Wireless Internet technologies have proliferated to almost all corners of the globe, and they continue to evolve toward full mobile broadband capability. In the consumer market, service providers are delivering rich, collaborative, connected experiences to anyone with a smartphone or tablet. In the enterprise market, large companies have adopted new devices and technologies to enable business-changing processes. For example, with the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend, employees can use their own phones or tablets on the company network.
However, some industries have not yet transitioned from legacy voice-only radio communication networks to the rich-media and application-serving networks of today. In these industries, such as public safety and security, maritime, oil and gas, mining, transportation, and defense, the network is a mission-critical asset. They cannot rely on commercial networks to support their own services concurrently to other consumer services. In addition, these industries are facing increasingly complex business problems and new services requirements that can be addressed with applications such as location-based services, video communication, broadband data, and mission-critical voice.
Cisco® Premium Mobile Broadband (PMB) provides a solution to these challenges. PMB helps enable the deployment of a private Long-Term Evolution (LTE) broadband network that services a single customer. A PMB network provides a company with a robust and proven wireless broadband technology, helping to ensure that their mission-critical applications are effectively supported. Moreover, Cisco PMB can be interconnected with commercial networks, which means users can roam onto these networks and have highly secure access to their company’s services while offsite.
Cisco PMB solution takes full advantage of the market-leading solution for mobility and collaboration. Specifically around mobility infrastructure, Cisco has virtualized its carrier-grade evolved packet core (EPC), Cisco Virtualized Packet Core, which provides the same functionality and reliability as that deployed in the world’s largest mobile network operators (MNOs), but which can be deployed on alternative common, off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware in a form factor and scale that is suitable for enterprise use cases. Cisco PMB can be deployed by an enterprise, a systems integrator (SI), or a MNO as a managed service.
This white paper explores how different industries can take advantage of Cisco Premium Mobile Broadband and how SIs and MNOs can deliver PMB services. The paper also provides a high-level overview of the PMB architecture.
PMB in Public Safety and Security
Public safety and security appears to be the first industry to adopt LTE en mass. LTE offers advanced capabilities in terms of service control (for example, advanced quality-of-service (QoS) capabilities, priority, and pre-emption) and is a widely adopted technology.
For example, in 2012 the United States signed into law provisions to fund and govern a nationwide LTE network for first responders. These provisions included LTE spectrum in the 700 MHz (Band 14) as well as US$7 billion in future funds to build the network. FirstNet is the U.S. government entity created to drive the development and management of this public safety broadband network. Several other nations, including Canada and the United Kingdom (Home Office ESCMP program) are taking similar approaches.
The goal of a nationwide public safety LTE network is simple: To provide first responders with broadband data, location-based services, and rich collaboration on a network that can support critical communication. For decades first responders have relied on voice communications with push-to-talk radio systems that rarely provide any additional functions. These systems are based on specific standards (for example, P25 and Tetra), are expensive, and are not keeping pace with technology innovation in the consumer market.
It is not unusual to find a first responder equipped with a land mobile radio (LMR) for critical communications and an LTE- or 3G-enabled device to provide access to data applications while in the field. These two networks have failed to converge due to the perception that consumer wireless networks cannot support critical communication services.
Cisco PMB, designed either as a dedicated LTE network or as a specific infrastructure that can be connected to commercial LTE networks (and also provide more advanced control capabilities), helps a first responder to collapse the critical communication services onto the LTE network. This convergence onto LTE means rich-collaboration technologies, such as video calling or streaming video, can become a channel for critical communications. So, first responders can collaborate and assess emergency situations like never before.
As public safety and security agencies migrate from LMR to LTE, Cisco PMB will support both centralized and distributed architectures with all available LTE features, thus meeting the different deployment models per the network requirements.
PMB in Mining
Mining, in its most salient definition, is the extraction of a commodity resource from the earth. The value of a mining company is measured by many metrics, but the best mining operation is typically defined as the one that can extract a unit of commodity at the lowest operational cost. The lower the operational cost, the higher the margin, and increased capacity to continue operations through volatile market swings. Because of this, mining companies are continually seeking ways to extract savings from their operations. Several large mining operations are now looking toward machine and vehicle automation to provide the next wave of operational efficiency. To help enable this, they have a clear requirement for a high-bandwidth low-latency access technology. As such, Cisco PMB can become the ideal network enabler for such transformation.
Haul trucks, the large three-story dump trucks that operate in many of the world’s open-pit mines, provide one use case of how PMB can increase operational efficiency. Most large mines try to keep operations running continuously 24 hours per day, which means that any machine downtime translates to lost operational capacity. To operate a haul truck continuously requires a staff of multiple drivers and mechanics, plus spare equipment on site to keep the machines moving. Even with the best operational planning, opportunities abound for human error. For example, if a driver is late for his shift, the haul truck remains out of operation. If a driver fails to use a low gear while descending a steep grade, the haul truck will require more frequent maintenance, which translates into higher maintenance costs (and down time). The more opportunities that exist for a human to make a less than optimal decision on breaking, gear selection, acceleration, etc., the higher the operational cost (and down time) for that haul truck. By making the operation of that haul truck autonomous in mining operations, mining companies can better ensure that the truck operates at maximum efficiency.
