Connected Devices Play a Critically Important Role in the Successful Adoption of Private LTE
CBRS, the wireless frequency band allocated by the FCC for use by enterprises to build private mobile broadband networks, continues to gain users in several vertical markets with backing from an increasing number of solutions providers through the OnGo Alliance. Advocates cite network range and capacity, security, and control among the many benefits of CBRS-based private LTE networks to the organizations that deploy them. But those advantages (over alternatives like Wi-Fi) will only be realized if connected devices are similarly purpose-built for the applications where they are expected to be utilized.
Performance in Rigorous Environments
Consider first the environments in which private LTE networks will be prevalent. LTE networks utilizing the CBRS band are expected to be deployed in larger facilities (such as warehouses and logistics centers) or campuses to deliver reliable connectivity and workforce mobility across expansive areas with coverage challenges that may result and the construction of the buildings themselves. In such cases, devices on which essential applications are run will require some degree of ruggedization to avoid potential damage from excessive handling, heavy machinery, and other factors inherent to the environments. The risks that arise from using consumer-grade products here include high hardware replacement costs, drops in productivity, and a breakdown of communication.
Management and Administration for Security and Privacy
Another commonly touted benefit of private LTE is the security that it provides to enterprises by restricting network access to only approved users and devices. Obviously, those devices must support the CBRS frequency band (commonly referred to across the industry as “Band 48”) as a pre-requisite that no device manufacturer will overlook. But equally as important are the requirements to a) allow technology managers and admins to lock devices down in firmware to prevent unwanted app usage and b) tamper-proof the devices themselves so that they cannot be improperly utilized if lost or stolen.
Enterprise Focused Hardware and Software Configuration
Lastly, in evaluating a device’s applicability to a private LTE-enabled enterprise, we must remember that the use cases differ significantly from those in a consumer environment. Many pre-loaded applications or aesthetic features that are designed to provide a specific perceived benefit to consumers may only serve to slow performance of, or add complexity to, devices and may be better off removed from the products that will go onto the private LTE networks. Likewise, certain hardware may be needed while others may be nonessential and even risky to use. Adding ports for integration with vehicles, scanners, readers, and more is likely to be a necessity in the vertical markets where private LTE is prominent. Conversely, cameras or memory card slots may be problematic from a security or privacy perspective and should have the option to be disabled. Again, what is key is that private LTE devices must be built or customized to bring the promise of the technology all the way down to the end user level.
The Path To Private LTE Success
The allocation of CBRS spectrum is an exciting opportunity for businesses to take control of their wireless communications from a cost, security, and coverage standpoint. With a broad range of purpose-built network and device solutions to enable applications in various markets, essential operations will become smarter, more reliable, and more efficient than with those that are not adapted for enterprise environments. The private LTE revolution is still in its early stages but with this kind of focus on the requirements that are driving it, we can expect it to be a successful one.