Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Does Cellular 3G help your Rockwell PLC Access?

In short - No.

Cellular data systems are continuously being sub-optimized for the unidirectional fire-hose paradigm of web page viewing, media streaming, image viewing, email download and so on. In other words, you only see the 3G "broadband" performance when you have tens of thousands of bytes to shove in one direction.

Actual field tests of RSLogix 5000 downloading to ControlLogix processors show that using 3G is only a few percent faster than standard technology - plus still probably slower than analog dialup. The problem is caused by RSLogix and Ethernet/IP moving thousands of small transactions in a half-duplex manner. So RSLogix downloads the PLC object by object, confirming success after each object is written. With cellular latency, each of these transactions can take up to a second to complete, so multiple 1 second by 3000 to 8000 transactions and you have your PLC download time.

3G apologists will claim "Oh, but latency in 3G is much lower than older, coarser technologies."

That may be, but when the rubber meets the road (aka RSLogix5000 downloads), 3G doesn't perform any better. 3G might have other value, but for most people moving data "faster" just means your data usage and the final bill racks up faster as well.

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