What Is Private LTE Network Architecture?
Private LTE is a miniature version of a public LTE network and functions much like its macro cousin with similar user experience. However, private LTE networks cover a much smaller area. The data in them stays on the premises, offering a potential advantage for many enterprise verticals, especially those that require low latency and high levels of data security.
The Building Blocks of Private LTE Networks
Individual private LTE networks are designed based on specific use cases, but they share these common elements:
- LTE Small Cells (eNodeB)
Devices within a private LTE network depend on localized base stations or small cells to ensure connectivity. LTE connectivity utilizes evolved NodeBs (eNodeBs), a step up from the previous NodeBs used in 3G. eNodeBs are base stations designed to manage connectivity for all devices in the sector. Compared with Wi-Fi, private LTE networks require far fewer base stations to ensure coverage for the same physical area.
- Evolved Packet Core (EPC)
The EPC is the core network of an LTE system. In a private LTE network, it can be located in servers on-premises or hosted as a SaaS offering. 3GPP designed the EPC to support “flat architecture,” which sidesteps the previous need for protocol conversion and increases data handling efficiency. Flat architecture makes private LTE extremely adaptable to onsite networking needs in a variety of verticals. Gateways manage data traffic and connect the private LTE network to the cloud. Local traffic stays onsite, but through a packet data network (PGW) gateway, the private network maintains a link to the outside world. The PGW provides data oversight such as packet filtering and serves as a connection point between 3GPP and non-3GPP technology.
Private LTE Architecture Variations across Verticals
Private LTE networks can be built on either licensed or unlicensed bands. There is much flexibility in network size, the number of connected devices and coverage area. Let’s take a closer look at what private LTE network architecture could look like in a few industry verticals:
Often located in remote areas, mining sites pose a connectivity problem because they may be out of reach of public networks. However, mining stands to benefit significantly from modern efficiencies, such as automation. Private LTE networks can provide the dependable connectivity needed to run automated equipment and sensors designed to enable predictive maintenance. Mining sites can achieve complete coverage with far fewer base stations than Wi-Fi requires, and can add voice over LTE (VoLTE) and push-to-talk applications to support local voice communications onsite. With private LTE, mining operators can also prioritize critical traffic over the network, support all their systems in a single wireless network and position LTE base stations deep inside mines or outside of blast areas for added safety.
Factories and Warehouses
As factories move toward IIoT and Industry 4.0, connectivity is key to their success. Private LTE can support a high density of devices and sensors required to achieve a connected factory or warehouse. LTE data speed is enough to enable video surveillance, sometimes equipped with AI or machine vision. Because the network is on the premises, it also provides a higher level of security, keeping all data within the factory network and eliminating outside vectors of attack. Operators can choose the spectrum model that’s best for the application, ensuring that there will be no network interference. A single LTE base station may be enough to connect more than a thousand devices on a factory floor. The solution can be scaled easily when more access points are needed. If an enterprise has multiple sites, the local LTE network can be integrated with a wide-area LTE network.
Retail and Large Venues
Large venues and retail stores need reliable connectivity for their staff and customers. Many are also running more connected equipment, including shelf sensors, point of sale (POS) systems, people counting and more. Having an EPC onsite minimizes latency and ensures that data remains secure.
Airports and Seaports
As they are typically a combination of indoor and outdoor environments, airports and seaports benefit from private LTE’s flexible coverage options. The LTE signal’s permeability, particularly in lower and mid bands, helps ensure that devices stay connected even when they’re deep inside parked aircraft or docked ships. Private LTE also supports smooth, secure roaming between and within public and private networks, ensuring that devices on the move — like those in airport trams or refueling trucks — remain connected.
Telit: An Industry-Leading Expert in Private LTE
Telit, a global enabler of the Internet of Things (IoT), has vetted experience helping organizations support the development, commercialization and adoption of LTE and 5G solutions. Telit was the first top-tier IoT and mobile broadband module vendor to join the CBRS Alliance to help drive innovation and the adoption of private LTE networks, giving enterprises new options for site, campus and office wireless networking.