24 April 2020
Can mobile broadband really provide a competitive service when compared with fixed line solutions? In this article we explore the key improvements of mobile broadband and the reasons why cutting the wire and going mobile may be the solution for your business.
We all remember the feeling when we first went to school, we were probably dropped off at the gate by our parents and suddenly we were all on your own in an unfamiliar environment. The feeling of detachment, sudden responsibility and perhaps a fair amount of anxiousness came over us. It was unsettling but with it also brought curiosity, the realisation that there were new possibilities and experiences, even the feeling of freedom. That’s what a lot of businesses think it would be like when opting to go mobile for their primary, and often only business communications links. Perhaps you are wondering how a mobile connection could be fast, secure and reliable?
Well maybe that was true of previous mobile network connections. The ubiquitous mobile speed and reliability isn’t always as good as advertised and wired aDSL connections provide affordable reasonably fast connections to the Internet and private cloud networks, but they come with their own challenges for the Construction Industry.
Often construction sites are created on virgin land not connected to the local Exchange, the Telco’s can demand high connection charges and often a long service contract. And then there is the thorny issue of when you want the service to be live as often these services come with lengthy lead times for brand new locations. It’s not uncommon to have to dig up the road just to get a new site connected, it all seems just a bit excessive to get online.
Far too often compromises are made, and the site just doesn’t benefit from technologies that improve safety and efficiency such as Wi-Fi 6, IoT, 5G and many others. But fear not, the days of digging up roads just to get connected may be gone. New technologies are making fast, reliable mobile networking a viable alternative – so why not cut that wire? Detach your business from the limitations of the older wired networks and welcome in a new age.
With advancements in 4G networking such as 4G+ LTE and the very latest 5G mobile networking, businesses can realistically run on high speed reliable mobile connectivity.
It’s worth highlighting that although 5G is the latest standard for high-speed mobile networking, the improvements in speeds have been delivered through a continual process of evolution, 4G LTE being an obvious example. 5G has become a key construction site technology that is set to really impact the industry and enable the use of smart technologies on site.
Firstly, before we explain what 5G is and why it’s different let’s compare the recent mobile network performance metrics to see how things have evolved. Note 1G is omitted as it utilised analogue radio signals rather than the more familiar digital signals from 2G onwards.
|Technology||Typical Speed (source)|
|2G||0.1mbps and below|
|3G||up to 8mbs|
|4G+ LTE||60 – 90mbps|
As you can see there’s a significant jump in speeds with 4G+ LTE and 5G, this is the crossover where mobile solutions start to be more attractive than comparably priced wired solutions and with 5G the speeds are significantly higher again. 4G+ LTE is available where the network has been upgraded to cope with the faster speeds. This illustrates clearly the shift in availability and speeds using cell technology compared to traditional fixed line. The availability of faster mobile connections is an evolution and we are truly past the point where fast and reliable connections have to be delivered over fixed lines.
Throughout the evolution of mobile networks, the efficiency and use of spectrum (the frequencies used in the communication) has improved on each iteration. 5G utilises a vast increase in range over 4G which in turn utilised a wider spectrum to 3G before it and so on. But 5G also leverages technologies that are truly clever in the way they keep devices online. Whereas 4G used a floodlight type approach with lots of wastage, 5G uses techniques that track the device around a cell. This should make the experience less problematic and connectivity more stable. It can even support fast moving objects truly supporting autonomous vehicles and high-speed connectivity in trains.
The big difference with 5G over earlier networks is that it has much less latency – the time it takes for individual packets of data to be sent across the network, meaning response times and the user experience is better than on 4G. Sure the browsing experience of a user on a smartphone will improve but it wasn’t too bad with 4G, but the real improvement will come with low latency connections and the use of automation, real time sensor telemetry, self-driving vehicles, safety solutions, alarms and so on that really require fast responses and cloud connectivity. With estimates of latency around 5ms across the network even the most demanding applications will be able to perform well.
There are other important improvements with 5G such as the density that it can cope with. Where 4G networks can only cope with about 4,000 devices in one km2 the latest 5G network can support up to 1 million – that’s 250 times the density of 4G! This is particularly important for supporting the explosion of IoT devices that we are seeing being rolled out today.
Another difference with 5G networks is that it doesn’t need high powered transmitters and expensive dedicated towers, they are often just mounted on rooftops and lamp posts. This means the rollout will be easier and cheaper although it will require more small cells compared to the less macro cells used in the 4G network. This ultimately means the rollout will be faster than for the 4G network and the more demand there is, the more economical it makes it and the harder the Telco’s will work to drive that deployment.
Usability ultimately comes down to coverage. 5G networks are being rolled out across the country but the focus just now is in urban areas where more users and better backhaul networks already exist. This is the same as previous network rollouts and its worth checking regularly to see what areas are being upgraded. Get in touch with one of advisors today to see if there is coverage in your area.
5G networks enable devices to connect using far less energy than those on 4G networks. The base stations themselves can go into a sleep mode when there are no active users and the aim of the design is to increase battery life of connected devices. A smartphone for example, on a typical day on 4G will last about 24 hours, the aim of 5G is to extend that to 3 days. This is possible because the 5G network is less “chatty” and therefore the device doesn’t need to call home as often just to stay connected, for example when not being used at night.
The days of spotty mobile coverage are almost gone! 4G brought us fast reliable connections that rivalled traditional fixed line connections, with 4G+ LTE and 5G the speeds increased again so that wired connections other than expensive dedicated fibre simply couldn’t keep up.
With the right coverage more businesses will be able to get online with fast connections in days rather than weeks, they will be able to move connections easily from site to site and won’t end up be paying for services they don’t need.
And the other advantage of mobile, cell-based technology?
It’s actually mobile! Meaning high speed connectivity across metropolitan areas can be achieved easily thus expanding your site in ways that even Wi-Fi 6 or LoraWAN can’t match, supporting connectivity that are crucial to Smart City projects being just one example. So cut that wire, disconnect from the Exchange and embrace high speed networking without the ties and commitment you used to have.
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