By Outi Niemi, Secretary for the MulteFire Alliance

I recently returned from Rome, where I attended the MulteFire Alliance’s sixth Open Day event. Co-hosted by Athonet and Enel, the MulteFire Open Day featured keynote presentations and a panel discussion that highlighted end use cases and an update on when we should expect to see MulteFire deployed.

Why Italy?

While I always enjoy any trip to Italy, you might wonder why we chose Rome for our Open Day. Karim El Malki, CEO of Alliance member company Athonet – headquartered in Trieste, Italy – shared why his company was keen to host this important event. Italy is a leader in the Industrial 4.0 revolution and is aiming to lead in 5G trials in vertical markets – making Italy a country that is ripe for MulteFire deployments. Karim detailed examples where Athonet has already deployed private LTE networks at the Milan World Expo and at Enel’s power plants. MulteFire is the right next step to meet these vertical market needs for flexible spectrum usage, low latency and high throughput, all locally controlled.

MulteFire Use Cases – Perspective from Enel

We were also excited to have Giuseppe Serrecchia, head of digital strategy, global ICT at Enel, share his thoughts on use cases where Enel would deploy MulteFire and why it offers performance advantages over Wi-Fi. As a company, Enel is making significant investments in its digital strategy as they transform their IT infrastructure and move to the Cloud, with the goal to build their services on top of this new infrastructure. Telecommunications and wireless connectivity are key to enabling this transformation as “without connectivity, you don’t digitalize a company; it’s about reaching anything and everyone.”

Giuseppe went into detail on how the company has studied MulteFire and how it offers the capabilities that they care about – high throughput, ultra-low latency, seamless experience, managed security, and Wi-Fi-like deployment ease. Some of the biggest opportunities to deploy MulteFire include power plants (including solar) and sustainability use cases to provide communications to areas hit by disasters. It was exciting to see a potential end user of MulteFire share why they’re ready to deploy the technology, and I encourage you to download the presentation here.

Panelists Share Details on Roadmap to Deployment

Stephan Litjens, MulteFire Alliance Board Chair and vice president of Innovation Steering for Nokia, shared during his opening keynote that MulteFire is now in labs with products planned to deploy in 2018. This was seconded in the discussion amongst the MulteFire panelists – Nanda Menon, Athonet; Rao Yallapragada, Intel; Samuele Machi, Nokia; and Neville Meijers, Qualcomm.

  • IoT will be first. When asked which application will deploy MulteFire first, Neville Meijers stated that he believed that industrial IoT environments are going to see early traction. Qualcomm is already in trials with private LTE at the moment. The areas of focus include shipping ports, airports, mines, and oil & gas refineries. Using MulteFire will be the next step for these trial applications.
  • Enterprises need MulteFire. Rao Yallapragada shared how Enterprise networks today have several pain points – for both wireline and wireless. Wireline networks have costly set-ups, are difficult to configure and almost impossible to re-configure, and don’t provide any mobility or outdoor coverage. Wi-Fi comes with its own limitations for reliability and security. MulteFire overcomes these pain points. It’s easy to configure and cost-effective due to reduced number of access points that need to be installed (in comparison to Wi-Fi). It comes with reliability and security baked in (of particular importance in healthcare applications). And it provides all the benefits of LTE – including voice – to provide campus-wide connectivity.
  • MulteFire will power the Industrial 4.0 Revolution. Nanda Menon pointed out that while the 4.0 revolution is out to change the world, it can’t succeed without very reliable connectivity. Industrial 4.0 will require very high SLAs that can’t be supported by Wi-Fi or macro networks. A completely new network is needed that meets the 1) laws of physics, 2) laws of economics, and 3) laws of the land. MulteFire is the right network solution as it meets these laws’ requirements.
  • A Robust Ecosystem for MulteFire. As companies begin to prep for MulteFire deployments in 2018, Samuele Machi detailed how the Alliance is supporting commercialization efforts through development of a certification program to ensure a robust and interoperable ecosystem of devices. The Alliance already includes members from the entire supply chain needed to bring MulteFire to market, including chip makers, infrastructure vendors, device manufacturers, small cell & Wi-Fi vendors, service providers, and test & measurement vendors. Meijers added that while the ecosystem is developing, the biggest hurdle isn’t the technology, but is defining the business agreements that will support MulteFire deployments.
  • The Road to 5G. Looking ahead, the Alliance will develop 5G MulteFire based on 3GPP NR standards and continue its focus on commercialization efforts. The panelists agreed that 5G – beyond enhanced mobile broadband – is being driven by the vertical market use cases – and MulteFire is the right solution for many of these verticals.

The combination of Italian hospitality and tradition of wireless innovation and MulteFire made for a great event! The MulteFire Alliance will next venture to The Hague for Wi-Fi NOW, October 31-November 2, where Stephan Litjens will present on MulteFire and we’ll be showcasing technology demonstrations. I hope to see you at our future MulteFire events!