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WiFi for Enterprise IoT: Why You Shouldn’t Use It

Illustration: © IoT For AllSo you’re building an IoT solution and you’re ready to select your connectivity approach. Should you use Bluetooth? WiFi? LoRa? Cellular? Satellite? As I’ve explored in a previous post, the connectivity approach you choose ultimately comes down to the specific needs of your …

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An Introduction to a Full 5G System

Illustration: © IoT For All5G will be here soon, and it will be much more than faster cell phone speeds. There are three application spaces designated for 5G– eMBB, the replacement of 4G mobile networks with faster 5G networks; URLCC, low latency high-reliability data transfer; and mMTC, low-cost massive …

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What Is CBRS and How Does It Help IoT?

Illustration: © IoT For All

The Internet of Things continues to grow fueled by applications that solve problems for enterprise customers. One of the biggest barriers to IoT solutions in enterprise settings is reliable and low-cost wireless connectivity. Where Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, LoRa, Zigbee and others have tried to solve the problem before, CBRS (Citizens Broadband Radio Service) is posed to offer a viable alternative for enterprise IoT connectivity.

What is CBRS?

Specific to the United States, Citizen’s Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) is a piece of the radio spectrum between 3550 – 3700 MHz. This is a valuable area of the spectrum because it allows good propagation (ability to penetrate walls and go medium distances) with the benefits of higher bandwidth services, such as LTE and 5G.

CBRS spectrum can be used to deploy a stand-alone, private LTE or 5G network inside a building.

Before CBRS, ensuring a robust cellular network inside of a facility, like a hospital, required installing a carrier-specific Distributed Antenna System (DAS). These systems are costly and only work with one carrier. CBRS systems have the potential to offer a “neutral host” for LTE/5G connections which would connect cellular devices (like phones or IoT sensors) via the CBRS radio infrastructure and then on to the carrier’s packet core network. For phones (and there are not many out yet) that support CBRS, they could use these in-building networks independent of what mobile operator they are using. 

For an IoT device inside of a building, using CBRS could prove a much more reliable connection than trying to connect from the basement HVAC controller to a cell tower 2 miles away, for example. 

Business Benefits

Neutral Host IoT Connectivity

For a direct-to-cellular IoT device (like a pharmacy temperature monitor in a hospital) that is installed in an enterprise, using CBRS as the primary cellular connection could be free if the device was provisioned to participate directly on the enterprise CBRS system. No need to pay Verizon, if the enterprise is providing all of the components for connectivity.

Alternative to Wi-Fi

CBRS 4G/5G systems use radio technology that is much more advanced than Wi-Fi and can cover 3-4x the range even at equivalent power levels. And since security and access are controlled via SIM cards, many of the headaches of managing Wi-Fi access and security are alleviated for IT teams. 

Better Performance Than LoRa or Zigbee

IoT specific wireless technologies like LoRa or Zigbee often use an application layer routing design, which means that some of the flexibility and robustness of the IP network are unavailable. Things like firmware upgrades and service changes are much easier for direct-to-IP connections like those enabled with CBRS 4G/5G.

Broadband Phone and Data Services

IoT is not the central use case for CBRS. It is the ability to improve phone performance in buildings that is the main value driver. IoT networking becomes a nice-to-have add-on for CBRS investments, at least at this stage. Alternatives to Wi-Fi for other devices, like laptops and TVs are likely to be seen in the future of CBRS enabled buildings.                                          

CBRS Applications

Good IoT applications for CBRS are ones that require a lot of bandwidth and probably aren’t battery-powered. Such as:

  • Video – Surveillance or Computer Vision Applications
  • Real-time control- Building Automation, HVAC
  • Push-to-talk- Security, operational voice such as in healthcare
  • Mains powered sensors- Temperature, Air Quality 
  • Gateway based IoT – Indoor positioning, where sensors talk to a local gateway

Indoor Positioning Example

CBRS could be a potential candidate for secure, high-bandwidth backhaul and long-range connectivity for campus-wide IoT solutions of the future. What makes CBRS attractive compared to Wi-Fi is the range the can be supported from a single access point, mobility support for users on the move, and spectral efficiency/capacity to support a large amount of traffic. 

