Expert opinions, TECHNOLOGY

Private LTE networks and digitalization of industry in Russia: important steps towards the future

The leaders of the Russian industry are increasingly deploying private wireless LTE networks every year, which leads to an average annual growth of the Russian Private LTE network market by 20%. 9 out of 10 managers consider this digitalization tool necessary in the current conditions of increased cyber risks – both for effective management of production processes and for the security of corporate communications.

A private LTE network (pLTE) is a closed and isolated digital environment that operates within a sole company and does not allow external interference. It is the restriction of access to such a network that forms its high level of security and reliability, which looks like one of the key advantages of the technology compared to public networks. The facilities of the enterprise’s IT infrastructure are combined into one information circuit according to the same principles as in public networks of the LTE standard, but isolated from the public network infrastructure.

In addition to greater security, the technology provides stable and high data transfer rates even under difficult operating conditions. Industrial facilities that need to be covered within a single digital landscape of an enterprise are often located in hard-to-reach locations for transmitting the signal of public cellular networks. Examples include mines, quarries, oil storage facilities and other facilities whose location is characterized by complex terrain. Private dedicated LTE networks are resistant to interference, and the user can be sure that the production cycle will not stop due to an unexpected failure in the public network.

In the context of the general digitalization of enterprises, it is very important that the pLTE network becomes the system basis for further improving the company’s digital environment. Tools such as remote control of industrial equipment, dispatching of transport, transport and personnel positioning systems, robotic solutions, video monitoring, machine vision, virtual and augmented reality technologies, and so on can be integrated on the foundation of the LTE standard. The digital environment based on the pLTE network supports industrial Internet of Things technology, as well as provides flexible options for scaling various communication standards – NB-IoT, MCPTT, etc. A feature of projects introducing private wireless networks is the serious potential for expanding functionality and personalized settings for user requests. For example, in large enterprises, the creation of a pLTE network can serve as a preparatory stage for the transition to the 5G standard.

Due to the above advantages, private LTE technologies spread in various segments of the Russian industry. In recent years, large-scale projects have been implemented in the energy, mining and metallurgy, mechanical engineering and transport sectors. Among them are Norilsk Nickel, Gazprom Neft, Polymetal and the Yakutsk Fuel and Energy Company. In the mining industry, we note a project on the territory of the open pit of the Lebedinsky mining and processing plant in the Belgorod region. In turn, KAMAZ acted as a pioneer in mechanical engineering.

At the moment, it is the mining industry that is most actively introducing pLTE networks. It accounts for 30% of the total number of such projects in Russia. The top three are supplemented by transport (18%, the leading share is occupied by Russian Railways projects) and petrochemicals (15%).

The further development of such solutions and the introduction of pLTE networks at industrial facilities is in the sphere of interests of many IT developers and companies in the telecommunications segment. According to the forecast announced in the strategy for the development of the communications industry of the Russian Federation for the period up to 2035, by 2025, 81% users of mobile networks will give preference to LTE networks. Obviously, the growing market will attract new players. But it is worth taking into account the peculiarities of Russian legislation in the field of communications, which limits the use of the frequency spectrum for commercial purposes. In addition, most radio frequency bands are already distributed among various telecom operators and government organizations, making the development of a private LTE network a complex process.

At the same time, the wide possibilities of automating business processes using pLTE networks, combined with their security and stable functioning in difficult operating conditions, predetermine prospects for the growth of popularity of such solutions. In addition to the production sector, they will scale in the transport industry, in the field of “smart cities”, logistics, health care and the military-industrial complex.

By Evgeny Mosin, Technical Director of SATEL

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