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This content was paid for by Nokia Private Wireless and produced in partnership with the Financial Times Commercial department.

Beating the virus with private wireless

Networks have been one of the unsung heroes of the pandemic, keeping us informed, entertained and productive. Our medical professionals and front-line workers have been rightly celebrated for their heroics, but the essential task of following stay-at-home orders wouldn’t have been possible for many without a good wireless connection. But in many industrial settings, getting a reliable Wi-Fi connection can be challenging. For these businesses, 4.9G/LTE and 5G private wireless is proving essential during the pandemic and beyond. 

For Lufthansa Technik, it had long been its goal to improve the wireless connectivity of its operations, but they didn’t anticipate just how important it would be when they deployed two trial 5G networks at their operations in Hamburg, Germany, in January 2020 — just before the pandemic hit.

The private wireless networks were installed in two hangars where Lufthansa Technik consults on engine maintenance and performs refits to the cabins of its clients’ aircraft. Normally, those clients are keen to oversee the work in person. But when COVID-19 hit, that was no longer possible. 

Here’s where the brand new 5G networks came to the rescue. Using the 3.7–3.8 GHz band, which Germany has set aside for private wireless use by industry, Lufthansa Technik’s brand new private wireless networks were able to communicate the work to the clients remotely. They could use high-definition video to help the clients see with precision the repairs that were being done via remote inspection.

If doing video over Wi-Fi doesn’t sound that impressive, these weren’t your typical Zoom calls. There was a very good reason why the IT team at Lufthansa Technik had spent several years trying to source a 5G solution. Quite simply, Wi-Fi wasn’t working for them. Their airplane hangars were too big and had too many metal surfaces causing radio interference, which degraded the Wi-Fi signal. 5G enabled them to have several highly reliable, high-quality (8K), real-time video streams.

5G also helped to reduce the communications delays or latency that can bedevil automated machinery, which requires there to be an almost instantaneous response to sensor data. Lufthansa Technik’s implementation of 5G standalone (SA) is still early in the development of the standard, which promises, when completed in the 2022-23 timeframe, to deliver latencies of less than one millisecond (ms). 

 

The multi-year search for a private 5G wireless solution led the IT operations team to Nokia, who are providing the 5G network for Lufthansa Technik. According to Fai Lam, Head of Transportation Marketing at Nokia, the demand for private 4G/LTE and 5G wireless networks is taking off, having hit a tipping point in 2020. 

“The pandemic is accelerating the move to Industry 4.0 automation. Private wireless is the ideal technology for so many industrial use cases that need reliable high bandwidth, low latency and mobile connectivity,” says Lam. He adds that Nokia, which is widely considered the industry leader, has more than doubled its private wireless customers in the last year with deployments in advanced manufacturing, ports, airports, railways, logistics and power utilities, to name a few.

Private wireless is the ideal technology for so many industrial use cases that need reliable high bandwidth, low latency and mobile connectivity

For Lufthansa Technik, the Nokia 5G network couldn’t have come at a better time. The response from the users of the system was that they had never had such a stable, crystal-clear feed before. What started out as a trial with the goal of perhaps doing as many as 50 percent of inspections, quickly became essential to keeping the business alive as they have been performing all inspections remotely since last March.

Nokia is the industry leader in providing industrial-grade private wireless solutions to its customers worldwide. For more information on what private wireless can do for your business, visit Nokia’s Private Wireless Platform.

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