There are a range of factors to consider when determining if your organization would benefit from its own Private LTE network. We’ll cover what makes a private LTE network deployment the right choice of communications network, and whether it fits your business model.
Private LTE: Definition
To begin with, we need to define our terms. For those not in the know, LTE stands for Long-Term Evolution, which is simply a standard for wireless broadband used by computers, mobile devices and IoT enabled devices. The appellation “Private” means that the specified network is short-range, and broadcast on a private frequency with access permitted only to approved users of the network.
Rather than traditional commercial mobile carriers using these networks, Private LTEs are devised and created by private organisations and companies. We’ll look into the reasons why these entities adopt Private LTE as their telecommunications method below.
How do Private LTEs Operate?
Rather than paying mobile carriers for services, or using traditional broadband WiFi, companies can now use unlicensed radio frequencies (for example, America’s CBRS at 3.55 – 3.7 GHz) to broadcast communication signals within a specified geographical area. They often design, build, maintain and optimize such networks entirely for their own purposes.
Why Choose Private LTE over Traditional Networks?
Traditional WiFi is the default choice of the vast majority of organizations for mobile connectivity and when it works, it’s great. However, in some cases, particularly when there are unpredictable surges in usage, or remote and expansive terrain, WiFi can fail to deliver a standard of service that can be relied upon at all times. WiFi SLAs often fail to deliver fully reliable coverage or signal strength, which can create unacceptable service risk.
With WiFi there can be localized communication outages, dropped signals from individual radio transmitters within the network and an insufficiently high security standard for the transmission of commercially or publicly sensitive data.
In general, cellular wireless outperforms WiFi networks across a range of KPIs:
- Reduced interference rates are delivered.
- Much lower latency is observed.
- Throughput is enhanced, allowing higher traffic volume.
- Packet error rates are significantly reduced.
- Radio efficiency is maintained, including seamless handoff between nodes.
- Permanent high-level device security can be assured, including encryption and SIM authentication.
Overall, SLAs for Private LTEs provide a better and more consistent level of service than their WiFi counterparts.
Customization is Key
5G and Private LTE networks can be customized more readily than commercial public networks, particularly when it comes to security settings. They can be set-up to provide excellent coverage over defined geographical areas.
For instance, a university campus or teaching hospital with communal spaces both indoors and outdoors can set up a Private LTE network to allow students, staff, patients, and visitors to access the network. This network can be built to grant different security access levels too. In this way, signal coverage would continue unabated if a student decided to take their lunch and work outdoors.
To give a contrasting example, in a fabrication plant there may be thousands of IoT enabled devices, such as production line robots. With Private LTE these receive a reliable signal with a very low latency rate, ensuring production lines operate at optimal efficiency.
Let’s look into the key benefits of Private LTE networks in more depth.
The Advantages of Private LTE
Organizations and businesses benefit from adopting Private LTEs in a range of ways:
The fact that the network is a Private LTE removes the reliance on the effectiveness and coverage of mobile operators like AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, or Verizon. These commercial cellular networks charge per data bit, whereas a Private LTE set-up gives you full control over data coverage, usage and most crucially, device priority. This reduces bandwidth costs while ensuring adequate coverage in the case of an emergency, for example.
As you might anticipate, data security is crucial to Private LTEs. Sensitive data and confidential records are kept within the aegis of the LTE, rather than being potentially accessible across a public network. Additional security features can be added, including multi-factor authentication, device-specific security policies and high-level encryption across the board. Client devices are all fitted with embedded SIMs which grant them access to the network, so long as appropriate authentication is provided.
Devices without prior SIM registration and authentication cannot access higher-level security areas. Hackers can’s simply rely on running endless password variants to crack encryption, when certificated authentication is implemented as an additional measure.
When first devising an LTE, you first decide exactly what coverage, performance level and security features your particular use case requires. Then a bespoke network can be designed and built to deliver just those requirements. Furthermore, it can be enhanced and optimized on demand, should your site expand or change. You’ll receive llow-latency service and a high performing network at a standard unavailable from the commercial mobile carriers.
Add-ons might include device-specific prioritization, HIPAA compliance, or application-level SLAs for latency, throughput, and packet error margins. Should you open a branch office in a remote location, you can simply add in a new cell tower set-up to maintain completeness of coverage.
