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How to Pick the Right 4G LTE Technology for Your Business Needs and Applications

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With the shutdown of 2G and 3G networks looming on the horizon, many organizations are faced with the difficult question of “So, what’s next?” The key question to really ask is, “Well, what is the application?” Meaning, what is the current or projected use case and how will it be impacted by the new LTE technology. In addition, ask yourself where are you today and where do you want to be in five years; and most importantly, what business problems are you trying to solve with the new network capabilities?

You’ll soon find there are many items associated with those key business and technology questions that need to be further analyzed:

  • Bandwidth: determine whether you need data transferred in bursts or as a steady feed over time; and decide if you need to transfer only a few bytes or several GB each day.
  • Data Plan: evaluate if data will be needed in real time, or if a several second, minute or hour delay is tolerable, and choose the most economical plan.
  • Connectivity: decide if your organization’s communication requirement is to be localized across a building, plant, or a city – or even across a country or worldwide. Consider whether you must always remain online, and if downtime could put you at the risk of lost revenue, regulatory penalties or safety violations.
  • Environmental: assess whether your equipment will be in a climate-controlled environment or outdoors in harsh, even hazardous settings. Determine if AC power will be available, or if battery or solar power is the only option.
  • What about 5G? Finally, weigh the pros and cons of waiting for 5G. Do you want to take on a bleeding-edge technology in its initial stages, or would you rather rely on a proven leading-edge technology like 4G? Will a bleeding edge technology make your application or its output better? Keep in mind that 4G is also evolving into 5G over time.

Today, we are at a fork in the road. One path can leverage Gigabit LTE for high-speed applications in retail, enterprise or transportation industries that need to connect sites or people with mains-powered, high bandwidth – and higher cost – solutions. The other path can leverage 4G LTE optimized for IoT applications in industrial locations to connect machines and other critical assets that require low bandwidth, low cost, and low- or battery-power as indicated by the chart below.

4G LTE Evolution for IoT

Each 4G LTE technology has its pros and cons, while carriers considering a roll out of LTE-M or NB-IoT as a secondary network only adding to the complexity. Here’s a deeper dive into the technology options for IoT devices:

  • CAT 1: represents a good fit for many single-device IoT applications with mains-power, such as digital signage and kiosks, industrial controllers and security cameras. It is globally available where LTE is accessible.
  • CAT 3/4: with the potential of speeds up to 100-150 Mbps, this technology is designed for IoT routers connecting multiple devices. However, it may be excessive for most single-device IoT applications.
  • CAT-M/LTE-M: fits traditional 2G-type applications, devices that require mobility, such as asset trackers, as well as battery-powered IoT sensors. Defined in 2016, it is not yet fully globally available, but is predominant in North and Latin American and Asian markets with early LTE adoption.
  • NB-IoT: best fit for battery-powered devices that do not require mobility, such as fixed-asset sensors. Also defined in 2016, it is not globally available as this time, but suits markets with late LTE adoption, like Europe.

4G LTE Evolution for Gigabit LTE

Now let’s go down the other path with a look at Gigabit LTE and the 4G evolution to 5G.
The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) is a collaborative group of telecommunications associations that defines the standards to build the foundation of cellular networks, such as LTE.

Since its initial release in 2008, LTE (Long Term Evolution) has evolved, and continues to evolve towards 5G over time. Typically, 3GPP releases a major update of the standard every three years, followed by a minor release. To differentiate between major LTE releases, 3GPP introduced marketing names such as LTE-Advanced and LTE Advanced Pro. Release 13/14 were a key milestone for Gigabit LTE because the speed doubled to 1.2Gbps. Release 15, to be released later in 2018, will be the first standard defining 5G.

Source: Telit


Four Requirements to Achieve Gigabit LTE Speeds

1. More RF channels and carrier aggregation: think multiple highways to transport more vehicles. Gives you better us of the available spectrum, as many carriers don’t have 20 MHz of licensed spectrum per band available.

