Nokia, Qualcomm and GE demo private LTE network for the industrial Internet of Things

Nokia, Qualcomm and GE Digital said they’ve successfully demonstrated a private LTE network aimed at the industrial IoT market.

The trio is targeting industrial companies that operate businesses in remote locations or temporary sites where connectivity can be difficult to access. The standalone LTE network uses LTE-TDD in the 3.5 GHz shared spectrum band, also known as Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS).

The companies said they will continue their research and plan to conduct live field trials throughout the year in an effort to “advance the digitization of industrial processes.” Qualcomm will provide the wireless technology and chipsets, and Nokia will provide its base station infrastructure and automated cloud service to operate an on-demand private network. GE will integrate those offerings into an open-architecture system designed for industrial IoT uses.

The network also leverages MulteFire, a form of LTE deployment in unlicensed bands that was initiated by Qualcomm and Nokia and is being driven by the MulteFire Alliance. The consortium last month announced the completion of its Release 1.0 specification, which defines how LTE operates in unlicensed and shared spectrum.

“Industries such as factories, warehouses, container ports and airports are increasingly dependent on wireless connectivity to efficiently operate as they continue to utilize more wireless data and connect countless IoT devices to their networks,” said Michael Wallace of Qualcomm’s Emerging Business division in a press release. “With this collaboration, we are providing companies in the Industrial IoT space the ability to leverage the core advantages of LTE including full mobility, high data rates and coverage, predictable latency, quality of service and ease of deployment.”

The three tech companies hope to help industrial businesses to own and manage their own LTE network, providing 4G performance and laying the foundation for 5G without requiring licensed spectrum. Private LTE also allows users to customize a dedicated LTE network for specific applications such as optimizing for capacity.

While many analysts continue to harbor doubts about the potential size of the IoT—particularly in the short term—industrial use cases appear to be particularly well-suited for the kind of low-power, low-data applications likely to drive the IoT. Roughly 8.4 billion connected gadgets will be in use worldwide this year, according to a new forecast from Gartner, up 31% from last year, and 12 billion more devices will come online by 2020 as spending on IoT devices approaches $3 trillion.

Qualcomm, Nokia and GE plan to showcase their technology at Mobile World Congress next week in Barcelona.