What is a wireless private network?
A wireless private network, or concisely a "private network" (also referred to as a "non-public" network) uses dedicated wireless equipment that is designed to meet the unique wireless communication requirements of an organization. It is typically deployed on the organization's premises.
The private network can provide dedicated resources to allow for flexibility and control of the data, services, policies and security of the network. The private network is customized to address the needs of the organization to enable a wide range of services and technologies.
Dedicated equipment in a private network
The dedicated wireless equipment comprises of base stations and/or access points along with the user devices. The wireless equipment is connected to network servers or routers that manage the users of the network, perform network monitoring and provide connectivity to the internet as needed.
How private networks are used
Private networks can operate indoors, outdoors or both. They can be set up to operate as local networks (e.g., campuses, ports) or wide area networks that could span municipalities, regions or nationwide (e.g., transportation and asset tracking).
Private network applications
Manufacturing, mining, ports and warehouses
Private networks can be used to leverage new and innovative technologies to improve operational efficiency. For example, a private network can be used to track assets for real-time inventory management and to control automated vehicles and/or robots in the organization's facilities.
Private networks can enable precision agriculture with a combination of sensors to measure crop conditions, automated and GPS guided farm equipment, and other technologies relying on wireless connectivity. This can result in higher farming revenues and better-quality produce.
Utilities, railways, transport companies
The transportation sector can use wide area private networks to improve operational efficiency. Private networks can support asset tracking and infrastructure security, as well as for remote control of their equipment.
Smart cities and towns can use private networks to make their services more accessible and efficient for residents living and working in their communities. Private networks will enable communities to monitor traffic flows to reduce traffic congestion, and monitor environmental conditions to reduce pollution.
Private networks can be used to ensure reliable wireless access wherever needed, such as in hospitals for performing robot aided surgeries, and in entertainment venues for providing spectators with a high quality multimedia experience. Private networks can also be used to provide mission critical use and safety of life communications, particularly in remote areas.
How can businesses benefit from the use of Private networks?
A private network is often custom designed to provide secure and reliable communications to cater to the specific needs of a business. Reasons why businesses use private networks to operate their wireless network include:
- Network performance: to fine-tune the network to meet stringent operating requirements to serve specific needs, such as delivery of HD videos to spectators in a sports venue, or quick responses in robot aided manufacturing
- Network coverage: to effectively tailor high quality service to meet the organization's specific requirements
- Network reliability: to ensure a highly reliable wireless connection for their automated operations
- Access control: to control access to usage, such as allowing access only to employees and business devices or a subset of them and to control access to data in the system for the required level of security and privacy
- Ease of management and integration: the management and integration of the private network into the organization's IT systems can be made seamless. Further expansion of the network or modifications can be efficiently done in-house to work with the organization's IT system evolution.
Use-cases for private networks for business
Many organizations such as warehouses, manufacturing, mining and agriculture, are introducing sophisticated applications to process the high volumes of data gathered by technologies such as sensors and cameras to automate their business operations.
- Mining companies are increasing automation across their operations by using industrial Internet of Things (IoT) technologies for remote monitoring of their sites as well as for control and predictive maintenance of their equipment.
- Very reliable wireless connectivity is required to automate drilling and transport equipment, sensors and cameras for remote monitoring, as well as for rugged user devices such as tablets or phones operating in challenging environments, in remote areas as well as underground.
- With a private network, mining companies can customize the wireless network to ensure robust and reliable connectivity to support their smart mining operations both underground and in remote sites.
- Farming operations are seeing substantial benefits with the use of new IoT and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies to improve their farming processes, including weed control, crop growth, and harvesting.
- Traditional and generic approaches for spraying of farmland for removing weeds, area wide irrigation or fertilization, and waste reduction in harvesting, are imprecise and could result in damage to crops and harvests. Precision farming uses an array of agricultural specific sensors, combined with computer vision and AI technologies, to target weed control and spare the crop, as well as to monitor and adapt temperature, humidity, and nutrients to the needs of the growing crop. In addition, these technologies monitor and analyze the harvest as it is gathered, allowing for making real-time changes to the harvesting equipment to reduce waste.
- A private network on a farm can be customized to precisely monitor crop growth and harvesting environments to improve time-to-market and increase revenues.
Warehouses and manufacturing
- Manufacturing and warehousing operations are targeting more agile and efficient operations to enable them to deliver products on demand to their customers at a quicker time-to-market, lower maintenance cost and with improved profit margins for their business.
- In large manufacturing and warehouse facilities, a private network can be used to eliminate coverage dead zones, and provide seamless coverage and reliable connectivity to a range of IoT applications, including automated guided vehicles, robotic production and product picking, as well as product or inventory tracking technologies, including handheld devices.
- A private network can minimize implementation delays in introducing custom IoT devices that are targeted specifically for manufacturing and/or warehousing use since business will have more control on how IoT devices connect to their network.
