From Ship to Shore: What’s in Store for Maritime MulteFire

By Ashish Dayama, Vice Chair, MulteFire Alliance Marketing Working Group and Head of MulteFire, CBRS and TD-LTE Marketing, Nokia

When it comes to international trade, the liner shipping industry accounts for more than 60 percent of the total volume, with container ships making more than 9,000 port calls per week.

This magnitude of traffic flow is compounded with outdated machinery and constrained network infrastructures. As a result, port operators struggle to manage a seamless flow of goods and reduce port traffic and congestion.

The ever-intensifying deployment and operational demands in industrial IoT settings like shipping ports makes it difficult to maintain a robust telecommunications system. For instance, when a ship docks, the crew requires broadband connectivity for their devices to operate. Historically, wireline connections have been utilized; however, they can be easily disconnected and are limited to a certain number of wires and endpoints. Traditional Wi-Fi networks may also be used in machine-dense environments, but signals can be blocked or not propagate far enough, leading to coverage blind spots.

Wireless blind spots often materialize when transporting large containers of cargo on-and-off the ships. This is a significant pitfall in the current network infrastructure for shipyards, as heavy machinery must communicate with one another in a continuous, reliable manner.

Shipping port telecommunications networks can also falter when it comes to mobility and latency. With more and more connected devices, the possibility of service interruption and connection failure has proliferated. The existing wireless networks often compete with one another, thereby causing additional interference and have limited coverage areas, requiring more applications and resources to maintain.

The health of current network systems in shipping ports is in dire straits and requires a new generation of wireless technology, in the form of private LTE networks. Private LTE-based networks, like networks enabled with MulteFire technology, are self-contained and locally controlled, thereby functioning independently of surrounding cellular networks.

How would this benefit ship operators?

By providing a reliable, industrial and integrated wireless network core for production flow, machine automation, wireless IP security and remote monitoring functions, thus streamlining operations from ship-to-shore.

MulteFire is a LTE-based technology operating solely in unlicensed and shared spectrum and offers enhanced performance benefits. It can provide 2x the coverage radius as traditional wireless networks, both indoors and outdoors. It delivers higher performance capacity with fewer access points and is designed to mitigate interference with its Listen-Before-Talk (LBT) feature. MulteFire networks also deliver lower latency, improved mobility, and seamless reliable connectivity.

These key offerings make it an attractive network solution for port operators to consider, as they try to keep up the pace with increasing container traffic. Private LTE networks like MulteFire can be used to manage automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and other remote operations, so that port employees no longer need to be dangerously positioned under the heavy containers. They can also be used to control computer vision applications like optical character recognition (OCR) and provide real-time surveillance and monitoring of port equipment such as cranes and moving trucks.

The market opportunity for private LTE networks like MulteFire in shipping ports is evident, as Harbor Research projects 22.8 million shipments and $2.4 billion in private LTE system revenue by 2023.

To learn more about the potential for MulteFire in shipping ports and other industrial and commercial IoT settings, download the white paper.