  • Higher peak data rates
  • More capacity for bursts of usage
Source: Qualcomm

2. Higher-order modulation (HOM) (see Figure #2): think of a bus versus a car to transport more people (i.e., data) per vehicle, where the cellular network and device are constantly adjusting the modulation based on signal conditions. The downside of HOM is that a noisy or weak signal is harder to demodulate, which can result in retransmissions and lower speeds.

  • 16-QAM: 4 bits/symbol
  • 64-QAM: 6 bits/symbol, 25% improvement over QAM-16
  • 256-QAM: 8 bits/symbol, 33% improvement over QAM-64
  • 1024-QAM: 10 bits/symbol, 25% improvement over QAM-256.

3. More MIMO (Multiple Input, Multiple Output) antennas: think multi-lane highway with traffic moving on two directions (using multiple antennas to both transmit and receive data in parallel). Most devices today have two antennas per cellular modem, while Gigabit LTE devices will require four antennas to achieve higher speeds. For many devices, this means moving from direct-attach to cabled antennas.

4. More spectrum: the use of licensed, shared or unlicensed spectrum (3.5GHz/5GHz) for additional bandwidth now includes License Assisted Access (LAA) and Citizens Broadband Radio system (CBRS).

  • Citizens Broadband Radio System (CBRS)
    1. As of April 2015, the FCC authorized shared commercial access of the 3.5GHz band with incumbent military radars and fixed satellite stations
    2. The CBRS spectrum is assigned individually by Spectrum Allocation Server (SAS), 3 priority access levels
  • MulteFire
    1. MulteFire Alliance is a new industry alliance promoting private networks based on LTE technology
    2. MulteFire scales from LTE for IoT to Gigabit LTE
    3. It is not part of any 3GPP standard yet, but is considered for Rel. 16
    4. MulteFire could someday replace Wi-Fi networks

Private LTE networks provide new opportunities for either enterprises to deploy secure communication for increased flexibility and added security, or for the Industrial IoT (IIoT) to build a private network, for example in remote farming or mining sites to run industrial IoT devices and applications.

4G LTE Advanced Pro is here today and paving the way to 5G as outlined above. Though, you will not see Gigabit LTE speeds right away. You can expect speeds above 100 Mbps under good conditions on licensed LTE networks. Even higher speeds will become possible where unlicensed spectrum and infrastructure become available.

Cellular Routers to be Critical for Public Safety Communications

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The National Public Safety Broadband Network is the nation’s first cellular broadband network dedicated to public safety. It will be providing more reliable communication for first responders by enabling better device interoperability across public transportation agencies throughout the United States. This new technology will allow agencies to utilize purpose-built transit cellular routers as a means to improve communications. Continue reading to see why fail-safe interoperable network is critical.

Public Safety Challenge

The public safety challenge is to protect citizens and critical infrastructure so that incidents can be mitigated faster with a more coordinated response. And the role of public transportation is only increasing as cities grow larger and denser, as an urban incident will require coordinated dispatch, and perhaps even evacuation. Traffic systems will also be a key element to incident resolution in order to expedite the arrival of response teams and direct traffic flow around the incident, which may necessitate remote access to onboard or roadside cameras and message boards.

However, commercial networks can crash when overloaded and legacy mobile radio networks are not always compatible, which is why a fail-safe interoperable network is required for emergency group communication, multi-media transmission of video, images and data; plus, reliable location tracking, economies of scale and the ability to interconnect with legacy systems also come into play.

Cellular-based Communication Solutions

The Public Safety Broadband Network is leveraging both existing LTE and advancing 5G international standards for mission critical services over commercial cellular networks. The services are built on new protocols and mechanisms that guarantee priority and preemption for voice, video and data, and will include push-to-talk, group calls and direct mobile-to-mobile. First responder vehicles, traffic control and transit system will now be able to utilize cellular mobile access routers as network gateways that securely bridge local subnets to agency systems. Agencies will need to know how to evaluate routers for ruggedness and security, along with forward compatibility as new public safety applications emerge.

