connectivity matters
Lte January 12, 2021  |  Written by

Why Carrier-based LTE and Private LTE Just Aren’t Enough for IIoT

Rajant assembled an industry panel of our channel and strategic partners to discuss the benefits and weaknesses of both carrier-based and private LTE. Here’s what they had to say when it comes to IIoT and why they recommend Rajant’s Kinetic Mesh®.

Carrier-based LTE Versus Private LTE

There are advantages and disadvantages to both, so which LTE is best? The first and most common type of Long-Term Evolution (LTE) is carrier-based LTE. Typified by a subscription with a smartphone, users are buying subscriber modules from a carrier for industrial clients.

The second type is a private LTE network, where the customer owns and administers the network. If deploying a private LTE network using licensed frequencies, they have to be bought from the regulatory agency or rented from a cellular carrier, or possibly using unlicensed frequencies.

Advantages of Carrier-based LTE

The primary benefit is to cover a vast area at an enterprise level. Consider a chain of fuel stations. The chain wants to get IIoT data from different devices over a whole region, an entire city, or a whole country. They retrieve data from every single pump and point-of-sale cash register, sending it up to the cloud.

Think about a quarry customer with one device that needs to connect to the network and has minimal bandwidth requirements. It doesn’t make sense to deploy a full network. The solution is to put an LTE modem on and send that small amount of data to where it needs to go. The data does not cost much to send, and the broad coverage required fulfilled.

If you have small, static devices all over, that you wish to collect sensor data or switch on/off, then carrier-based LTE would be an excellent choice.

Many devices fall into this category. Everything in the world has got an LTE modem in it, and they are inexpensive. Depending on the use case and what precisely the customer is looking to monitor, the fact that there’s a large number of user equipment available is worthwhile.

Benefits of Private LTE

One benefit is the low cost of the end-user device. There’s a lot of publicity about the perceived benefits of LTE, such as LTE’s predictability. You can schedule specific devices to be able to have more bandwidth and so better quality of service. This is seen as one of the benefits of LTE in general. With private LTE, there is the ability to decide how to utilize the bandwidth. It can, for example, be split to 50% uplink and 50% downlink.

Private LTE can be deployed across different premises to link together. Offices in Phoenix, Cape Town, and London, for example, may have small pockets of private LTE networks within those buildings. Standard cell phones could work on that, but it becomes a financial business guess at the end of the day because that company can route their calls internally. These preferential rights over LTE are not well suited for an IIoT environment.

The entire Private Automatic Branch Exchange (PABX) scenario within larger corporations could be taken over by private LTE. Wi-Fi remains an option for in-office data alongside private LTE to allow every user access to either.

Additionally, private LTE could possibly provide the ability to use a frequency that makes good sense for a mining application. For example, if 700 MHz is available, low frequency will propagate well and possibly solve some problems, such as coverage at the face. It’s perceived that 700MHz is going to do a better job than 5 GHz, but a great deal depends on tunnel dimensions and the minerals of the mine.

Private LTE can also take advantage of strong receiver sensitivity. It can go 40x stronger than Wi-Fi receiver sensitivity. With a clear channel selected with no interference, there is an argument that users can take advantage of low signal strengths. Speeds of kilobits per second on that really low signal strength may be available.

Lastly, private LTE also means holding onto the network and owning the maintenance to control the coverage. This is unlike carrier-based LTE. Sometimes the network is required where the carriers don’t want to put it, so you can set private LTE where you want it in terms of coverage…

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