An IIoT Decision Maker’s Guide to Choosing the Right Wireless Solution  - Rajant Corporation

An IIoT Decision Maker’s Guide to Choosing the Right Wireless Solution 

To attain the maximum return on your smart industrial IoT applications investment, you must understand the role wireless networking plays. Those who have deployed private LTE have been frustrated when it comes to the most demanding applications like autonomous, teleremote, or video use cases. Industries like mining, ports, warehousing, and energy are finding limited success with LTE and require a wireless solution to augment their ever-changing and demanding needs. Rajant has insights to help you choose what’s right for your business.  

During Rajant’s Partner Summit in May 2023, our international technology partners and sales engineers convened to discuss the challenges they’ve seen when implementing LTE in a mobile industrial environment. We created a miniseries, “LTE & Rajant” of three videos breaking down the conversation from their field observations.

Selecting what industrial networking you need and attaining ROI are made easier with real-world insights. Our hands-on experts walk you through the differences, capacity planning, and fully integrated hybrid options to get the most for your IIoT operations. 

Private LTE Networks

Chris Acton, Managing Director at Acubis Technologies, starts the conversation with what he sees in North Queensland, Australia. Many businesses choose private LTE networks for their mining operations without fully knowing about the uplink and throughput capacity limitations inherent to private LTE networks. These networks are optimized for downloading data and may present challenges when the goal is to upload data, as Chris explains.

“LTE is the new technology—the new buzzword, but now [these companies] are getting to a stage where they’ve deployed the solution, and they’re looking at what’s actually being delivered. Everyone that’s been involved in mining knows they (LTE providers) don’t actually do throughput capacity testing.

“We’re seeing these new deployments go in where they want to run CCTV over [a private LTE network]. That’s great, but you don’t have the uplink capacity, and a lot of it’s around the technology and not the overarching coverage that LTE provides other than the capacity that the tower or the eNodeBs that they use can handle.”

Phil Hendrickse, Senior Sales Engineer, APAC at Rajant, corroborates Chris Acton’s point about the limitations of private LTE — particularly in the mining industry.

“Just this year, I was assisting one of the LTE mine sites with their autonomous truck. Every time that truck ran, it generated a log file of 12 gigabytes of data, and they would do 10 to 12 runs per day. That LTE system couldn’t upload right, so they had to stop the truck after each run and plug in a laptop with an SSD drive to do a download. That’s just one of the shortfalls that we actually see.”

Watch the video below to hear more of the conversation surrounding some of the uplink and throughput challenges of private LTE networks.

Hybrid Solution

One way that some businesses choose to run their wireless operations is to take a hybrid approach, relying on LTE and using other technologies, such as mesh networks, to supplement where LTE falls short.

Piers Ward , Sales Engineer at Dynamic Mesh Solutions, notes one of the most significant difficulties of configuring private LTE networks for ports: they take time to optimize and gather coverage just like 5G networks.

“I think one of the biggest difficulties, even if you’re competing against LTE, is how they can’t demonstrate it until it’s in. [LTE networks] do take time to settle. It takes time to gather that coverage, just like 5G networks. You set up a mesh link, you know what your RSSI is. You know what your RSL is. You know those parameters and you can shut it down and fix it during installation.

“What I’ve seen from port installations and their complexity and how they change is how LTE fails to adapt, but it also takes time to settle down into a state which is functional and to demonstrate that technology. But you know when you install more (Rajant Kinetic) Mesh nodes, you’re strengthening your network by offering different routes for the data to travel—more redundancy, more capacity. With LTE, you’re always going to suffer with the same drawback, which is you include a subscriber. You are hindering your network. Like any TDD technology, you are drawing away from a central capacity.”

Joni Niskala, Director at SR-O Technology, highlights a moment when LTE falls short in daily mining operations.

“The basic mining environment, in the surface mining environment, the pit goes deeper all the time. But on the other hand, the waste truck dump goes higher. That’s the big problem because you need to constantly be changing the base station radio direction, which is very expensive.”

