Wireless private networks provide consistent coverage and bandwidth for industrial applications.
IT teams are under pressure to drive rapid transformation and greater operational efficiency.
Reliable networking is vital to achieving these mandates.
Industrial sites tend to rely on WiFi, as it’s inexpensive. But, while WiFi provides excellent coverage for laptops and smartphones, it is not an ideal solution for mission-critical industrial assets. The more devices and supporting hardware you add to your network, the more bandwidth and reliability issues you will face.
If you run an industrial site, you can’t afford to lose your wireless connectivity. When your devices, such as remote piloted equipment, won’t operate, you can lose millions of dollars per day. These devices require service levels and guarantees around your wireless infrastructure’s performance. However, you can’t typically get these guarantees with WiFi.
We recently spoke with Paul Howarth, Senior Director for Technology and Product Development at Rogers, about a new connectivity solution that delivers the high performance, low latency, and airtight security that industrial applications require.
What is a Wireless Private Network?
A wireless private network (WPN) is a custom cellular network built on your site.
“Businesses can now have their own, private 4G and 5G networks with very robust wireless infrastructures—something you can’t do with WiFi,” said Howarth. “WiFi has been great for large throughput. But when you need mission-critical communications, you need a 4G or 5G network.”
Some WPN solutions allow you to extend your public and private mobile networks as one secure corporate WAN—without losing control of your data or devices. This can mean consistent coverage and bandwidth for your industrial applications.
“You can use a WPN as a stand-alone network or alongside your WiFi to extend or enhance it,” said Howarth. “For example, you may choose to run your secondary traffic on WiFi infrastructure and mission-critical traffic on a WPN. If you are starting fresh, you may prefer to migrate all of your traffic to a WPN.”
The Top 5 Benefits of a Wireless Private Network
Over the next decade, the number of wireless private networks will double to 14 million globally, driving $2 trillion in GDP.1
WPNs will transform industrial operations, as they ensure the performance and reliability of critical assets. With a WPN, you get:
- Reduced OPEX. “Virtualization allows you to eliminate some of your infrastructure costs while putting a reliable network exactly where you need it, such as in a factory or on a mining site,” said Howarth. Then, you can get rid of your WiFi infrastructure if you no longer need it. You can also replace expensive land mobile radio devices with smartphones that connect securely to your WPN.
- Fast deployment and ease of IT management. A WPN operates like WiFi, with a portal that allows you to manage moves, adds, and changes easily. This allows your IT team to adopt the technology quickly without a lot of skills retraining.
- Faster time to innovation. Achieve your digital transformation goals faster. WPN managed services allow you to focus on your mission-critical applications (not on deploying or maintaining your network).
- Future-proofing. You don’t want technology to become obsolete by the time you install it. WPNs currently use 4G and 5G connectivity, which can support your business for the long-term. 4G is inexpensive, so it’s used in technologies that automate distribution centers. You can expect 4G to be around for at least ten years. Meanwhile, 5G will become the dominant connectivity for mobile devices within the next four years. Your 4G or 5G WPN will grow with you and support new applications, including video, down the road.
- Security. A WPN offers secure access to corporate data, while giving you total visibility into and control over your network
Paul Howarth, Senior Director for Technology and Product Development at Rogers
6 Innovative Ways to Use a Wireless Private Network
The possibilities with WPNs are endless. Here are six ways that businesses in the mining, oil and gas, utilities, and manufacturing sectors can use a WPN to make their operations more efficient:
- Push-to-talk communications: Industrial facilities want to migrate away from walkie-talkies, as you can’t put apps on them. A WPN allows you to use push-to-talk solutions. You can install your enterprise and industrial apps on these devices to make employees more productive.
- Distribution centers: “Online ordering and direct-to-home delivery have exploded,” said Howarth. “Space inside facilities is at a premium, and WPNs can help distribution companies automate their operations to save space and provide faster service.” A WPN also supports employee safety and physical distancing. Automation can bring items to employees for packaging and delivery. That way, they won’t need to walk around the warehouse and get close to each other.
- Mining: A WPN can ensure that your mission-critical devices, such as remote piloted equipment, function properly.
- Retail: Automated cleaning machines need reliable connectivity. If your WiFi stops working overnight, you’ll arrive in the morning to find dirty floors, and the machine stuck in a corner. A WPN can ensure that your cleaning machines get the job done. “We’ve also seen the uptick curbside pick-ups pose a challenge to WiFi systems that weren’t deployed to encompass outdoor coverage, or the capacity automate the process.”
- Supply chain: Wireless private networks enable commercial drone in a highly secure, scalable fashion—for both deliveries and weekly inventory scans.
- Airports: WPNs support critical equipment, such as automated wheelchairs and security drones.
“A reliable, high bandwidth network is vital when doing business today,” said Howarth. “A WPN gives you more bandwidth and reliable networking, which enables new applications and transformation.”