Key considerations when choosing narrowband vs cellular
In today’s cellular-focused world, many larger utilities may be considering a move towards a cellular-based network to support their grid connectivity. While cost and availability may be the main deciding factors, there are other aspects which deserve consideration when making a choice between a traditional narrowband network and public cellular. Here are our suggestions for what else to explore when choosing between narrowband vs cellular.
Maintaining full control – while it can be enticing to imagine a network entirely managed by outside staff (thereby lightening the load on your human resource cost and requirements), never underestimate the benefits brought by maintaining full control of your own network. Being about to schedule repairs and maintenance (and manage any required downtime) to suit your utility’s requirements is a major advantage. Furthermore, should there be a communications outage, you aren’t waiting for the telco to send a team to sort the problem when they have technicians available. If the outage occurs due to a severe weather event or natural disaster, others may sit higher on the food chain and your network may remain offline longer than you’d like.
Durability – cellular networks are all about evolution to suit the needs of their largest market – typically the end consumer. Generation evolution (3G to 4G to 5G) is designed to bring new features to an ever-hungry consumer market. However, if your utility communications network was rolled out under one generation, how does the upgrade to a new generation impact interoperability? For the cellular company, the decision to shift away from an older technology will be made to suit THEIR needs, not the utility’s.
The predictability of CAPEX – from a cashflow perspective, an OPEX model can feel more palatable than fronting up the capital to roll out your own network. CAPEX, however, is predictable whereas prices can rise significantly under an OPEX model and you may have little leverage to prevent budget blowouts. See leased lines as an example of how something which was once cheap and ubiquitous became significantly more expensive over time. Signing a multi-year contract to roll out your own network will bring a level of predictability around your costs. Furthermore, deploying a network with fixed costs will help you to determine your return on investment period.
Security – many of our utility customers are focused on ensuring their grid communications network is off the internet – and for good reason. Having a radio network which connects only to the utility’s network and NOT to public cellular provides an additional level of security to protect their mission critical infrastructure.