Tuesday, 10 May 2022 09:24

Does private wireless have a place in your organisation?

Federated Wireless CTO Kurt Schaubach Federated Wireless CTO Kurt Schaubach

GUEST INTERVIEW: The idea of using private wireless networks instead of Wi-Fi, LANs or carrier-operated wireless networks has taken root in recent years. iTWIre discussed the issue with Federated Wireless CTO Kurt Schaubach.

What factors indicate that a private wireless network is appropriate?

Private wireless is the go-to solution when traditional connectivity falls short and the geography or complexity of the location makes bringing in traditional public cellular cost prohibitive. IoT connectivity is a great example.

Enterprise deployments of IoT solutions are hitting a wall with traditional connectivity and private wireless bridges the gap by allowing the business to leverage a wireless solution that is designed from the ground up for their specific requirements. Think of expansive areas, indoor/outdoor spaces, complex RF environments or devices and applications that require advanced privacy and security. Private wireless running on shared spectrum is an excellent fit for all of these scenarios.

Why would an organisation want to go to the trouble and expense of setting up a private wireless system rather than using an established telco?

Cost-efficiencies, control, security and location. In most cases, an enterprise needs to introduce connected devices or more data-intensive applications in a location where public cellular solutions can't easily reach and the costs to implement can be prohibitive. Traditional Wi-Fi has been sufficient for their existing use cases, but these new deployments require greater mobility, low latency, and higher throughput.

Private wireless using shared spectrum gives them a solution with unlimited data, wherever they need it with all the mobility and security of cellular connectivity. A truly private wireless network that leverages shared spectrum also has the added security benefit that user data never has to leave the walls of their business or cross a public network.

Private wireless is also touted as part of the answer to factory automation. Given the electromagnetically hostile nature of these environments (eg, welding gear), isn't Ethernet a better idea?

The modular and self-optimising vision of a smart factory floor only works if more reliable, secure connectivity can be delivered wirelessly. LTE and 5G are designed to handle this type of RF "hostile" or complex interference, and the private wireless model puts control of the network right in the hands of the operations teams that are responsible for automating the factory. That means the private wireless network can be designed to meet their exact requirements, including handling the electromagnetically hostile nature of a factory, and simplify how new applications and devices are introduced to the smart factory moving forward.

Smart factories will also depend on a set of devices that simply have to be wireless. When the factory operations team already needs wireless connectivity for autonomous mobile robotics or converged solutions that leverage tablets and smart phones for monitoring and control functions, consolidating all of this connectivity into a secure, reliable wireless solution can simplify and streamline the deployment, operations and overall connectivity demands of the smart factory.

Who is currently using private wireless?

Federal, state and local governments, schools, agriculture, and manufacturing, all the places where emerging innovation requires more intelligent connectivity that can be tailored to specific use cases requirements for the customer. IoT connectivity in smart warehouse or smart factory settings are an especially great example of use cases where private wireless over shared spectrum is a great fit to solve existing connectivity challenges.

Private wireless is sometimes mentioned in the context of smart cities, but as so many players are involved (parking operators, transport operators, local/state/national governments, utility providers, telematics companies and so on – and perhaps even private citizens) would it make more sense to take advantage of the huge investments telcos have already made in fixed and mobile networks?

It's not an either or situation. Connectivity overall has to evolve to meet the demands for increasing throughput and lower latency. There also needs to be more spectrum made available to power these visions. That translates to a multifaceted opportunity for our ecosystem to evolve and private wireless is one model that will be incredibly important but neutral host is another example.

It's also important to understand that the variety of different players and different use cases within the smart city vision will need the security, reliability and flexibility to meet very specific application and device requirements that private wireless is designed to enable.

Where and how does Federated Wireless fit into this private wireless transformation?

Federated Wireless is driving private wireless transformation on two fronts.

First, we are working with customers across a number of industries to get started with private wireless networks. Enterprise customers understand that their current connectivity solutions are a barrier to scaling up digital transformation, but they need partners who can understand their unique requirements, so the investment in private wireless can drive business outcomes from day one. We do this with an end-to-end set of managed services from wireless design and deployment through to ongoing managed services and support.

Second, we are bringing to market the shared spectrum innovations that make truly private wireless networks possible. This is made possible by our cloud-native software management layer that powers shared spectrum for private wireless, providing abundant and deterministic spectrum access.

What were the motivating factors that drove Federated Wireless down this path?

Our goal from day one has been focused on transforming wireless for a cloud-driven world. We've always focused on enabling new models that allow broader access to spectrum because bridging the digital divide, securing supply chains, modernising industry operations, all of these things that the future depends on, are all in dire need of high speed, next-generation wireless.

What's next?

We're very focused on making more spectrum available to fuel enterprise private wireless transformation. The next stop in that journey will be broadening the options for enterprises to include next-generation Wi-Fi. The combination of application-aware cellular and Wi-Fi technologies is going to be very powerful for our customers who need to fine tune their networks for optimised performance, but also optimised costs. Spectrum options obviously provide greater flexibility to strike that cost and performance balance, and we're very excited to bring that next phase of wireless transformation directly to our customers.

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Stephen Withers

Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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