How to Select a Router for First Responder Applications

Is your organization ready to take advantage of mission-critical cellular networking capabilities? Join our Director of Government Business Development, Steve Mazur, and Vice President of Application Engineering of Telit to learn what factors to look for in first responder cellular communication solutions: why speed matters, the role of cellular communications, and how to measure ruggedness and security in cellular devices.

>>See more details and register today.

How to Stay Ahead of the 3G Network Sunset

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Since the first analog systems launched in the 1980s, cellular technology continues to rapidly evolve with another evolutionary step on the horizon as mobile network operators roll out Long-Term Evolution (LTE) networks and phase out legacy 2G and 3G networks. With the 2G/3G network sunset underway, it’s incredibly important for companies to consider an Internet of Things (IoT) strategy based on LTE technology or LTE technology with support for 2G/3G fallback. In order to stay ahead of the 3G network sunset, we must first think about how this will affect us to better prepare for the migration.

What is 3G sunsetting?

3G sunsetting means that a mobile network operator (or carriers) shuts of the cellular infrastructure required to operate communication devices based on 3G (UMTS, HSPA, EVDO) technology.

Why do carriers do this?

In many cases, the migration away from 2G/3G is driven by the desire of mobile network operators to repurpose spectrum for faster and more efficient 4G LTE devices. It is also more cost-effective to operate a LTE network than a 2G or 3G network, because more devices can share the available spectrum. Prior to sunsetting a network, mobile network operators may regionally repurpose spectrum or tune their radio access network. In these cases, your device may lose connectivity ahead of the 3G sunset date.

Do all carriers have the same 3G sunset date?

The short answer is: no. However as cellular technology continues to evolve and consumers continue to demand faster, more reliable, and cost-effective connectivity, carriers in the cellular space plan to migrate to fourth-generation LTE technology to free up available wireless spectrum.

When will 3G be phased out by my carrier?

The 2G/3G turndown is coming! AT&T has already shut down its 2G network, while Verizon has publicly stated, “No new 3G ‘light ups’ after June 2018” – with a complete 3G shutdown by the end of 2019. Other carriers have not made public announcements yet, but may share information under NDA. Lastly, many carriers are preparing their 5G networks, which will also use the same wireless spectrum.

Key Takeaways

  1. Don’t get left behind with 2G/3G – shutdowns are imminent.
  2. Leverage 4G LTE today – from LTE for IoT to Gigabit LTE.
  3. Digi has the right products for your mission-critical applications.
  4. Digi is here to help you!

With so many changes happening and so many choices to consider, from 2G to 3G to 4G LTE and everything between, it makes selecting the right technology for your product challenging. Long-term transition plans and migration strategies are vital for network engineers and administrators to capitalize on the advantages of future networks like 4G, 5G, and LTE.

>>Check out the new Any-G to LTE whitepaper in order to better understand these migration challenges and to prepare for a seamless transition.

Verizon 2G and 3G Sunset Starts

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As you may know, Verizon has now shut down new activations for 2G and 3G and non-VoLTE phone devices as of June 30, 2018. This is a preliminary stage in advance of the Verizon 2G and 3G network shutdown on December 31, 2019. From this date forward, 2G and 3G devices will no longer connect to the network and non-VoLTE LTE phones will not be able to make or receive phone calls.

Fortunately, Digi has a solution to these shutdowns with a family of rugged, purpose-built routers for any industrial application or environment. The Digi TransPort series of 4G LTE routers offers a full range of performance options specifically for these network turn-downs so you can be sure of the right router for the right job. Don’t let your industrial IoT devices fall behind during network shutdowns, turn to Digi for the routers and planning services you need to make your migration to LTE a complete success.