In indoor settings, Private LTE networks deliver, on average, fourfold improvement on WiFi delivery. Out of doors the benefits are even more stark – with up to ten times the coverage. To compensate for poor coverage in tricky environments, WiFi has too-often relied on a patchwork of signal repeaters and wireless bridges. With every additional patch, the chances of localized outages increase, as well as the operational cost.
Last, but not least, with the equipment and expertise provided by PCS Technologies, your Private LTE can be set-up with low, predictable latency, which can be adjusted on a case-by-case basis, depending on what you need.
The variability of WiFi service is often the bane of employees’ lives, with inefficiencies and outages caused by signal noise and interference. Public or commercial LTEs perform better, but they won’t be optimized to the specifics of your site. With a Private LTE you can ensure you always get the best possible performance.
With a Private LTE, you’re operating on a reserved band within the overall spectrum (in the US, a slice of the CBRS bandwidth). You should therefore find your signal free from most interference. Furthermore, whereas these signal allocations are regulated, WiFi is not. You could easily find your neighbour’s WiFi set-up interferes with your own and you’d be dependent on goodwill and collaboration to solve the problem, something that’s not always possible.
Use Cases for Private LTE
There is a range of commercial and public sector environments where Private LTE is most valuable. These tend to be use cases with large numbers of localised users, where there’s a vital need for reliable, effective, and efficient coverage, plus advanced security features.
Let’s run through a selection of the most common use cases where Private LTE is the best solution.
Higher Learning Institutions
Schools, colleges, and universities are usually campus-based with a large population of students who have grown up with connected technology. They are used to always being online, and they expect it in the canteen, quad, dormitories, lecture theatres, labs, and classrooms. They are using a mixture of laptops, tablets, and mobile phones to access the network, and you’ll want a network that can deliver at that scale.
Meanwhile, in research laboratories, there may be high volumes of sensitive data circulating, so you’ll want enhanced security, ensuring that only those with authorization are given access. This kind of security separation is easy to create with a Private LTE network tailor-made for you.
Most primary or secondary education establishments have a technology plan with a specific remit to ensure equity of digital access. This can include the provision of devices to students, as well as the use of student’s personal devices to gain access to school networks.
Private LTEs allow you to create an equitable distribution of resources whilst maintaining the necessary levels of security. Some schools have adopted a Private LTE set-up including base stations and towers positioned to reach children’s homes as well as school environments. This provides fair access to the internet for all students, irrespective of socio-economic background. Interactive learning platforms can be used to augment in-school technology provision, levelling the playing field for all students.
Hospitals and Medical Centers
Particularly in the larger sites, with multiple buildings, thousands of users, and a high number of IoT-enabled medical devices, it’s vital to maintain continuity of service even during high-demand periods. As well as high occupancy rates, hospital ITC providers have to ensure the highest levels of confidentiality with regards to patient records and medical data. They must also be confident that critical lifesaving equipment performs perfectly at all times, particularly when it is networked.
Examples of IoT devices being incorporated in medical facilities might include crash carts, medical waste bins and insulin pumps. All of these facilities require seamless connectivity 24/7 to ensure they relay vital information from their in-built sensors. Health professionals require the accurate and secure transmission of patient data across sites, and they need high-performance throughput metrics so that even in times of large-scale emergencies, data continues to flow efficiently and at maximum speed.
Private LTEs reduce latency, allowing, for instance, real-time imaging data transference during a lifesaving operation.
Stadiums and Arenas
Large scale concert and sports venues host thousands of fans, reporters, broadcasters, and support staff, all of whom require real-time connectivity. To achieve this, these high-density venues employ high-performing Private LTEs which work well under highly localized demand. Antennas can be distributed both inside and outside the venue to supply signals to remote broadcast crews, security personnel and fans queuing for entrance.
Video surveillance, catering facilities, handheld ticket-scanners, and even remotely operated overhead cameras all rely on connectivity, and Private LTE can deliver that degree of reliability and volume, even in these tightly packed venues. Its also possible to offer a localized, branded internet service for fans, allowing them to upload photos to social media, send tweets, keep up with scores and commentary and more.
Hotels and Shopping Malls
Hotels and malls are localized areas of high occupancy, with fluctuating levels of attendance, but a high demand for internet access. During large-scale events or seasonal peaks, demand is further attenuated, pushing public services to their limits.
