The constant search for gains in productivity has led agribusiness to become one of the sectors most open to innovations. According to Embrapa, integrating field data into corporate systems allows companies to better target investments and decision making from rural producers, among other advantages, thereby increasing the efficiency of operations and land management practices.
Brazil plays an important role in global agribusiness, as well as in the developing new technologies used in this sector. However, a new challenge has arose in the use of applications that employ data collected by systems installed in machines and equipment: a lack of connectivity in the field.
An alternative that is capable of overcoming this challenge is Long Term Evolution (LTE) radio technology, which has revolutionized several processes by expanding connectivity in agribusiness. Recognized and standardized under 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project), 4G LTE communication was developed to meet the demand for increased bandwidth and quality of service. The main requirements for this new access network include a high degree of spectral efficiency and data rates, a short transmission time, and flexibility in terms of frequency and bandwidth.
Under resolution 555/2010, Anatel (Brazil’s National Telecommunications Agency) approved the use of LTE communication channels in the 250 MHz frequency range as part of Limited Private Service (SLP). This frequency range (which ranges from 225 MHz to 270 MHz), allows communication and mobility solutions to be deployed using a link of up to 15 Mbps for download and low latency (approximately 30 milliseconds).
The use of a lower frequency in radio communication increases range and the area of coverage. As a result, less investment in infrastructure and the number of base stations is required. A 700 MHz public 4G LTE network, for example, requires up to twice the amount of investment in terms of the infrastructure, towers and equipment needed to cover the same area when compared to a 250 MHz LTE network.
The LTE communication network consists of three main elements: signal receivers (user equipment – UEs), base stations (eNodeBs) and a data and communication controller (EPC – Evolved Packet Core). Applications of this technology in agribusiness include support for connections in machinery, pump rooms, common areas, agricultural implements, among others. The data collected by the user’s equipment is sent to base stations and processed by the controller. These data are subsequently available to be sent over the Internet.
Farmers are able to receive these data in a simplified manner through means of multi-service platforms in the form of dashboards, graphs, reports and alarms. This combination of communication, sensors, security, and data processing opens up an entire new universe in terms of the technological used in agribusiness.
The use of features such as new triple-play data transmission has allowed a radio solution to be developed that is capable of supporting the primary demands of agribusiness, with coverage and speeds appropriate for each application. Using a frequency of 250 MHz, the network is able to offer widespread coverage through devices located up to 100 kilometers away from the base station, with a capacity to support up to 10,000 registered terminals, including 100 in simultaneous communication in each cell (base radio).
Additionally, the possibility of choosing a radio base station with data controller and embedded communication facilitates and speeds up network installation and start-up, thereby reducing the need to install a more complex data center at the industrial area or company. It is important that an online information configuration and control platform be adopted in order to monitor field data and information. This allows employees with Internet access to monitor data related to planting, harvests, irrigation, among other vital information. It is also essential that this data control offer simple configuration in order to allow installers to implement startup of the technology in the field.
The combination of these three factors – data capture and transmission via LTE radio, use of the 250 MHz band and a multi-service platform – has the potential to bring about a technological revolution in agribusiness, which will drastically transform and improve production processes.