We are asked nearly every day, ‘so what about LTE? Do you have it, how much is it and can we get some?’
I reply, yes we do, but do you know why you are asking for it? Stunned silence, blank look, blink-blink, err… well it’s the latest wireless technology and it does everything!!
I’m being cheeky here. There is an awful lot of hype and excitement about the use of LTE wireless in mining today, and indeed, there are many valid business cases for it but it may not be the answer for everyone and indeed, it may not even be possible where your mine operates or practical for the size of your operation.
LTE for your business.
The short and obscure answer is “It Depends” and as frustrating as we engineering types can be sometimes, there is a process to qualify “If and how LTE” can apply to your business today and probably more importantly into the future.
As the acronym for the technology suggests “Long Term Evolution”, it is a long-term strategy to deliver an evolving Telco grade, standards-based set of wireless technologies with an increasing amount of network capacity to the consumer market.
Wow, that’s incredible! You mean I will get more for nothing out of one technology? I wish, but no, we are not redefining the laws of physics.
Spectrum, budget, expertise – considerations when looking at integrating your applications over an LTE network.
From a technology perspective, this is the first and very important thing a client needs to understand. LTE actually consists of a group of technologies operating in different frequency bands to create capacity. And don’t forget, there are other complementary technologies and have been for a long time, that can even extend that performance beyond what the LTE standard can offer.
The second part to the puzzle is also understanding the “Why”. At a high level, it’s important to understand what applications can be delivered over what part of the LTE technology stack to gain an understanding of why it might be a good idea or if in fact a different technology can perform a given task more effectively. This is often overlooked by businesses.
A working solution at one company may not necessarily match the operational frame work for another. As an example, we have “customer A” that has been able to implement a completely private LTE network and they have budgeted for the additional in-house expertise to run and maintain the system yet down the road we have “customer B” that has an entirely different set of requirements, low budget and few resources with basic to moderate skill set to provide on-site run and maintain services. Oh, and customer A has ownership of the only available spectrum allocation in that region.
It’s also advisable to find a relevant reference site that is operating the same or similar application profile to you. There aren’t that many reference sites out there yet which also reflects the maturity of the solutions and providers in our industry vertical to be able to implement with minimal risk to your business.
Thirdly and sometimes firstly, what spectrum do you have available to you to operate LTE as a private network? It’s possible you may have none available to privately license, you may be able to sublease from the local Telco, or, you may be able to partner with the Telco to provide an integrated service that enables a potential hand off of some applications into the broader public network. Either way, this part of the puzzle requires a particular skill set to uncover what’s actually possible in your region. You need an experienced partner in this domain.
Last but no means least, what are the migration and application integration challenges with implementing this technology at your mine? If you are a completely greenfield site, the task is easier than one that is brownfield where all your applications are running over a completely different network architecture. This part alone can add significant risk to any deployment if not carefully considered in the planning and design phase of the project.
Qualify your business case and rely on expert partners.
Have I confused you? That’s ok, we have a white paper that can confuse you some more, or at least help you consider some of the processes towards understanding if LTE is a solution that applies in part, wholly, in the future, or not at all for your business.
The biggest take away I would like to offer is that it is potentially a very costly path to travel down without first doing the up-front qualification for the business case, feasibility and the budget.
As a partner, 3D-P assists its clients in understanding what technologies and road map strategies make sense for their business.
If you want to know more about what makes sense for your business, contact us.