Spectrum for private networks
What spectrum is available to operate wireless private networks?
What is spectrum?
Spectrum refers to the radio frequency waves along which wireless signals travel through the air. Spectrum is a scarce and valuable public resource.
Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) has the overall responsibility to manage the radio frequency spectrum. Spectrum is divided into different bands of frequencies that are managed by ISED to accommodate different wireless services. ISED encourages its efficient and optimal use through policies and standards which ensure that all Canadian consumers, commercial organizations and public institutions have access to the latest wireless telecommunications services at affordable prices.
Spectrum is needed to operate wireless equipment used for private networks. In choosing the spectrum for the private network that best suits their needs, businesses should consider the area to be covered, the service requirements of the network, as well as cost and availability of the radio equipment. Private networks can operate on licence-exempt spectrum and/or licensed spectrum.
The available spectrum is generally divided into three regions with loosely defined frequency boundaries.
Low-band, mid-band and high-band spectrum
Low-band spectrum is useful for private networks requiring wireless coverage over large areas. A low-band radio signal travels distances of 10 km or more, depending on the associated technical rules, the propagation conditions and the power level at which the equipment operates. Radio signals in this spectrum can penetrate buildings and walls to provide indoor coverage from outdoor networks. Due to the limited availability of spectrum in low bands, private networks support lower speeds (typically between tens of megabits per second to a few hundred of megabits per second) when compared to mid-band and high-band spectrum. However, the larger area coverage capability makes low band spectrum ideal for wide area Internet of Things (IoT) applications such as tracking of transport vehicles and the tracking of assets in mining operations.
Mid-band spectrum will provide coverage over smaller areas (typically less than 10 km), but networks using mid band spectrum provide greater speeds (up to gigabits per second (Gbps)) when compared to low band spectrum, as there is more mid-band spectrum compared to low band spectrum. This spectrum is therefore well suited for high-speed applications in arenas and warehouse facilities. This type of spectrum is in high demand for 5G applications, such as in smart manufacturing and smart communities.
High-band spectrum is ideal for private networks requiring very high speeds as more spectrum is available in high bands. The high-band radio signal travels very short distances (a few hundred meters) and does not penetrate into buildings. High-band spectrum is suitable for shorter range applications demanding higher speed and reliability, such as high resolution video content, virtual reality and augmented reality, for example, in entertainment venues.
Licence-exempt spectrum (LE) has no cost associated with its use, is available to all users and is typically available everywhere. Licence-exempt spectrum does not require organizations to apply for a spectrum licence with ISED. ISED sets technical rules on LE devices such that there is minimal interference caused by each user and there is no protection from interference from other users in the band. The popular Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and other technologies are designed to operate effectively in the LE bands. LE spectrum is widely used by many businesses including rural internet providers to serve small communities, as well as to support fleet management and asset tracking (telematics) in the transport sector.
While LE spectrum is free to use, there are other factors to consider in deciding whether to use LE spectrum. The equipment used in LE bands (e.g., Wi-Fi devices) is relatively less expensive than equipment for use in licensed bands. However, a private network using LE spectrum would be sharing the band with other LE users at the same time, which could result in congestion and may affect the overall quality of service of the network. These factors should be taken into consideration when considering the use of LE spectrum in the deployment of private networks.
Licence-exempt spectrum options available for use by private networks
- TV White Space bands (TVWS): TVWS technology, operating in low-band spectrum, is currently being used to provide broadband connections to underserved communities with small to medium population densities. TVWS technology can also be used for private networks. Organizations that would like to explore this technology can reach out to TVWS database administrators designated to operate in Canada and/or to equipment vendors by searching under the description "white space" in the Radio Equipment List (REL).
- 902-928 MHz: The 900 MHz licence-exempt band has long been extensively used for proprietary telematics devices. The band is still in use by these devices and by new technologies (such as LoraWAN and SigFox) to provide wide area IoT services such as connecting school buses to the school board IT networks or supporting utilities and railway networks.
- 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands: Aside from extensive residential use as well as retail and other consumer facing commercial use with Wi-Fi technology, the Canadian industry sectors also use the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz licence-exempt bands to operate their private networks using Wi-Fi technology to serve their organizational needs. Wi-Fi equipment operates in this band and is the most commonly used technology.
- 6 GHz band: Wi-Fi services have been extended to the 6 GHz band as well. ISED has permitted shared-LE use in the band, allowing for three classes of devices.
- Low-power devices for indoor use are permitted over 1200 MHz of the band from 5925-7125 MHz.
- Standard-power devices with Automated Frequency Coordination (AFC) for indoor and outdoor use over 950 MHz of the band from 5925-6875 MHz will also be permitted once ISED designates the AFC systems to operate in Canada.
- Very low-power devices for indoor and outdoor use over 1200 MHz of the band from 5925-7125 MHz will also be permitted.
