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Why Enterprises Use Private LTE as Wireless LAN

Ken Hosac

In the battle of Private LTE vs Wi-Fi for wide-area LAN, cellular broadband provides better performance, security, and cost-effectiveness

Wi-Fi has a valuable place in our world. However, as IoT devices and high-bandwidth applications continue to spread their tentacles into every industry, it is clear that one of Wi-Fi’s biggest limitations is in large areas where a wireless LAN is needed. Challenges of Wi-Fi related to cost, performance, reliability, and security have created a gap that Private LTE technology is poised to fill.

How Private LTE works

Private LTE (PLTE) — one form of a Private Cellular Network — is similar to a public cellular network. The main differences are that with PLTE, organizations place micro towers and small cells on-site, and they often use shared spectrum, such as CBRS, which provides the ability to leverage cellular without fixed-rate bills. Overall, Private LTE allows them to:

  • Implement LTE anywhere — even in highly remote areas
  • Control network performance and Quality-of-Service (QoS)
  • Eliminate traffic competition with nearby LTE users
  • Reduce monthly costs — especially when using CBRS
  • Increase data security

A PLTE user has the flexibility to use a third-party network provider, use a traditional cellular operator, or manage the network internally.

Private LTE vs. Wi-Fi

Organizations with sprawling spaces, such as campuses, warehouses, and even entire downtown areas of large cities, can implement PLTE as a wireless LAN that is much more prudent than Wi-Fi. Here is a brief explanation of Private LTE vs. Wi-Fi:

Costs

PLTE infrastructure is far less expensive than what’s needed for a widespread Wi-Fi deployment. The amount of fiber in the ground and access points it takes for Wi-Fi to work well in large facilities makes it an expensive investment with an exceptionally long time to deployment.

Private Cellular Networks don’t require wired lines to be installed. Plus, the radios that support Private LTE and 5G reach much, much farther than Wi-Fi access points. In a big, broad area requiring a Wireless LAN, this equates to substantial hardware savings for cellular broadband.

Performance and reliability

Wi-Fi lacks the stability necessary to support high-bandwidth applications, such as wireless robotic devices and real-time video surveillance streaming, which are the types of applications becoming more and more common in large areas such as a manufacturing plant, shipping port, or Smart City. IoT devices roam from AP to AP as needed, but the organization can’t control performance.

PLTE gives the end user the ability to control connection performance and Quality-of-Service. Through priority and preemption, businesses and agencies can use their Private LTE network to ensure certain SIM cards in routers and IoT devices serving mission-critical purposes always have the best coverage.

Security

The infrastructure used for LTE networks enables layers of security that aren’t possible with Wi-Fi, which simply requires a username and password for access. The types of sensitive data that enterprises push out require additional layers of security.

Cellular broadband routers have built-in modems with SIM cards and edge networking devices, which makes PLTE inherently more secure than Wi-Fi. Further, a PIN can required to unlock a SIM inside a router — creating a form of two-factor security.

PLTE architecture usually includes on-site servers so traffic between devices and users can remain on the wireless LAN, for the most part, until there’s a need to send it through the backhaul router to an off-site data center.

Private LTE for business — ideal use cases

There are many situations and industries where Private LTE and 5G work much better and/or more cost-effectively than Wi-Fi.

Remote locations

In spots where public cellular infrastructure doesn’t exist — places such as mines or warehouses in remote regions — organizations can deploy a Wireless LAN via Private LTE.

Complex networking needs

Oil refineries and manufacturing plants often have complex network requirements and hundreds of users and devices. Private LTE helps prevent debilitating network congestion and is very cost-effective in such facilities.

Separate network for IoT

When IoT devices and big data are common across a huge area, organizations can use Private LTE for an isolated, secure network without a separate SSID or additional infrastructure.

High-bandwidth, cost-effective traffic

What if you need to connect hundreds of video surveillance cameras in a shipping port or on a school campus? Private LTE with CBRS or a fixed-rate cellular plan is a cost-effective option that can eliminate the worries tied to data usage management.

This Private Cellular Networks white paper further explores the benefits of Private LTE vs. Wi-Fi and public LTE.

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