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Will Private Wireless Networks as a Service Accelerate Industry 4.0?

By Juhi Fadia
September 30, 2022

The manufacturing sector is currently undergoing a major transition, with many factories finally embracing Industry 4.0 and implementing digital devices and applications into all facets of their processes. Industry 4.0 is now revolutionizing the way companies manufacture, improve, and distribute their products. Manufacturers are integrating new technologies, leading to increased automation, predictive maintenance, self-optimization of process improvements and, above all, a new level of efficiency and responsiveness to customers not previously possible.

As recently as 2019, the industry 4.0 market was valued at $70 billion but, thanks to the recent explosion in adoption, the market is now expected to grow to $210 billion by 2026.

The rapid growth is not surprising, as developing smart factories provides an incredible opportunity for the manufacturing industry to enter the fourth industrial revolution. Using technology to analyze the large amounts of big data collected from sensors on the factory floor ensures real-time visibility of manufacturing assets and can provide tools for performing predictive maintenance to minimize equipment downtime.

Among the various types of technology pouring into industrial manufacturing, one of the most prominent being leveraged is the Internet of Things (IoT) technology – specifically, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) solutions for manufacturing specifically.

While this technology is still relatively new, it's quickly making its way across the manufacturing industry and becoming more common in factories with every passing day. According to the new market research report “Industrial IoT Market by Device & Technology, Connectivity Type, Software, Vertical and Geography - Global Forecast to 2026, the IIoT global market size already sits at $76.7 billion as of 2021. Over the next four years (by 2026), the market is expected to reach $106.1 billion.

The lifeblood of IIoT systems is, of course, networks, and until now, there have been limited choices when it comes to the types of network protocols and options enterprises use to support their specific use case. We've seen the steady growth of everything from Advanced Message Queuing Protocol (AMQP) to Bluetooth and BLE. Then there is CoAP for Constrained Application Protocol, Object Management Group's Data Distribution Service (DDS) for real-time systems, the very popular LoRa and LoRaWAN, Message Queuing Telemetry Transport (MQTT) which is nearly 25 years old, and of course WiFi, Zigbee, and Zwave.

And, of Course, There is Good Old Cellular

With 4G/LTE and 5G growing in reach and capabilities, cellular provides high bandwidth and reliable communication, can send high quantities of data, but has been wildly expensive – until now.

Federated Wireless launched its new Private Wireless as a Service solution, designed to simplify enterprise private wireless networking by putting the entire stack together and selling Private Wireless as a Service based on the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum in the United States.

According to Chris Swan, chief commercial officer at Federated Wireless, "Enterprise customers don't want to buy a single network component; they need someone to design, deploy and manage their connected things with Private Wireless holistically."

The announcement comes just after Federated Wireless revealed a new partnership with mixed-use property developer JBG Smith to deploy 5G private wireless in National Landing, which is a small area in northern Virginia comprising three neighborhoods and is home to Amazon H2Q. JBG Smith is Federated's first commercially announced private wireless-as-a-service customer.

Using the licensed CBRS spectrum that JBG Smith acquired in 2020 that covers all of Arlington County and the city of Alexandria, the pair will create an interoperable 5G private network showcase in National Landing to support areas like IoT, AI, advanced robotics, AR/VR and edge and cloud computing.

As part of the strategic partnership, Federated Wireless will relocate its corporate headquarters to National Landing, occupying approximately 36,000 square feet of office space.

"We're not only relocating but also building an Innovation Ecosystem Showcase for customers and partners to participate in Private Wireless, including CBRS and Wi-Fi 6E technologies," added Swan. "We'll have robots, holograms, digital twin, drones, and other cutting edge IoT running on the shared spectrum in National Landing."

The private wireless-as-a-service, currently being used by JBG Smith, offers a 3-step model — order, onboard, and scale — for enterprises to get started with 4G and 5G connectivity and promises to get the network up and running in only two weeks.

The ordering step takes place on Federated Wireless' "cloudified" marketplace. Here, enterprise decision-makers define the requirements of their use case and the location of their first deployment.

Then, the first private wireless node is installed and onboarded with their initial connected devices and applications. Customers then have an RF and network design plan in place that can scale to cover larger areas with additional users, applications, and devices.

Swan further explained that because the solution is built on the shared spectrum, enterprises can expect faster and more affordable deployments, as well as improved security and performance because data never has to leave the property or cross a public network.

Despite these benefits, however, the CBRS spectrum — precisely because it is a shared spectrum — runs the risk of interference from other users. That is why Federate Wireless says it is dedicated to helping its customers find quality, clean spectrum – interference-free even when

"We are going in and helping customers achieve that interference-free deployment even when somebody drops another CBRS radio in," said Swan. "Our business is CBRS, shared spectrum; this is the foundation of what our business is built on."

Currently, the "democratization" of private networks, such as LTE and 5G, enabled by local spectrum allocations, cloud-based core networks, and a rapidly-growing ecosystem of vendors and integrators, is happening quite swiftly. Tens of thousands of private cellular networks will be deployed over the next few years.

According to a new forecast from IDC, the global market for private wireless infrastructure is tipped to grow almost fourfold during the next five years and be worth $8.3 billion in 2026.

This makes sense, as private wireless networks offer a range of benefits, including allowing enterprises to control how the bandwidth is distributed across the organization. Also, with a private wireless network, data traffic doesn't have to travel back and forth to a remote core like it would with a public network, which lowers latency and improves speeds, security, and data privacy. Low latency is critical for things like robotics, autonomous vehicles, drones, and other time-sensitive applications.

With these benefits now available, manufacturing enterprises are now increasingly looking to adopt their own private wireless networks to adequately leverage IIoT to reap the full benefits of the new technology. However, running a factory floor is hard enough before IIoT is added into the mix, which makes managing the complexities of a private network an immense load to handle for those in the manufacturing sector. For this reason, enterprises are really looking for a partner that can offer them all the benefits of a private wireless network with none of the headache associated with deploying and managing one.

Swan closed by sharing, "We're at the beginning of a wireless renaissance as 5G and shared spectrum solutions become game changers for the manufacturing industry. Finally, IIoT, Digital Transformation, and other key OT programs have a fast, reliable, and private way to meet the mission. We're excited to be an enabling service delivery partner to anyone with these goals."

Juhi Fadia is an engineer, analyst, researcher and writer covering advanced and emerging technologies.

Edited by Erik Linask
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