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Is private LTE right for your organization? We’ll explain the use cases for private LTE and help you figure out whether it makes sense for your business.
First let’s briefly cover what private LTE networks are and how they work before comparing it to Wi-Fi and then diving into private LTE use cases and benefits. If it sounds right for your organization, we also offer next steps for finding out how private LTE could work for you.
What is private LTE?
In short, private LTE networks are LTE cellular networks built and operated by private organizations, rather than traditional mobile carriers. For a full explanation, see our introduction to private LTE.
How does it work?
Instead of using traditional Wi-Fi or paying mobile carriers for public commercial networks, organizations can now use unlicensed private spectrum options (such as CBRS in the United States) to build, customize, operate, and optimize LTE or 5G mobile networks for their own needs.
For a more in-depth explanation, see our explanation of CBRS.
Why private LTE?
Most organizations rely on traditional Wi-Fi for most of their mobile connectivity needs. For some applications, Wi-Fi has challenges in delivering predictable SLA for application QoS, seamless handoff for client devices between individual radios in the infrastructure, and device specific data security requirements for critical business operations.
When it comes to comparing enterprise Wi-Fi and private LTE networks... cellular wireless is better than Wi-Fi in terms of interference free operation, lower latency, radio efficiency, SLA (throughput, latency, packet error rate) based quality of service, always-on device level security with SIM authentication and encryption, and infrastructure controlled fast handover / mobility between radios. You can catch more details in our detailed post comparing private LTE vs Wi-Fi.
Private LTE and 5G networks are also more secure and customizable than public commercial networks by mobile operators.This makes private LTE and private 5G mobile networks the only option for large enterprise organizations with specific needs. For example, private LTE can serve large college campuses including outdoor areas with tens of thousands of devices, as well as factory floors with IoT sensors that require high reliability and very low latency.
Next, let’s review the core benefits of a private LTE network.
Benefits of Private LTE
Here are just a few ways private LTE benefits enterprise organizations.
LTE, but private. One of the best parts of private LTE is that you don’t have to go through a mobile operator like Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, or Sprint to pay-per-bit for public commercial LTE. This means you’re in control of your data usage, where your network is present, and what devices have priority over others. This also lowers your bandwidth costs.
Customization. You can design, architect, and optimize your LTE network to your enterprise’s specific needs. This is especially important if your enterprise requires performance you could never get through someone else’s public commercial LTE network. Customization could include HIPAA compliant architecture, device specific prioritization in an office, application level service level agreements (SLAs) for throughput, latency, packet error rate metrics, or a custom cell tower configuration for remote locations.
Security. Truly private LTE keeps all your sensitive information and confidential data within your network—rather than going through someone else’s public commercial network—and can be made more secure than traditional Wi-Fi with device specific policies, authorization and always-on centralized encryption. This is mostly in part due to the use of physical and embedded SIM technology on client devices. Unlike Wi-Fi, devices cannot simply put in a password and join a network - they are only admitted after certificate based authentication with a previously assigned SIM identity.
Reliability. LTE can be optimized for low and predictable latency - and on a per application basis if Celona's MicroSlicing technology is in action. Wi-Fi of course tends to be less predictable in terms of specific network metrics, especially in a spectrum that is often congested with noise and interference. And public commercial LTE isn’t tailor-made to your building and your needs, so it can’t be optimized to be as performant as private LTE.
With spectrum sharing models such as CBRS in the United States, private LTE ensures that companies have their own separate band of communication that is free from interference. With Wi-Fi, the signals are unregulated, meaning a new neighbor could start putting up their own Wi-Fi that directly interferes with your existing wireless network.
Coverage. LTE networks can be optimized to have up to 10x the coverage outdoors when compared Wi-Fi and up to 4x when indoors. For years Wi-Fi has relied on wireless bridges and signal repeaters to compensate in similar environments and these band-aids tend to create more points of failure and increased operational cost.
Now that you know how LTE helps, let’s see whom it helps and explore private LTE use cases.