>>Read the Any-G to LTE whitepaper for more details on migrating to 4G, 5G, and beyond

How to Ensure a Successful Migration from 2G and 3G to 4G LTE

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As wireless communication networks continue to rapidly evolve and more carriers announce their plans to discontinue legacy networks, it is imperative that corporate network managers, industrial network operators, and device manufacturers understand the challenges of conducting a 3G to 4G LTE migration . In order to better understand these 4G LTE migration challenges and to prepare for a seamless transition from 3G to 4G LTE networks, you should first answers these four questions:

  1. How many 3G devices are currently active on the field?
    This is an important number to identify and know in order to actually answer the following questions.
  2. What is it going to cost to transition these devices to 4G LTE?
    Migration costs to consider include the cost of hardware, cost of truck roll, manpower hours, and updated carrier plans.
  3. How long will a 2G or 3G to 4G migration take?
    Once the number of devices and migration cost have been identified, you can start to successfully map out the transition timeline based on the carrier’s 4G network introduction plan.
  4. What are my application connectivity needs?
    Lastly, understanding specific needs of existing legacy devices and the needs of highly capable devices today, can maximize your investment, lower design costs and increase higher volume deployments.. A few specification options to consider include battery life, power consumption, data usage, bandwidth, mobility, geographic coverage, etc.

In conclusion, the migration away from legacy networks have already started because device manufactures can no longer rely on 2G or 3G for Internet of Things (IoT) applications. With 2G shutdowns already occurring and 3G network shutdowns on the horizon, long-term transition plans and migration strategies are vital for network engineers and administrators to capitalize on the advantages of 4G, 5G, and LTE.

>>Read the Any-G to LTE whitepaper for more details on migrating to 4G, 5G, and beyond

Preparing for Wireless Design Certification

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Knowledge is power, as they say. When building a wireless product, understanding and preparing for certification requirements can help optimize your design from the beginning so you can pass certifications on the first attempt. This article will cover the key certifications to prepare for as you begin planning your product design.

FCC certifications

Any product to be sold in the U.S. must pass FCC certifications, which include the following:

  • FCC Part 15, subpart B – Unintentional Radiator (EMI): Electronic devices with oscillations greater than 9 kHz that do not deliberately generate radio frequency emissions must comply with FCC Part 15, subpart B emission limits. Today, because devices have much faster clock speeds, this test can be difficult to pass. Faster clocks mean shorter wavelengths; as a result, smaller structures on your PCB can act as an antenna and propagate unwanted emissions. So you really need to minimize this noise in your electronics design.
  • Part 15C, 22, 24, 27 – Intentional Radiator: These tests assess output power and other signal characteristics for products with RF transmitters. Harmonics are the most common cause of test failure, and there are several typical reasons. Here are two common examples:
    Non-linear power amplifiers in the transmitter chain can generate harmonics which are then radiated by the antenna.
    Non-linear PCB components can pick up the fundamental frequency radiated from the antenna and then generate and radiate the harmonics of the fundamental frequency.
  • Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) –This test measures how much the product’s RF transmissions heat human tissue, and is designed to prevent health hazards. If the end product will be used within 20 cm of the human body, you must perform a maximum permissible exposure (MPE) calculation, at a minimum, to determine whether SAR testing is required.

Cellular certifications

Cellular over-the-air (OTA) tests are required for cellular designs with antennas located less than 20 cm from the radio, and are very challenging to pass. Cellular certification testing often includes the following, depending on carrier selection and geographic region:

  • Total Radiated Power (TRP) – Measures total power radiated from the device and is a function of the antenna radiation efficiency, impedance match, and radio output power.
  • Total Isotropic Sensitivity (TIS) – Measures radiated receiver sensitivity integrated over a sphere around the device. It is a function of antenna radiation efficiency, impedance match, and radio receiver sensitivity, but is often limited by noise radiated from host electronics.
  • Relative Sensitivity Intermediate Channel (RSIC) – tests for receiver sensitivity degradation on specific RF channels.
  • Radiated Spurious Emissions (RSE) – evaluates spurious emissions from the cellular transmitter as well as the host electronics

RF Engineering Manager, Kyle Sporre, summarizes PTCRB test requirements, and the regions where they are applicable in the simple whiteboard video session below.

It is very important to understand the design principles that affect certification testing early in your process and to apply best practices. Effectively controlling noise prior to performing radiated cellular tests such as TIS and RSIC can help you achieve the low EMI required to pass certification testing. TIS requires even quieter PCB emissions than FCC certifications, and failures caused by noise coming from the host electronics are common.