Licensed spectrum is dedicated spectrum that may be used for the operation of the private network. There is often a cost (a licence fee) associated with the use of licensed spectrum. The licensing cost depends on a number of factors such as the spectrum band, the type of licence, the number of devices on the private network and/or the area of intended use.
Licensed spectrum is typically protected from harmful interference from other services and applications. Therefore, a private network using dedicated licensed spectrum would have a good quality of service of the network. A business may be willing to invest in a dedicated licensed spectrum for its private network, particularly if its services and applications rely on the high quality of the network. The equipment used for operating in licensed spectrum bands is typically compliant with commercial wireless equipment standards (e.g., LTE and 5G). It is usually more expensive than licence-exempt equipment.
ISED recognizes that companies in some sectors may prefer to obtain access to dedicated licensed spectrum in local areas where they have their operations.
Licensed spectrum options available for use by private networks
Access to spectrum in existing commercial mobile licensed bands:
The most common licensed spectrum used for private networks is the spectrum that is licensed for commercial mobile use, with 4G LTE and 5G technologies. There are a few options for a business to get access to licensed spectrum in bands for commercial mobile use:
- Through subordination: directly from telecommunication service providers holding the licence to operate in a specific spectrum band
- An organization wishing to obtain access to licensed spectrum for a private network at its desired location can explore the option of subordination from an existing licence holder (e.g., one of the Canadian wireless operators holding a licence to the spectrum).
- A subordinate licence is a derivative of a primary spectrum licence. It is based on an agreement between the primary licensee and another party that the other party will use the spectrum covered by the primary licence, either in whole or in part (by geography, frequency and/or time). Spectrum licence subordinations require the approval of the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, and the subordinate licence depends on the primary licensee's meeting the conditions of licence and all other applicable regulatory requirements. More detailed information about spectrum licence subordination is set out in section 5.6.3 ("Subordinate Licensing") of ISED's client procedures circular CPC-2-1-23 — Licensing Procedure for Spectrum Licences for Terrestrial Services.
- Requests to subordinate spectrum in commercial mobile bands, specifically, are subject to ISED's review of the request against the factors set out in the Spectrum Licence Transfer Framework, which is incorporated into CPC-2-1-23 at section 5.6.4 ("Commercial Mobile Spectrum"). ISED's review seeks to ensure that spectrum subordinations support the government's policy objective "to maximize the economic and social benefits that Canadians derive from the use of the radio frequency spectrum resource, including the efficiency and competitiveness of the Canadian telecommunications industry, and the availability and quality of services to consumers."
- Parties wanting to enter into a subordinate agreement have to apply to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry for approval.
- Subordination is allowed in certain bands where ISED allows a spectrum licence to be subordinated in whole or in part (either in geographic area and/or in bandwidth) to a third party, subject to rules and procedures outlining the conditions stated on the license and subject to approval by ISED. Typical uses of subordinated spectrum for private networks include supporting operations in a mine.
- To obtain spectrum through subordination, please contact the licensees that hold spectrum in the area in which you wish to operate. Information regarding spectrum holdings is available through the online Radiocommunication Licensing Services – Spectrum Management System.
- For more information on subordinations in general, or to submit an application to subordinate a licence, please contact email@example.com.
- Through spectrum access licensing: from ISED
- In an ongoing consultation, ISED is proposing to make unused commercial mobile spectrum in certain bands available for use in rural and remote locations, through its spectrum access licensing initiative. When ISED makes such spectrum available, spectrum access licensing can include use by private networks. This spectrum licensing mechanism may be attractive to industries such as mining and transportation.
- ISED is proposing the following initial bands for spectrum access licensing through a spectrum license:
- Following the publication of a decision and the associated technical rules by ISED, organizations could consider obtaining a spectrum access licence from ISED.
- As part of this consultation, ISED is also proposing the following land mobile radio band for spectrum access licensing through a site-specific radio license:
- 900 MHz LMR band (897.5-900.5 MHz and 936.5-939.5 MHz)
- For this band, ISED has introduced an interim licensing procedure to enable access to unused spectrum and support the deployment of private broadband networks in remote areas of Canada. For details about the Interim Procedure for Private Broadband Networks (IPPBN), please contact the nearest ISED district office.
- Through subordination: directly from telecommunication service providers holding the licence to operate in a specific spectrum band
Access to spectrum in other bands: from ISED
In an ongoing consultation, ISED is earmarking mid band and high band spectrum for use in private networks. Manufacturing, mining, precision agriculture and smart communities could leverage this spectrum for operating their private networks. ISED is proposing the following bands:
- 3900-3980 MHz: 3900-3980 MHz mid-band spectrum.
- Mm wave bands: up to 1 GHz of spectrum in the following mm wave bands:
- 26.5-26.7GHz (26 GHz)
- 28.3-28.35 GHz (28 GHz)
- 37.6-38.4 GHz.
- Following the publication of a decision and the associated technical rules by ISED, organizations could consider obtaining a spectrum licence from ISED.