Private LTE Use Cases
Private LTE offers the predictability, security and coverage required by large enterprises with wide areas and / or high occupancies. Here are some common examples of organizations that benefit greatly with private cellular wireless connectivity, next to their existing Wi-Fi and Ethernet based network access infrastructure.
Hospitals & Clinics
Hospitals involve large buildings, high occupancy counts, confidential patient information, digital instruments, and mission-critical life support devices that demand reliable performance 24/7. Insulin pumps, crash carts, and medical waste containers can all use sensors for tracking that all require ultra low latency and reliable coverage across the campus. Medical devices sharing health information with doctors and nurses can use private LTE to transmit information securely across the network using SIM authentication, and ensure specific service level metrics such as throughput guarantees for real-time imaging and latency enforcement for voice traffic.
Colleges & Universities
Higher education is built on large libraries, lecture halls, laboratories, lunch halls, classrooms, and dormitories that serve large numbers of tech-savvy students on more laptops and mobile devices than ever before. This same blanket coverage can easily be segmented to allow a completely private end of the network to be used by research lab, physical safety and other facilities infrastructure.
Primary and secondary education hosts large classes of students who are connected now more than ever. As education continues to introduce more and more digital devices and applications into classes, schools will need increased coverage and predictability that private LTE provides for their classroom technology. With increasing efforts to bridge the digital divide, outdoor private mobile networks can enable outdoor fixed wireless infrastructure to enable additional broadband connectivity at students homes and to empower students to use their devices beyond just the classroom. Interactive learning platforms and teachers can take advantage of this seamless connectivity to tailor lesson plans based on the individual child’s progress and turn a negative into a positive outcome for students.
Hotels & Event Venues
Hotels accommodate high populations, putting intense demands on the network. This is even more severe when hotels host events that attract large audiences. Hotels are usually plagued with Wi-Fi dead zones given structural challenges, even when additional Wi-Fi access points have been purchased for staff connectivity. Private LTE offers the express lane of communication that's needed to support back office applications that are used by staff members - eliminating the negative impacts of increasing crowds, neighbor network interference and traditional limits in wireless coverage.
Stadiums & Arenas
Stadiums are wide open areas densely packed with fans, TV camera crews, reporters, and sports organizers who all want live real-time connectivity. This requires large-area coverage with high predictability in performance. Strategically placed antennas can ensure that LTE covers the entire indoor and outdoor areas of large stadiums and arenas. This can be used to broadcast private LTE connectivity to push to talk voice handhelds, video surveillance, ticketing and mobile POS stations, computer vision sensors and IoT maintenance infrastructure - that are used to keep the operations for the venues humming along. Alternatively this same infrastructure can be used to provide neutral host services to guests, which allows guest devices to contact their carrier more reliably while still staying segmented from the congested public LTE network.
Amusement & Theme Parks
Amusement and theme parks accommodate large numbers of visitors and employees spanning across a wide open area. LTE provides the capacity and coverage needed to serve so many people throughout the park grounds using variety of back office applications. Over the span of hundreds of acres using outdoor Wi-Fi for seamless connectivity for internal staff use becomes a daunting task. Small and medium cell towers positioned across the park can ensure that staff members can always have access. This same network can be used for IoT infrastructure to support rides, signage, and virtually anything that may need reliable operation for best customer experience.
Offices & Workplaces
Now that modern workforces are armed with smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops, and IoT devices, modern office buildings and workplaces require more capacity and speed than ever before. By moving the smart building technology over to private LTE, enterprises can save significant amount of operational budget from their annual data contracts for public LTE subscriptions and improve the available Wi-Fi capacity for employee owned and guest devices.
Some government areas such as correctional facilities have high security standards requiring 24/7 HD video surveillance. They may also need to securely transmit mission-critical data and radio communications over wide open spaces. In addition, for an environment that requires high security on government owned devices, SIM level authentication and authorization for connected devices is exactly what might be required.
