Why LTE 450 is the enabler of critical, long-range communications

The benefits of LTE 450

A key differentiator of the 450MHz band is its long range which delivers significantly increased coverage. Most commercial LTE bands are situated somewhere upwards of 1GHz, with 5G networks reaching as far as 39GHz. High frequencies deliver higher data rates thus larger pieces of spectrum are allocated to those bands, but these come at the cost of rapid signal attenuation, which requires dense base station networks. The 450MHz band sits at the other end of the spectrum. A country the size of The Netherlands, for example, might require thousands of base stations to achieve full geographical coverage of commercial LTE but the increased range of 450MHz signals would only require a few hundred base stations to achieve the same coverage.

Deployment status

The 400MHz range has been utilized for many years in public and private networks, predominantly in Europe. For example, in Germany CDMA has been used while, in the Nordics, Brazil and Indonesia, LTE has been used. The authorities in Germany have recently awarded the 450MHz spectrum to the energy sector. Increasingly, legislation is making remote control of critical energy network elements mandatory. In Germany alone, millions of network elements are waiting to be connected and 450MHz spectrum is perfectly suited for this. Other countries are about to follow, deploying even more rapidly. After a long time in the shadows, the 450MHz frequency range is now becoming the backbone to control and manage critical infrastructure such as transformers, transport nodes, and also smart meter gateways for supervision. 450MHz networks are built as private networks protected by firewalls to the outside world and this, by their nature, secures them from cyber attacks. As the 450MHz spectrum is assigned to private operators, it will mainly serve the needs of the critical infrastructure operators such as utilities and distribution network owners. The main uses here will be made by all kinds of routers and gateways to connect the network elements, as well as by smart meter gateways for critical measuring points. The highest priority for stakeholders in the energy sector is to identify suitable end devices to start the test phase for all kinds of applications that use LTE 450. The focus here is on stable technology from reliable suppliers. Aspects such as the radio performance are of most interest as well as cybersecurity for the new devices.

Critical communications

Critical communications are a growing market that is increasingly mandated by law as nations battle to improve their environmental footprints, secure their energy supplies and protect the safety of their citizens. Authorities need to be able to manage critical infrastructure, emergency responders need to co-ordinate their activities and power utilities need to be able to control the electricity grid. In addition, growth in smart city applications requires resilient networks to support large numbers of important applications. These are no longer just about emergency response, critical communications networks are routine, continuously utilized infrastructure and this needs the attributes of LTE 450 in terms of low power demand, comprehensive coverage and the throughput of LTE that supports audio and video streaming. The capability of LTE 450 is well understood in Europe where the energy industry has successfully won privileged access to the 450MHz frequency band for low power wide area (LPWA) LTE communication in 3GPP Release 16 using voice communication, standard LTE, and LTE-M and NB-IoT.

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