Private LTE vs. Wi-Fi: Comparing Options for Enterprise Connectivity
By Safi Khan
December 11, 2019
By Safi Khan
December 11, 2019
Private LTE is quickly emerging as a solution to augment and, in some cases, replace Wi-Fi in enterprise networks. This new market is expected to grow significantly over the next decade and is catching the eye of enterprise-level organizations the industry over.
LTE stands for long term evolution. Private LTE is a standards-based LTE network scaled down to fit the needs of entities. These include large corporations, industrial and automotive manufacturing, utility metering, logistics, smart cities, drones, transportation hubs, government facilities, military campuses, hospitals, enterprises, education campuses, stadiums and other venues. Traditional public mobile network operators (MNOs) also operate private LTE networks and offer them as a service. However, there are new players like the enterprise’s IT departments, neutral host network providers, and cable operators who can also manage and offer private LTE network services. This growing trend will continue with the latest evolution of market expansion.
Big organizations have an affinity for private LTE networks because they offer a more secure, scalable and resilient solution compared to traditional Wi-Fi connectivity. Wi-Fi networks have traditionally come under hacking attempts and are vulnerable to intrusion threats more than cellular networks like LTE. Think of it like this: A large energy company needs to customize their systems for mission-critical applications and optimize them for low latency with high-level security and separated from an otherwise public network. What is a company to do in this situation? It turns to private LTE, a local cellular network that incorporates nonpublic cell sites and servers that can support a company’s specific requirements outside of what is generally supplied by mobile networks and service providers, all inside the corporate firewall. If they choose Wi-Fi for the same purpose, they cannot achieve the level of performance that LTE networks can offer from the perspective of security, reliability, coverage and latency. An in-depth technical dive to compare the two technologies is outside the scope of this blog.
Costs associated with the high data transfer volume over public LTE make private LTE more amenable for enterprises, especially when Wi-Fi coverage throughout the enterprise campus is at or above the standard’s capabilities (number of concurrent connections) and is susceptible to competing data transfers on the same radio bands (Wi-Fi uses public spectrum available to other devices in the same area). Wi-Fi also cannot compete with private LTE networks that can support mobility, can enable point-to-point HD/UHD video, native voice support, remote operability, configurable quality of service (QoS) on a class of device basis, and enhanced security robustness in general. Can enterprises dismiss Wi-Fi altogether? Certainly not — especially due to Wi-Fi 6.
The next generation of Wi-Fi technology is called Wi-Fi 6. Also known as 802.11ax, it continues upon the current Wi-Fi standard that was created to maintain many devices connected to it. It is not a new way of connecting to the internet but instead an upgrade over previous versions of Wi-Fi (technically called 802.11ac). Wi-Fi 6 is an upgrade to the standard that allows compatible devices to use Wi-Fi signals more efficiently.
Wi-Fi 6 is almost 50 percent faster than the current (fastest) Wi-Fi speed. The technology essentially supercharges routers, enabling them to multitask in ways that have not been possible before. Wi-Fi 6 is engineered to allow network access points, such as routers, to handle higher demand from devices (and ultimately users) while using less power. Of course, this Wi-Fi vs. cellular discussion is about to become even more complicated, thanks to the arrival of 5G.
Enterprise organizations understand that cellular networks cover larger, wider areas, while Wi-Fi can handle things on a much smaller scale. With the advent of 5G connectivity, enterprises will be able to do things at a significantly faster speed, with greater bandwidth and network capacity and with lower latency. Take that to the private model, and 5G will allow these larger organizations to tap into a network that can handle higher usage without latency — truly rivaling the performance of wired LANs.
These companies will still use Wi-Fi long after private 5G comes into existence. Enterprises can also deploy Wi-Fi easily, and, depending on their locations, set up Wi-Fi 6 well before the arrival of private 5G. Businesses will likely utilize both solutions for years to come.
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.
Contact us today to find out how we can help bring your organization a full-suite IoT solution.