LTE – commonly called 4G- is the latest “must have” for anyone who is in the market for a new mobile phone. High throughput, low latency and ability to support a large number of users are among the features boasted by this technology.
So why isn’t it being deployed by industry?
It’s not often that a technology designed for a telecommunications operator can be extended to other industries in a logical or cost effective way. Telecommunications providers need to service millions of customers, therefore the Quality of Service (QoS) differentiation between traffic types (other than voice from data) is not often considered. The solutions are expensive and highly complex with many moving parts that it requires a team of specialists to keep the whole system functional on a daily basis.
With this degree of complexity you can see why it presents a barrier to industry uptake and this is something the standards body (3GPP) and telecommunications suppliers in general are trying to overcome.
LTE was designed from the ground up to be highly modular and scalable using technologies which are familiar to industry such as Ethernet/IP for interconnection of network elements and x86-based hardware for core server components. To make it viable, some vendors are offering LTE base stations with a scalable, distributed core meaning that initial outlay is low and the network can grow with the business.
Many of the network issues facing wireless industrial applications are a by-product of using technologies such as 802.11 (WiFi) in class licensed spectrum which is uncontrolled, congested and prone to interference, and has multiple security flaws.
LTE uses licensed spectrum, and offers the kind of QoS and security features required to simultaneously support safety and production critical data, as well as internet and voice services.
Due to its ability to provide high data rates and a wide coverage area per base station, LTE is perfectly suited for supporting industrial and corporate applications such as:
- Automation of mining or rail systems
- Smart grid power systems
- High speed data services (including broadband internet)
- High density voice/video systems
- Corporate voice and data