters towards an optimized implementation.   The optimization of the parameters is one of the differentiators of Private LTE networks.  Also very important is the choice of LTE EPC Core and RAN.   As you can imagine, the EPC Core (brains) and the RAN (Remote Access Network) for public commercial use case is quite different from the one needed to build Private Industrial or Mission Critical LTE Network.  So, if an LTE network was like a pickup truck, yes, you may be able to use one in the other world, but you are much better served to use the right one, with the right equipment and configuration, to get the job done right!

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