Hotels can have WiFi blind spots, since they are often situated in old buildings not designed with wireless technology in mind. Private LTEs achieve a higher level of structural penetration, improving coverage significantly. Malls often rely upon Private LTEs to allow staff to communicate between floors and across large sites, co-ordinating security information and urgent maintenance needs quickly and effectively.
Workplaces and Offices
Offices are device-reliant like never before, with hundreds of employees online simultaneously. Servicing high levels of occupancy and demand, Private LTEs can deliver operational efficiency whilst reducing annual data budgets. No longer reliant upon public LTE subscriptions and WiFi capabilities, workers are freed to adopt a campus-based approach to where they choose to work. Finally, hotdesking makes sense!
Whether it’s an airport, railway terminal, bus station or toll bridge, high concentrations of mobile travellers produce fluctuating patterns of demand over predictable geographical areas. These customers can be securely and profitable served by private LTEs.
Meanwhile, trollies, ferries, shuttles, and other moving services benefit from seamless signal transmission between towers, where WiFi could drop-out at particular blind spots. Private LTEs can operate over wide ranges, covering a whole airfield if necessary, ensuring ground crew and security are in communication, wherever they may roam onsite.
Mining, Gas and Oil Operations, Offshore Sustainable Power
Mining is a highly specialized use case, where communication signals may need to travel reliably, even deep underground. Bespoke Private LTEs are up to the challenge. They can also provide coverage even in remote mountainous regions, or hundreds of miles from the nearest population centre. Whatever the particular challenges are, a system can be devised to deliver efficiency in far-flung and high-pressure environments.
Similarly, oil and gas fields and offshore turbines are remote and challenging environments. Robust and reliable networks can be set up on rigs and offshore facilities to ensure drillers, riggers and maintenance staff have access when they need it most. Additionally, IoT-enabled sensors can send data back via the network, including stats on hydraulic pressure, wind or wave strength, methane leaks, tensile weaknesses and more, ensuring a safe working environment.
Correctional Facilities and Military Sites
Prisons and military barracks alike require second-to-none security standards and 24/7 video surveillance. They may be required to send mission-critical data or voice communication over extensive areas, evading the possibility of interception by hostile parties. SIM authentication, and advanced authorization procedures can be built-in to provide this enhanced level of security.
Robots, autonomous vehicles, and automated production lines need reliable wireless connectivity which delivers a high-performing SLA in terms for latency, throughput, and packet error rates. Dead zones in the corners and edges of warehouses and factories must be avoided.
When every minute of downtime can cost thousands of dollars, latency becomes a significant factor so the superior KPIs delivered by Private LTEs help maximize revenue as well as keeping production lines moving. IoT-enabled sensors can deliver error signals, allowing speedy and time-saving maintenance to be carried out. Meanwhile, security is assured.
Supply Chain and Logistics
In the 21st century, warehousing and logistics are being delivered on a more and more industrial scale, with robot product pickers and automated guided vehicles able to receive control signals and feedback vital data at every stage of the operation. When Private LTE networks are deployed, a fully automated warehouse becomes a possibility.
Even as a storage facility fills up with stacks of pallets, signal strength isn’t adversely affected when Private LTE is favored over traditional WiFi networks. Smart warehouses can use sensors to maintain stock levels, delivering real-time data back to logistics providers.
Agriculture and Farming
Large scale agriculture entails open-area operations where Wifi or IoT coverage won’t prove cost-effective. Cabling and access point infrastructure are simply too costly for farmers. However, a combination of smart sensors and a Private LTE network can ensure that 21st century agribusiness can measure crop yield, detect machinery failure, and manage automated irrigation at scale. Atmospheric, temperature and rainfall metrics can ensure crops are protected and harvests maximized.
Using the 21st century technology of private LTEs, one of the world’s oldest forms of commerce can be optimized for generations to come.
Would Private LTE Solve your Communications Challenges?
Hopefully this rundown of the various uses that Private LTE networks are currently put to has demonstrated both its versatility and high levels of performance. Perhaps your company has struggled to achieve reliable coverage in challenging circumstances? Maybe you’re looking to improve network security whilst allowing your employees to benefit from internet access, no matter where they are on site? If any of the above challenges are familiar, Private LTE might just be the solution for you.
Why not get in touch with PCS Technologies today? One of our specialists can access your requirements and talk through options that might deliver the perfect network solution.