US-based Federated Wireless has watched at close quarters as US enterprises have piled into the CBRS band to deploy private LTE and 5G networks. Here, Deepak Das describes the unfolding landscape, as enterprises put cellular to work in the utilities, manufacturing, cities, and education sectors, as well as in local and federal government. He tells how these sectors are making various demands on network performance, in the form of key performance indicators (KPIs) set out in design contracts and service level agreements (SLAs) for network management.
ENTERPRISE IOT INSIGHTS: Who do industrial enterprises want to design, build, and manage their private 4G / 5G networks?
Deepak Das : In general, we think there is some preference for vendor-agnostic management providers – someone like Federated or other system integrators. But different customer segments have different approaches. Big utilities prefer to own and manage their own networks, for example. They work with system integrators or vendors, like (US-based distributor) Tessco Technologies, for example, to build and deploy, but they want the network reins in their own hands. Big utilities want to own at least tier-one management of their private cellular networks.
Large enterprises who do not know much about CBRS and cellular may initially choose to work with a company like Federated for the build / deploy / management phases of their private 4G/5G installations. Longer term, however, they will also likely learn and take the reins themselves. These customers may arrive at some hybrid model, where they are open to someone like Federated managing specific aspects of their private networks. Big enterprises will eventually own tier-one management, like utilities.
Then there is a category of customers like fast-serve restaurant chains that don’t want to deal with any of it and would prefer a fully managed service. They will hand tier one / two management to someone else. But they are price-sensitive, so the price per radio and managed service cost will have to be lean. By contrast, security conscious enterprises like large e-commerce providers and social media giants will most likely want to manage their own networks. They have deep pockets to fund the learning and even some custom development by companies like Federated. But they will want to own and manage their own networks – tier-one, and even tier-two; they will only go to vendors for tier-three management.
In the state, local government and education (SLED) space, we are seeing requests to mix-and-match – to get a package of different services from different folks, and turn to trusted system integrators for management. McAllen Texas, which is running its own network, is the exception and not the rule. In federal government, the trend in the early 5G innovation phase is to ask for a ‘prime’ to fully design, deploy and manage the network. A good example of this is Federated Wireless priming the private 5G testbed for the US Department of Defense’s 5G Smart Warehouse project at the Marine Corp Logistics base Albany.
EII: What percentage of enterprises / what types of enterprises want to hand first- / second-line management of private 4G / 5G to others in the ecosystem? Answer for traditional mobile operators, traditional network vendors, core network providers, systems integrators, others? What do network management SLAs look like for private LTE and 5G in Industry 4.0? Does it depend on the use case? And how many use cases, presently, require critical SLAs – and how many are either connectivity upgrades of existing use cases (where Wi-Fi hasn’t worked, for example) or non-critical use cases that do not make high demands in terms of network management KPIs?
DD: SLAs will have to be measurable and exceed what incumbent Wi-Fi technology offers in terms of reliability and uptime. But it does depend on the use case. We see close alignment between the performance, coverage, and control needs for mission critical industrial IoT applications – with demonstrable KPIs and the choice of private 4G or 5G over Wi-Fi. Customers are looking for private networks to address pain points they can’t fix with Wi-Fi or public cellular networks – local control, reliability without interference, coverage over complex areas (like warehouses, campuses, outdoor energy fields), true security, and low latency.
EII: What are the key performance metrics for Industry 4.0 that LTE and 5G promises / delivers – now and in future?
DD: Private 4G delivers a more contention-free user experience than Wi-Fi, and in some cases meets better latency requirements. But it does not win over Wi-Fi sheerly for speeds, in the eyes of the customers. Private 5G promises to deliver better speeds and ultra-low latency to allow more advanced use cases like industrial AR and VR, and video analytics, and robotics. Eventually, it will enable more secure partitioned usage of networks through network slicing.
EII: What network performance KPIs and network management SLAs do key Industry 4.0 use cases demand?
DD: It depends on use cases, again. But generally, robotics is about latency; video analytics is about bandwidth; industrial AR and VR, and things like telemedicine surgery require wide bandwidth and also low latencies; massive sensor networks hinge on the number of connections, and on battery life; and difficult radio frequency environments like warehouses with metal shelves, and such like, are all about coverage.
- Das is of the CTO office of Federated Wireless.