Connectivity Shouldn’t Limit Industry 4.0 Acceleration

Private 4.9G/LTE and 5G networks can lay the connectivity foundation on which industry can build highly connected, next-generation facilities.

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When the coronavirus pandemic forced shutdowns across the world, industries faced a disaster unlike ever before. Facilities and IT systems were operational, yet people could not physically access them. According to a 2021 McKinsey survey[1], Industry 4.0 technologies were a lifesaver, with 94% of respondents saying they helped keep operations running and more than half (56%) reporting they were critical to doing so.

COVID-19 put Industry 4.0 and digital transformation into third gear, while preparing enterprises for the post-pandemic era. However, these technologies depend on connectivity, and legacy solutions such as wired connections or WiFi are not up to the challenge. 

Wired connectivity is simply too static. Factories need to adapt quickly to meet rapidly changing customer demands. Also, constantly having to reconfigure wires is cumbersome and expensive. Likewise, industrial settings now rely on thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of sensors and other IoT-connected devices; the scale is simply too great for wired connectivity to make sense.

WiFi is an improvement over wires, yet this technology was designed with home and office environments in mind, not sprawling industrial facilities with deeply embedded devices and noisy reflective surfaces for which reliable communication is critical. Connectivity is also not seamless across radios because WiFi systems depend on devices to manage the handoff. Given that a single WiFi radio generally covers up to 5,000 square feet, a large facility will require large numbers of access points. Dropped connections between zones are likely. 

Private LTE and 5G

For industrial applications, a private 4.9G/LTE — the latest and most performant evolution of 4G mobile standard — or 5G solution provides the connectivity required for Industry 4.0. Private wireless is designed to handle high device density, so it’s ideal for facilities with large numbers of connected, embedded devices, especially because LTE and 5G have been engineered to overcome radio interference in noisy environments. 

As for performance, private LTE can provide speeds that are competitive to WiFi, and 5G vastly outperforms it, with latency measured in the single-digit millisecond range.

In addition, they scale well. A single LTE small cell can cover up to 25,000 square feet inside and up to 1 million outside. Covering the same footprint would require 10 to 20 WiFi access points.

Connectivity is also seamless between zones because handoff from one radio to another is performed with centralized coordination for predictable coverage. Moreover, cellular provides better connectivity with a lower total cost of ownership than WiFi.

Security is also a key consideration for enterprise connectivity, and private cellular is intrinsically secure. SIM-based access ensures that only approved devices are allowed to connect, and communications take place via end-to-end encryption.

Finally, global coverage is improved because private wireless technology is based on the same standards as public 4G and 5G mobile networks. As such, when organizations need connectivity beyond the facility to track shipments to customers around the globe, private cellular can easily interact with public cellular and network slices.

Lufthansa Technik and Nokia

Lufthansa Technik, the aircraft services division of the German airline, is a good illustration of the power of private cellular. Just before the pandemic, Lufthansa had deployed Nokia’s private 5G solution for seamless wireless connectivity across its 8,000-square-foot facility with latency about 7 milliseconds. When all travel stopped, Lufthansa was able to test engine parts with customers over a 5G video link, a feat that would have been impossible with WiFi. 5G kept their business alive.

Industry 4.0 shouldn’t be hampered by poor wireless connectivity. With private LTE and 5G connectivity, industrial organizations can accelerate their digital transformation strategies confident that they have a wireless foundation that will support their journey.

Discover how to take advantage of private wireless connectivity. Read more here.

[1] McKinsey & Company, Jan. 15, 2021, “COVID-19: An inflection point for Industry 4.0”,


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