Railroads, Buses, & Public Transportation
Buses, trolleys, ferries, shuttles, trains, and other public transit vehicles often travel in consistent circuits that rarely have consistent connectivity. This poses a problem for radio communications, especially for maintenance vehicles, field command vehicles, and IoT devices. Cellular signals can switch towers seamlessly as they move across an area, where Wi-Fi signals may drop or get stuck to an access point that is no longer in range. Private LTE has also been designed to provide longer ranges and wider coverage to keep field crew and devices connected.
Airports & Airfields
Airports have large open spaces - especially on the tarmac - where ground crew are often left in coverage dead zones. Private LTE can be used to enable more predictable outdoor area coverage to support ground crew and mission-critical operations. In addition, it can eliminate the impact of new devices entering and leaving the airport on the connectivity and performance of staff operated and critical infrastructure.
Shipping ports cover wide open areas where workers need to stay connected to monitor operations and enable seamless communication among each other. With private LTE, predictable connectivity can be enabled for mobile and IoT devices without requiring a high density of access points (calling for increased capital spend for fiber and power cabling) or high cost of public LTE subscriptions.
Miners need to maintain lines of communication and monitor the structural integrity of a mineshaft. Private LTE can be used to provide necessary coverage deep into mine shafts without requiring large number of access point installations. With predictable coverage, health and safety sensors can communicate with small cell towers inside the mines, even when deep underground. And, IoT enabled gas sensors can detect the presence of dangerous conditions and help alert works in advance to keep them safe.
Oil & Gas Fields
Oil and gas fields span wide open areas that are difficult to cover, but field crews and IoT devices still require connectivity for real-time data collection, analysis and process automation. LTE offers superior coverage for such large open areas and conditions such as oil levels, hydraulic pressure, and methane leaks can be detected via IoT sensors.
Manufacturing & Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
Industry 4.0 factories include IIoT devices like remote vehicles, robots, and automated equipment. All these devices need highly predictable wireless connectivity that can be supported with service level agreements on latency and packet error rate. They need full coverage at every corner of the facility without hitting coverage dead zones in corners of the factory, which is where private LTE shines to ensure constant coverage. In an industry where downtime is unacceptable, maintenance needs to be able to work and act proactively to ensure the assembly lines are always working and available. Private LTE meets the challenge with interference free operation, higher reliability, predictable SLAs and tighter security to keep the Industrial IoT infrastructure operating efficiently.
Logistics & Warehousing
Warehouses are by nature highly dynamic environments where the presence of new products and shipment of pallets can significantly impact the wireless coverage patterns and relevant capacity of the network. Given its inherent ability to support device connectivity even at very low data speeds on the coverage cell for an access point, private LTE is the only option for enterprise IT teams and logistics operations teams to ensure reliable connectivity for automated guided vehicles (AGV), ruggedized tablets, push to talk handhelds, and other infrastructure that demands always on connectivity.
Supply Chain & Retail
Today’s shoppers expect consistent and convenient connections without interruption: hence the need for enterprise wireless solutions that offer seamless guest Wi-Fi experience while staying PCI compliant. As today’s retail workforces are using more IoT devices than ever before for signage, video surveillance, computer vision, and as their staff members rely on smart devices to improve shopper experience with mobile point-of-sale solutions. Keeping both staff and customers connected anywhere on a retail floor hence requires the additional lane of wireless spectrum offered by private LTE solution that can be designated for internal staff communications and back office operations.
Farming & Agriculture
Agribusiness often involves large open areas where Wi-Fi coverage for IoT connectivity will simply not be cost effective due to increased cost of access point infrastructure and required power / fiber cabling. Smart sensor infrastructure on private LTE wireless backbone can help farmers accurately measure crop fields, proactively fix equipment, and measure the atmospheric conditions around their crops. This new technology in an age-old profession can help the agriculture industry increase their profits and optimize their efficiency with each harvest.
Is private LTE right for you?
If any of these environments and use cases sound familiar, then private LTE might be a giant opportunity for you. If your organization has struggled with predictability and coverage for enterprise wireless when supporting your critical applications and connected infrastructure, then private LTE might be the right your solution for you. To learn more or to setup a free trial, check out our Product Journey.