Frequency Option #2 for Building a Private LTE Network in Mining

Mining industry demands wireless networks with high-availability, seamless mobility with world-class Quality of Service (QoS), improved security, and the ability to support multiple applications and services simultaneously. To meet these requirements, a private LTE network is becoming an emerging solution.

To build a private LTE network in the mining sector, the choice of spectrum is more critical and complicated in addition to network equipment and IoT devices.

There are several spectrum options available to private LTE network operation: licensed spectrum or unlicensed frequency bands. See the previous blog for information on licensed spectrum. In this blog, we will discuss unlicensed spectrum.

Unlicensed Bands:

The unlicensed frequency bands in the US region are the 3.5 GHz CBRS spectrum known as the Citizens Broadband Radio Service band and 5 GHz (which MulteFire is designed to do).

The CBRS band in the 3550-3700 MHz (150 MHz) rules are still being finalized by the Federal Communications Commission, but the FCC has set up a three-tiered, spectrum-sharing framework for the band. Incumbents include naval radar systems and some terrestrial and satellite internet providers, and those users will be protected from interference by other users in the band. The other two tiers are an unlicensed portion of the band, dubbed General Authorized Access; and Priority Access Licenses, which entitle the holders to prioritized access over unlicensed users within their geographic license area.

Also, the MulteFire specifications builds on 3GPP standards and is targeted for operation in the global 5 GHz unlicensed spectrum band, which enables the full range of LTE services including voice, high-speed mobile broadband (data), user mobility and security in addition to a broader range of IoT services (industrial IoT and NB-IoT). Nowadays, the Federal Communications Commission has made available portions of the 5 GHz radio spectrum on an unlicensed basis for private LTE networks. More specifically, the UNII-1 (5150-5250 MHz) and UNII-3 (5725-5850 MHz) bands can be used with a specific implementation of LTE networks. These bands are available today, as long as the equipment being deployed has been approved by the FCC for commercial use.

The new rules around the CBRS bands are promising for private LTE networks in that they are more broadly available (not totally controlled by carriers). In addition, the spectrum has many characteristics that make it useful in deploying these networks. Once final rulemaking is completed by the FCC we will have better clarity around what strategies to deploy. In the meantime, equipment manufacturers are already gearing up for the new rules.

It’s important to keep in mind that the CBRS band rules are US centric but the band has implications in other countries as well. Of course, how it is regulated will differ.

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