Solving the Wind Power Connectivity Challenge: The Case of LTE and 5G Cellular

Peak flow

The third advantage of the LTE and 5G standards is throughput. Maximum LTE speeds can reach 2 Gbps, as demonstrated by Ericsson in February 2018, in cooperation with Ericsson’s customer supplier Telstra, chipset maker Qualcomm and device maker Netgear. By comparison, the best 5G download speeds have been demonstrated at nearly 6 Gbps, using the millimeter wave (mmW) spectrum. The millimeter wave spectrum is a spectrum above 6 GHz. For US frequencies, this generally corresponds to spectrum in the 24 Ghz, 28 Ghz and 39 Ghz bands.

The 5G technology specification was designed specifically to take advantage of this class of spectrum and the abundance of channels and channel spacing in this range. The 5G standard is expected to eventually reach peak download speeds of 10 Gbps and upload speeds of 20 Gbps with future advances in the 5G 3GPP specification. By reducing the time it takes to download, transport and upload data, these data rates can offer significant time and cost savings to corporations and businesses.

Some industrial applications might require these high speeds. For example, wirelessly, wind farms often manually transfer large amounts of data to a USB flash drive or storage device from point to point, an inefficient and expensive method. In offshore environments, this data must be transported by ship and ferry, requiring complicated planning and logistical expense. The high throughput capability of LTE and 5G would allow real-time data transfer at little additional cost.

Now let’s compare that to Wi-Fi. A Wi-Fi 5 system tops out at 3.5 Gbps. Wi-Fi 6 should reach a theoretical value of around 10 Gbps, which would be similar to the peak speeds of 5G. The Wi-Fi spectrum, however, is very public and ubiquitous, with significant risk of interference from other nearby Wi-Fi systems and users. With LTE and 5G, private cellular network system devices within a wind farm, such as smartphones, IoT sensors, cameras, drones, and gateways, do not necessarily share 4G or 5G spectrum with nearby systems and their respective users. They are not confronted with the possibilities of encroachment from other nearby networks.

A wind farm with private cell-based LTE and 5G networks would most likely use licensed or lightly licensed spectrum, such as Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), and would therefore be better protected than it is. would be with Wi-Fi spectrum. For terrestrial deployments of private cellular networks on old and new wind farms, CBRS could be an excellent choice to achieve peak speeds of over 100 Mbps in the downlink. Additionally, LTE already works on CBRS, with many private networks already deployed for a few years. Ericsson is helping test 5G over CBRS with some of its customers and the technology will be available soon.

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