Applications that help enable vehicle autonomy in mines already exist; however, existing Wi-Fi networks prove to be limiting factor. Wi-Fi typically requires multiple antennas to be distributed throughout the mining pit, and they are typically installed on mobile platforms that move as the earth changes. They also introduce the need for several backhaul connections, which can be disrupted by the constantly changing landscape of a mining operation.
A PMB LTE network has been demonstrated as an enabling technology for vehicle autonomy in mines. The truck holds an LTE-capable router, which connects to the LTE access network for application control and monitoring. Thanks to LTE radio capability, an LTE PMB network can be economically deployed with just a few towers and minimal backhaul, and operated either by the enterprise, a systems integrator, or a mobile service provider. This provides a more stable and reliable network to help ensure that autonomous haul trucks are always connected and operating at full capacity. In addition, PMB provides centralized and dedicated policy and control capabilities, allowing mine operations to effectively prioritize all autonomy control traffic above any other network application.
Mine machine autonomy can increase mining operational efficiency, and PMB helps make it possible.
PMB in Utilities
The utilities industry is expected to use PMB LTE networks in the near future. Utilities may use several different networks for both creation and transmission of electrical power. PMB provides promise as the new wireless standard for power plant coverage including nuclear sites.
Power plants have specific constraints, such as security and environmental standards, which result in very few opportunities to change the infrastructure, including the network, once deployed. Infrastructure changes can be made but these are typically very costly because of the delicate nature of operations. Consequently, if the network technology requires a high number of components (for example, antennas) or changes to the wiring environment, this adds complexity to the deployment, which may result in actual disruption within the plant. Existing infrastructure relies on obsolete technologies (for example, DECT for voice, little or no wireless data, etc.), and there is now a need to upgrade the network infrastructure. The adoption of a technology such as LTE is now being considered to provide new services.
As such, Cisco PMB networks provide an attractive alternative due to the pervasive nature of LTE broadband wireless technology. Instead of cabling large sections of the power plant for network access, LTE can be distributed by small cells inside and outside of the facility. A distributed LTE packet core and associated applications (for example, push-to-talk or video) can be installed locally at the site. Moreover, to serve emergency intervention in case of disaster, the whole solution (small cells, LTE core, and application) can be collapsed as a complete system. The recent events in Fukushima provide a clear example of how such a rapidly deployable network could become extremely valuable.
As utilities continue to explore using networking technology in generation operations, transmission, or machine-to-machine (M2M) applications such as smart metering, LTE emerges as the technology that can consolidate many of these network services. Cisco PMB provides a solution that helps a utility to install a centralized or distributed packet core for these LTE networks.
In the next section this white paper will discuss the architecture that enables an MNO to deliver PMB services.
PMB Architecture Overview
For the PMB solution, Cisco has taken a holistic approach covering the end-to-end architecture including mobile customer premises equipment (CPEs), access, transport, core, and the application layer. The solution brings a high level of versatility and supports different deployment models, ranging from the centralized to the distributed to the tactical an ”all-in-one” configuration.
Cisco PMB takes full advantage of our broad portfolio of technologies and products yet is designed for wide adaptability and flexibility. As an example, the Cisco LTE core software widely deployed in the largest mobile service provider network on dedicated hardware platform can also be deployed within a virtualized environment on different hardware such as the Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) server family (including the Cisco UCS-E module, which can be slotted into a Cisco branch router). This allows adjusting the scale and performance to actual deployments needs. The whole architecture is fully validated and supported by Cisco Advanced Services.
Figure 1 provides a high-level view of Cisco PMB solution architecture.
Figure 1. Cisco Premium Mobile Broadband Solution
In more details, the architecture consists of the following layers:
1. Terminal/CPE layer: This layer includes a variety of fixed and modular mobile CPEs, such as Cisco integrated services routers (ISRs) and embedded services routers (ESRs) and routers coupled with LTE client capability. The architecture also supports legacy terminals on different access technologies.
2. Radio access layer: For radio access, we use our indoor and outdoor Small Cell portfolio supporting licensed LTE or Wi-Fi as an option. For base station form factors that are not supported by Cisco (for example, Macro), we work with technology partners and integrate them as part of the solution validation.
3. Transport/backhaul layer: The access and core transport network is entirely supported with Cisco products based on Unified MPLS Mobile Transport (UMMT) or an ad-hoc transport design. In addition, Cisco mobile solutions have been validated using satellite backhaul.
