Modules, Connectivity, Platforms

Realizing Industry 4.0 Using Private LTE Networks

IoT is predicated on the ability to acquire, process and analyze data and generate insightful information on which informed decisions can be made. Organizations can then distribute that information to authorized personnel and third parties in the company’s ecosystem.

Private LTE networks facilitate that process by ensuring the secure distribution of IoT traffic. It’s safe because sensitive data stays on-site instead of going back to an operator’s core network. Companies own, control and manage their private networks, enabling IT departments to determine the performance, authorization and prioritization of the traffic.

What Is Industry 4.0?

Industry 4.0 is a term that originated in 2011 from a project in the high-tech strategy of the German government, which promoted the computerization of manufacturing. Right now, it focuses on interconnectivity, automation, machine learning and real-time data. Though it is in widespread usage, there is a tendency to refer to it as a historical, static development. Industry 4.0 has evolved and is now being used across the six connected manufacturing strategy segments shown in Figure 2: heavy equipment, materials, precision/high-tech, agricultural/mining, construction and consumables. The term Agriculture 4.0 refers to the interconnected use of multiple technologies for sustainable crops, higher production and processing quality.

A study conducted by Acatech, the German Academy of Science and Engineering, indicates that the chief economic potential of Industry 4.0 lies in its ability to accelerate corporate decision-making and adaptation processes. The availability of vast data quantities and real-time information enables a better understanding of how things relate to each other and provides the basis for faster decision-making processes. Coupled with the proper organizational structure, companies can react faster to new customers’ requirements and today’s dynamic market.

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For example, fundamental changes are taking place in the way that companies conduct their business. We are evolving into a service-driven economy. Brand-new, innovative business models are being created. The transition away from products to services enables new, nimble entrants to compete with companies having what used to be entrenched positions.

Agility in Industry 4.0

Acatech’s study also highlights the importance of combining technology and the organization’s components, as illustrated in Figure 3, to enable agility, a key Industry 4.0 capability. It is needed to allow new strategies such as the transition to a service economy. Information processing plays a pivotal role in enabling rapid organizational adaptation processes. The faster an organization can adapt to a change in circumstances, the greater the adaptation benefits. Therefore, the relevant data and analysis results should be distributed throughout the company.

Agility can be a critical performance parameter in the current economic climate and the foreseeable future. It goes hand-in-glove with private networks because companies own, control and manage this resource. They can customize the functionality to match new business models and strategies.

CBRS and Private LTE

Mobile operators or private companies can run private LTE and use a licensed, unlicensed or shared spectrum. In the United States, the most mature shared spectrum is Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS). CBRS was created to open the 3.5 GHz band to a wide range of users, including incumbent users, mobile and cable operators, other service providers, public entities and enterprises.

Telit, an organization focused on supporting the development, commercialization and adoption of LTE and 5G solutions for the 3.5 GHz band, was the first top-tier IoT and mobile broadband module vendor to join the CBRS Alliance, which, as of January 2021, is known as the OnGo Alliance. The company is also a leading provider of industrial IoT (IIoT) solutions, so there is a more significant hand-in-glove analogy.

Telit’s private LTE CBRS module portfolio is currently the broadest in the industry, including LGA form factor CBRS-only modules in Cat 4 and Cat 6 along with an array of data cards including CBRS-only and public+CBRS LTE and 5G models.

IoT modules are a historic core competence. The company has pioneered various developments, such as an award-winning device management platform that can be deployed privately in the network to enable the secure management of IoT devices. Telit also has connectivity offerings that can be bundled with private LTE to allow different off-network roaming options.

Telit’s portfolio also includes the world’s first Gigabit mPCIe adapter card supporting LTE-Advanced Pro Category 18 (Cat 18), the LM960, which features download speeds of up to 1.2 Gbps, upload speeds of 150 Mbps and global coverage. This module is also the world’s first mobile broadband adapter card to support CBRS Band 48. LM960 is ideal for device and equipment manufacturers that want to carry private LTE applications with routers, gateways and other devices connecting to LTE access points, small cells and other CBRS infrastructures.

