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Private Cellular Networks in Buildings

Written by Stephen Kowal
  • How can I have reliable IoT coverage for my business?
  • What are the benefits of Private LTE?
  • What is an active DAS hybrid system?
  • IoT
  • Private LTE
  • Active DAS hybrid system

Reliable in-building mobile connectivity is essential to everyday living, as people and businesses use it to communicate and operate their remote devices. Connectivity is so important that it is increasingly considered the fourth utility—along with electricity, water, and gas. The demand for reliable mobile coverage will only intensify as building owners and businesses continue to implement Internet-of-Things (IoT) technologies, such as robots, cameras, and sensors to foster business productivity and growth. In 2022, the IoT market is expected to grow by 18% to 14.4 billion active connections [1].

As IoT networks become more complex, traditional LTE/4G coverage and Wi-Fi are not always enough to drive these IoT devices. When coverage is spotty and unreliable within a building, sometimes due to the building materials themselves or the contents of the building interfering with the signals, building owners and business leaders can turn to a customizable private LTE network to ensure seamless integration of all their devices. 

Benefits of private LTE

Private LTE can be a better alternative to public LTE and Wi-Fi, with lower bandwidth costs and additional benefits such as:

  • Reliable coverage: Unlike Wi-Fi, where coverage is easily disrupted and can be spotty due to network hand-offs—even with the latest signal-boosting technology—private LTE networks are inherently more rugged. With the help of a professional team of system integrators and installers, private LTE networks are designed to deliver low-latency performance for specific applications.
  • Customization: Private LTE allows businesses to control data usage and prioritize which devices and applications get faster speeds by executing service level agreements (SLAs) for throughput and latency. 
  • Security: As the name states, the main benefit of private LTE is a private network. It keeps an organization’s data confidential by limiting access to the network. And it has greater security policies—with 24/7 centralized encryption—than traditional Wi-Fi, which only asks for a password and allows any stranger to try to enter the network. This feature is especially important as data breaches continue to rise, with average costs increasing 2.6% from 4.24 million dollars in 2021 to 4.35 million dollars in 2022 [2].

Due to these benefits, enterprises are increasingly transitioning their traditional in-building networks to private LTE. Currently, there are 1,000 private LTE networks, with the deployment of private LTE set to increase tenfold by 2026 [3]. 

While building owners and business leaders may be aware of private LTE’s benefits, they may not always know where to start with the implementation process and may be presented with various in-building network options, such as traditional passive distributed antenna systems (DAS) or an active hybrid DAS. 

Data exchange technology concept with virtual cloud service application icons and part of opened laptop. Double exposure
Challenges of deploying private networks with traditional network systems

Although both traditional passive DAS and active DAS hybrid solutions provide companies with robust coverage and reliability, they differ in their infrastructure and time to implement. 

Traditional DAS has many disadvantages, but the two primary drawbacks are high implementation and equipment costs and long deployment times (sometimes upwards of 12 to 18 months). Long deployment times ultimately drive costs up even further as businesses look for temporary coverage solutions in the meantime—and these solutions lack the benefits private LTE offers in the first place, such as security and reliability.

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Traditional DAS may also require a complicated infrastructure with fiber backhauls and base stations, which adds even more to the bill and hurts the bottom line. 

Implementing private LTE with an active DAS hybrid system

An active DAS hybrid system, on the other hand, can be deployed in weeks instead of months or years. This is because its system already has integrated features, such as category cable architecture with no signal attenuation, meaning there is no need to add additional heavy frameworks to the network. 

The process of active DAS implementation starts with a system integrator doing a site walk-through to take measurements and determine existing coverage, so that they can design the best solution for the building. This can include cabling, antenna, and equipment configurations, as well as signal-aiming tools that optimize signal quality at the site. They will also look at the floor plan and the building materials to ensure there is no signal attenuation. If the business wants capacity in addition to coverage, then it can also add a small cell to achieve this goal.

As more companies and building owners begin to value security and control over their networks, they need a robust private LTE coverage solution that can enable all their devices. Private LTE puts the power back in the hands of companies. It lets them decide how the network functions and delegates service to devices, so they can get ahead of the competition across a variety of industries such as smart cities, Industry 4.0, and more. 

REFERENCES
[1] “IoT connections market update—May 2022” from IoT Analytics: https://iot-analytics.com/number-connected-iot-devices/#:~:text=IoT%20connections%20market%20update%E2%80%94May%202022&text=The%20number%20of%20global%20IoT,growth%20than%20in%20previous%20years
[2] “Cost of a data breach—2022” from IBM: https://www.ibm.com/reports/data-breach
[3] “Private LTE/5G network deployments to tenfold in the next five years” from Berg Insight: https://www.berginsight.com/private-lte5g-network-deployments-to-tenfold-in-the-next-five-years

RESOURCES
Nextivity | www.cel-fi.com

PUBLISHED IN CIRCUIT CELLAR MAGAZINE • JANUARY 2023 #390 – Get a PDF of the issue

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about the author

Stephen Kowal is a technology industry veteran who has held strategic roles in sales, channel, and global accounts for nearly 25 years. As Chief Commercial Officer at Nextivity, Stephen is responsible for the company’s customer- and partner-facing teams, specifically those focused on sales, business development, marketing, product management, customer service, and order management.

 

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Private Cellular Networks in Buildings

by Stephen Kowal time to read: 4 min