4. Mobile core and control layer: As mentioned, to provide the required flexibility, Cisco carrier-grade EPC software can be virtualized and deployed on server-based hardware including Cisco UCS. Moreover, it is possible to combine multiple core elements on a single platform. For example, all LTE EPC functions can be collapsed on a single node. Tactical deployments are possible with EPC deployed on a portable UCS-E blade slotted into a Cisco ISR branch router. Cisco EPC can provide high reliability in all deployment models.
The control elements include the user profile repository (for example, HSS) and the policy server. For these, we use our Cisco Policy Suite for Service Providers and also partner with technology providers.
5. Application layer: The proposed architecture is an all-IP architecture that can support any service. These services can be deployed as over-the-top applications (that is, not specifically requiring integration with the mobile infrastructure) or with network integrated applications (that is, through Policy and Charging Rules Function (PCRF) or IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) as per Voice over Long-Term Evolution (VoLTE) architecture). Cisco applications include Cisco Unified Communications, which provides a full suite of collaboration services, and Cisco IP Interoperability and Collaboration System (IPICS) push-to-talk application and interworking with critical voice services (for example, P25).
If needed, such as for situations when users are not always on site or for industries looking to take advantage of existing service providers’ networks, Cisco PMB can be interconnected with commercial networks so users can roam onto these networks. Different models can be supported, starting with a simple overlay network using VPN technologies (that is, the user connects to a commercial network and establishes a VPN to its company network), to the more complex mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) model where the enterprise has a direct contract with the service provider and terminates the LTE sessions from its users on their controlled mobile core network. The latter architecture is depicted in Figure 2.
Figure 2. Cisco PMB Solution Interconnected with MNO
The key benefits of Cisco PMB architecture are:
● Flexible deployment options:
◦ Support for centralized, distributed, and all-in-one deployments with same capabilities in all deployment models
◦ Virtualized support for a number of components (e.g. Virtualized Packet Core)
◦ Possibility to support multiple radio access technologies (LTE, 3G, and Wi-Fi)
● Key LTE capabilities:
◦ Standard LTE capabilities, including QoS control, pre-emption, mobility, and roaming
◦ Integrated intelligent traffic steering functions (using Deep Packet Inspection [DPI]) for full and flexible control of routing decisions based on various set of criteria
◦ Advanced failover scenarios supporting critical services
◦ Comprehensive security solution of mobile core network and network architecture together
◦ Backhaul integration including satellite
● Rich CPE and application support:
◦ Advanced CPE application support using Cisco Software-Defined Networking (SDN) and Cisco Open Network Environment Platform Kit (OnePK) capabilities
◦ Management and metrology
◦ VoLTE support for traditional voice and unified collaboration (through Hosted Collaboration Suite [HCS])
◦ Critical systems interworking using Cisco IPICS
PMB Delivery by Systems Integrators or as a Service Provider Managed Service
Cisco PMB can be deployed by an enterprise, a systems integrator (SI), or by a mobile network operator (MNO) as a managed service.
Because LTE is deployed on licensed spectrum, it is important to note the possible dependency on the MNO in case the enterprise (or the partner SI) does not have access to LTE spectrum.
In many industries, the mobile communications network and services are designed, built, and in some cases operated by an SI. For example, SIs are responsible for many of TETRA and P25 radio systems that currently exist within the public safety and security industry today. Looking forward, as enterprises move from LMR technologies to LTE, SIs will play a key role in this technology transition for enterprises already benefiting from their services.
In some regions the SI may need to collaborate with the local MNO to provide the Radio Access Network (RAN). In these situations the SI may take the form of an MVNO for that specific enterprise.
In some regions, MNOs are now considering becoming the primary provider for such LTE-based critical communication. This is because they have licenses for the required spectrum (some MNOs may be looking at part of their spectrum (for example, LTE TDD) and dedicate it to such industry) and because they have existing LTE deployments and experience operating these networks. Moreover, the MNO may choose to deploy dedicated infrastructure for the enterprise to serve their specific needs.
The model that is selected will depend on the enterprise requirements as well as regional spectrum and network constraints. For example, in some regions it may be possible for the enterprise to obtain dedicated spectrum from the local regulatory authority, while in other regions it may be more feasible to use the same spectrum that is used for consumer wireless services. In either case, the enterprise traffic is separated from consumer traffic and routed through a packet core that is dedicated to that enterprise. This allows the MNO to deliver a service-level agreement (SLA) that meets the demanding requirements of a critical communication network.
As the consumer market continues to find new uses for rich collaboration, video, and data over wireless broadband networks, many industries will continue to realize the limitations that exist with their legacy LMR systems. LTE is the technology that can provide the same network services, but it has typically been in the domain of consumer wireless carriers. With the advent of the virtualized packet core and Premium Mobile Broadband, an industry can now deploy private, localized PMB networks for their critical communications or applications that can also integrate with commercial service provider networks.