There is a belief among some wireless network technology providers that their infrastructure solutions can be comfortably applied in any environment. While in theory this may be true, the stark reality is that some networks perform far better in certain situations. For example, Wi-Fi is ideal for carpeted office environments. It is inexpensive, reliable, and easy-to-configure, and has the right latency to handle office-oriented applications like email, browsing, and online meeting tools. By contrast, relying on a cellular network for office use brings in a level of complexity that is unnecessary—and unwarranted—from a cost-benefit perspective.
Things change, however, in more industrial environments. Farms, factories, warehouses, and other large spaces often contain numerous metallic structures that cause havoc with Wi-Fi signals, making it difficult and expensive to maintain reliable coverage in these structures. And the problem of sustaining good reliable coverage becomes even more pronounced outdoors. Stadiums, seaports, campuses, and the like all have their specific issues. Ensuring adequate backhaul is available to provide Wi-Fi coverage can be expensive and complicated—especially if trenches need to be dug. And then there is the security aspect. A business that relies on collecting and transporting sensitive data, or participates in regulated industries, must ensure that its network maintains robust security protocols to protect against cyber attacks and other threats.
Industrial environments do present some unique challenges for network providers, but in terms of supporting critical business needs, private cellular networks are ideally suited for these settings. Businesses that operate in vertical markets like logistics, agriculture, manufacturing, and transportation—among others—should carefully evaluate private cellular solutions from these four perspectives:
Simply put, private cellular networks can cover more ground—at less cost—than Wi-Fi. Cellular signals are impacted far less by the metal structures that are commonly found in industrial settings. And it is far more cost-effective to set up a private cellular network compared to Wi-Fi. In fact, for every access point needed for a private cellular network, it may take four Wi-Fi access points to deliver the same coverage indoors, and as many as ten or outdoors. And this doesn’t even factor in the need for ensuring backhaul connectivity. Private cellular mesh networks expand coverage without any need for backhaul, which makes it even more suitable for providing services over a wide area.
Since most industrial businesses rely on automation and sensors to capture, send, and receive data, network latency is a huge issue. Autonomous vehicles, manufacturing, and real-time monitoring functions require optimal bandwidth and low latency. Private cellular networks are ideal for these environments—especially for upstream traffic. While public cellular networks have mastered the delivery of data to consumers hungry for Tik Tok videos, social media applications, and every day personal use, they are not invested in ensuring fast and reliable upstream data transport—simply because their customer base does not warrant the investment. The carriers serve a consumption-based market that has far different needs than the enterprise space.
Private cellular solutions incorporate advanced encryption methods that reduce the effectiveness of bad actors. Look, no network is impenetrable, but the track record of cellular far exceeds other infrastructure—both terrestrial and wireless. It is extremely difficult to hack into a cellular network. This is an important distinction that should grab the attention of any business that is responsible for collecting and transmitting sensitive data, especially in industries like defense, transportation, finance, and logistics.
Return on Investment
Enterprises are always careful where to invest dollars. Of course, they want to see a return as quickly as possible, but they also need to spend money on a solution that will satisfy long-term business objectives. Private cellular technology offers unparalleled scalability and flexibility to satisfy growth and changing business needs. The technology can easily expand to support additional square footage, and the bandwidth and latency attributes make it ideal for handling the new generation of AI and AR/VR/XR business applications that are beginning to enter the market. CFOs, COOs, and other executives who must plan for future needs should seriously consider private cellular technology as a key strategic asset.
Every network technology has its own strengths and shortcomings, and it would be unreasonable to expect that each wireless infrastructure is appropriate for every situation. For organizations that utilize industrial, outdoor, and campus environments, a private cellular network is best suited for supporting critical operational needs in terms of coverage, performance, security, and return on investment. A private cellular infrastructure offers the features, capabilities, and value that can satisfy sophisticated industry needs.