Karel Venter, Sales Engineering, EMEA at Rajant, expands the conversation beyond mining to discuss LTE’s limitations in port operations. Often, testing results in a simulated environment do not accurately predict the scalability required in real-world scenarios. The options of 4G, 5G do not scale to meet industrial requirements. 

 “[Scalability] goes back all the way to the industrial equipment manufacturers, and this is both ports and mining. What we’ve seen on that level with original testing, testing of communication solutions—back at that source, they don’t even scale, so we’ve seen this so many times that they say, ‘This works across this technology—maybe a 4G, 5G. Let’s simulate, we’re testing a single machine—let’s do two machines, three machines. Oh, it seems to be working—let’s deploy it.’ 

“But in the real world, we’re doing, what, 10, 15, 20, 30, 40 machines potentially—and in ports, sometimes up to 150 or 200 machines. So we do find that scalability is mostly not being tested.”

Watch the full video to hear more of the conversation about LTE in terms of scale, coverage, and infrastructure—and how businesses are using mesh networks to augment the shortcomings of private LTE networks.

Capacity Planning

There are several misconceptions about LTE’s capacity in terms of throughput. Some businesses may incorrectly view private LTE networks for business the same way they see their personal devices—but in business scenarios, the reality is quite different, as Chris Acton, Managing Director at Acubis Technologies, shares.

“[Mining operations] just see technology and load it up, load it up, load it up until they reach capacity. With LTE, they think the data throughput they’re going to get is an iPhone, but the reality is they’re not getting anywhere near that.

“They’ve been sold a technology by a very good salesman without understanding how the technology works. LTE is all about downloading information, not about uploading, and we are in the business of uploading data to a centralized point to gather information and use it as it’s needed. It’s reversed in the way it needs to be utilized in mining.”

When LTE alone can’t support business operations, other wireless technologies can fill the gaps for a seamless experience. Rajant Kinetic MeshⓇ networks seamlessly integrate with LTE to strengthen communications by stepping in when LTE falls short.

Marty Lamb , Senior VP of Technology Development at Rajant, explains a few of the main differences between LTE and Rajant Kinetic Mesh networks—and how kinetic mesh can complement LTE environments and help businesses deliver suitable capacity for proper application functioning.

“LTE bandwidth is asymmetrical, meaning the upload and download speeds are different. LTE is designed for data consumption, so if your main application need is to send data to your mobile devices, you’re fine. But if your applications have significant upload needs—such as uploading security video—your ability to upload this data will be limited.

“Kinetic Mesh is different, as its full bandwidth can be used in any direction. It doesn’t even have a concept of uploading or downloading.

“LTE capacity is also shared, so everything uploading data takes turns. Kinetic mesh allows for simultaneous data transfer on multiple frequencies and automatically chooses the best path for each data stream.

“Finally, LTE has limitations in terms of communication. Two devices right next to each other can’t communicate directly; they have to go through a tower, which consumes bandwidth that could be used by other devices. Kinetic Mesh allows any two devices to communicate directly with each other or automatically through the mesh as needed.”

Rajant Kinetic Mesh adds reliability, bandwidth, and scale by automatically switching between LTE and mesh on a stream-by-stream basis to ensure mobility-enabling autonomy and high-throughput, real-time availability of all your data. If LTE becomes unavailable, Rajant Kinetic Mesh takes over—with no downtime, as shown in the video below.

Many Rajant customers rely on Kinetic Mesh to complement their existing LTE environments. Daniel Souza, Sales Engineer, LATAM at Rajant, shares Rajant customers’ feedback on this hybrid approach.

“Customers find [the hybrid solution] very suitable. It’s easy to install; it’s just a regular node. You plug in the SIM card, and you’re good to go. And it’s scalable, really scalable.”

To hear the full conversation, check out the video below.