Source: Qualcomm, Architecture for Private LTE Networks

For high-reliability use cases or those in environments already plagued by complex IT systems and crowded unlicensed band usage, like hospitals, CBRS could open up a new capability to install IoT solutions. Indoor positioning systems that rely on Bluetooth or Ultrawideband often have high frequency, real-time data flow requirements that can be challenging for Wi-Fi-based backhaul. CBRS small cells connecting to CBRS IoT gateway devices could provide a new way of solving the backhaul problem.  

For CBRS-based IoT networks, the near term challenges are how device management (SIM-based security and provisioning) will be handled and the limited availability of CBRS capable gateways and sensors. Companies like Athonet are working to solve the software and orchestration problems created by new CBRS enterprise deployments. 

Potential Barriers

Country-Specific

CBRS is solidly a USA-only spectrum band. However, other countries are releasing the public spectrum for unlicensed broadband wireless as well. The downside is that each country will require specialized radio hardware to work in a certain band. As these bands take off, cellular module manufacturers are likely to incorporate them. A “private cellular only” module might be on the market in the next few years.

Licensing Details

CBRS is a hybrid of licensed and unlicensed spectrums. 70 MHz out of the 150 MHz total bands are available through auctions, which will likely be consumed by the mobile operators. The remaining 80 MHz is available as General Availability. 80 MHz is still a large amount of spectrum to do private cellular operations. However, just like congestion in the 2.4 GHz band, CBRS GAA spectrum will likely see more and more use over time. 

Customer Availability

For an IoT company looking for connectivity options, CBRS should be on the radar, but it is certainly too new to rely on just yet. Unless an application is very valuable, the cost of deploying a standalone CBRS network just for IoT likely won’t be justified. Waiting for customer sites to adopt CBRS is likely the strategy that the IoT community will have to adopt.

CBRS is an exciting leap forward for publically available spectrum in the US. How it will play out for enterprises and the IoT community will be very interesting. Watch this space.

Source: IoT For All

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U.S. Cellular Launches LTE-M Network Optimized for IoT

U.S. Cellular announces that it has launched its LTE-M network on more than 90% of its cell sites nationwide, with plans to have them 100% covered in the second quarter of 2020. The LTE-M network is a reliable, secure and cost-effective way for businesses to connect large amounts of Internet of Things (IoT) devices in both urban and rural areas and hard-to-reach environments.

LTE-M is the global cellular standard designed and optimized for IoT connectivity. U.S. Cellular’s LTE-M network is ideal for IoT solutions such as fleet and asset management, tank monitoring, smart meters and other applications because of its low power wide area technology (LPWAN) that provides extended coverage at a lower cost. Low power or battery-limited LTE-M devices can be less complex, lower cost and built for mass adoption of IoT applications and deployment.

“Our LTE-M network brings our business and government customers capabilities and features that will enable an entirely new set of use cases to help them improve their operations and grow their business,” said Jim Anetsberger, vice president of business sales at U.S. Cellular. “We want to set our IoT customers up for future success with solutions that are designed to meet their specific needs. Working together with our vendors and customers, we can unleash the potential of our LTE-M network.”

U.S. Cellular currently supports several LTE-M modules, including the Telit ME910C1-WW and ME910C1-NA, Quectel BG96 and u-blox SARA-R410M, with additional vendors coming soon. As the company continues to build out and evolve its LTE-M network, new features and capabilities will be added. For more information, visit https://business.uscellular.com/contact/.

About U.S. Cellular

U.S. Cellular is the fifth-largest full-service wireless carrier in the United States, providing national network coverage and industry-leading innovations designed to elevate the customer experience. The Chicago-based carrier is building a stronger network with the latest 5G technology and offers a wide range of communication services that enhance consumers’ lives, increase the competitiveness of local businesses and improve the efficiency of government operations. To learn more about U.S. Cellular, visit one of its retail stores or www.uscellular.com. To get the latest news, promos and videos, connect with U.S. Cellular on Facebook.com/uscellular, Twitter.com/uscellular and YouTube.com/uscellularcorp.

Source: IoT For All