Telit is also the first supplier to offer 5G data cards based on Qualcomm’s innovative Snapdragon X55 5G modems. The FN980 data cards are designed for a variety of deployments, such as private and public 5G for industrial automation (Industry 4.0) routers. They support both 5G non-standalone (NSA) and 5G standalone (SA) networks.

Figure 4 illustrates private LTE options using a carrier’s licensed spectrum. Unlicensed/shared spectrum like CBRS in the U.S. can also be used.

Cost-Effective Deployments Using CBRS

CBRS provides a cost-effective way to deploy and manage standalone cellular networks on the premises in a spectrum band that does not require an expensive license. It has accelerated the deployment of private network deployments in the U.S. The key objective of the OnGo Alliance is to enable the fast development of private 4G/5G networks using certified hardware components from a comprehensive portfolio that includes network equipment and enterprise equipment suppliers.

Also, there is an OnGo certification program. Certification means that a product has been tested in numerous configurations to validate interoperability with other certified equipment operating in the 3.5 GHz frequency band.

No Need to Wait for 5G

4G/LTE has the right attributes for private business networks, and the crucial performance parameters — a peak rate of 1 Gbps and latency less than 50 milliseconds — are state-of-the-art figures. Networks can run low-data-rate applications like LTE-M and NB-IoT and the high data rates needed for online security cameras. These abilities add up to a very positive case for employing LTE connectivity on private networks. Moreover, the performance and functionality have advanced, and it is now being marketed as 4.9G, the implication being that it’s almost 5G. For IIoT, there is no meaningful improvement in performance or functionality between 4.9G and 5G NSA (non-standalone). Commercial deployments of 5G SA (stand-alone) and near-ubiquitous coverage come later, and 4G should still be operational up to 2030, maybe longer.

The first 5G deployments will be NSA, and the existing 4G infrastructure will support them. They employ the same radio access and core network that are used in 4G networks, so there is no need to wait for 5G. However, transitioning to 5G in the future will be relatively easy.

LTE was distinguished from earlier cellular networks by its flat, all-IP architecture and the Evolved Packet Core (EPC), the component that enables IP device connectivity for both data and voice services. It was designed for data and employs digital modulation, allowing signals to be split into various channels with different frequencies and data rates. This modulation enables bandwidth to be assigned in a very flexible way and empowers the creation of today’s cost-effective, low-bit-rate services. Networking slicing, a relatively recent development, allows multiple logical networks to run on top of shared physical network infrastructure. It enables connectivity to be customized to match the performance requirements of various applications and use cases.

Private LTE in Action

Australian mining conglomerate Rio Tinto is one of the first large enterprises to use a private LTE network to support commercial operations at scale. The company developed a solution to cover 15 mines and related facilities. As illustrated in Figure 5, they include transport hubs, railways, ports, offices and other sites in Australia. The system was designed to support a variety of safety and production critical systems, including in-pit CCTV monitoring services. It was developed to prepare the company for the industrial drive towards autonomous mining platforms, including autonomous drilling systems and autonomous haulage.

The solution uses 1800 MHz spectrum under a special arrangement from the local regulator. At the time, unlicensed LTE was not available. Rio Tinto was able to replace 30 Wi-Fi access points with just four LTE base stations in the initial deployment. The network includes an LTE core, the EPC and related applications, for example, support for VoLTE, push-to-talk and unified communications. The network is managed from a single network operations center (NOC).

Key benefits of a private LTE network include:

  • Improved reliability and resilience for production and safety-critical services with full wireless coverage of all operational areas.
  • Ability to utilize QoS and prioritize traffic safety and production-critical traffic.
  • A consolidated network platform to support multiple in-pit systems concurrently.
  • Reduced infrastructure requirements with four LTE communications trailers instead of 30 Wi-Fi communications trailers.

Enable Your Private LTE Network with Telit

Telit offers a private LTE and 5G IoT module and data card portfolio to enable your private cellular network solutions. We provide secure, reliable connectivity and device management to meet device manufacturers’ and system integrators’ needs worldwide.

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