Note that products that do not include an antenna within 20 cm of the device are not subject to OTA tests. For example, this includes box products with an antenna port that requires the customer to supply the antenna, or products with cabled antennas that are more than 20 cm from the device. To ensure success, design your product up front with certification requirements in mind. If you need assistance, Digi’s Wireless Design Services (WDS) team can help with your product design, or even correct design issues that can lead to certification failures.

>>Check out additional information on  critical design considerations and the Digi WDS team to get certified today.

Five New Features of the Next Generation of Digi XBee®

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Earlier this week, the Digi XBee Cellular introduced three new variants to the lineup and announced the new features and upgrades of the module platform that combines global connectivity, built-in security, and design flexibility for Internet of Things (IoT) applications:

Digi XBee Cellular

Designed for Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile Cat-1 cellular networks.

Digi XBee Cellular LTE-M

Provide OEMs with a simple way to integrate low-power cellular connectivity into their devices.

Digi XBee Cellular NB-IoT 

Provide OEMs with a simple way to integrate low-power narrow-band cellular connectivity into their devices.

These advanced, smart, cellular modems strengthen the already robust Digi XBee product line and are capable of meeting all wireless needs – from cellular, to Zigbee, to Wi-Fi protocols. The platform offers complete design freedom for cellular IoT connectivity integration from LTE Cat-1 all the way to LTE-M and NB-IoT LPWAN technology.

With the new upgrades and features below, organizations looking to integrate cellular connectivity and the ability to standardize on one module platform with a single hardware footprint across products, regions, applications, and cellular networks for everything from local applications to global solutions – regardless of the complexity level.

  1. Programmability: Local intelligence programmed on the modem itself. Business rules engines and application logic can transform data, control local I/O, connect to Bluetooth sensors, actively manage utilization of the cellular link and optimize cellular data plans.
  2. Full USB Support: Supports wide range of applications, from basic to more complex Linux-based applications/systems; direct USB communication for apps with native control requirements.
  3. Bluetooth® Ready: Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Bluetooth Mesh connectivity. Allows simple and quick local setup, provisioning, and troubleshooting capabilities using modern mobile phones and tablets.
  4. Advanced Manageability Features: Support robust over-the-air (OTA) firmware upgrades, Digi’s easy-to-use RF management and configuration tool Digi XCTU, and remote management through Digi Remote Manager™.
  5. Built-In Security: Hardened with built-in Digi TrustFence™ device security.

>>Find more information about the award winning,  next generation Digi XBee cellular products to get started today.

Four Critical Requirements for Intelligent Water Management

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When managing complex drainage districts, distributed lift stations or a municipal water treatment facility, networking and SCADA engineers are tasked with creating and operating safe, efficient water and wastewater management systems for their local and regional communities. In the challenging world of water management, application operating environments are commonly remote and harsh, which makes using 4G LTE wireless networks ideal for connecting remote assets. Below are four critical requirements to consider when upgrading to new technology and network management tools.

  • Equipment Reliability – How long is the warranty of your communication gear? Pumps, PLCs and RTUs are expected to last for years.
  • Flexible Networking Options – It is typical for municipalities to designate a primary and secondary, backup cellular carrier for SCADA telemetry equipment installed across a wide geographic area. The ideal 4G LTE device will support software-selectable carrier switching.
  • System Security – 4G LTE devices and management tools must support guidelines and requirements for water management systems as defined by the Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) Act in the U.S. and similar legislation in other countries. It should also enable enterprise security features like access-controlled ports, encrypted data storage, authentic boot and firewalls, as well as connections to security equipment such as IP cameras.
  • Remote Management – Once devices are installed and systems are operational, the challenge of operating a network of distributed telemetry equipment begins. Remote configuration, monitoring and troubleshooting tools are essential.

>>Check out our 4G LTE solution for Water/Wastewater Telemetry and SCADA applications.

Contact a Digi expert and get started today! Contact Us
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