Private LTE is an attractive target for OnGo, as new business opportunities and vertical use-cases open up in industrial IoT and in-building wireless. New low-cost LTE equipment and new spectrum options will enable new business opportunities that have been difficult to exploit in the past. OnGo can benefit both enterprises and operators. Private LTE networks can provide reliable connectivity and seamless mobility for general wireless communication and industrial IoT applications — achieving levels of performance that Wi-Fi has been unable to meet. In addition, private networks can potentially relieve a growing problem of inadequate mobile connectivity services indoors due to poor coverage or insufficient capacity—so the operators can benefit as well. OnGo can “franchise” the benefits of LTE in more places where operators may not find good business return but where enterprises see greater need and opportunities.
For industrial IoT applications, Private LTE can provide effective local area wireless networking for enterprises seeking more reliable and predictable wireless connectivity compared to Wi-Fi. For factory automation, for example, having a secure and dedicated wireless network is paramount. Highly optimized “just-in-time” industrial operations and supply-chain can ill-afford unreliable connectivity links where a few seconds of downtime can translate into millions of dollars in productivity loss. For outdoor mining or transport operations, seamless mobility is crucial as well for which LTE is more well-suited. The OnGo ecosystem of suppliers are converging to provide solutions ranging from Core, Edge cloud, and RAN to stand up private local networks dedicated for critical, performance-driven industrial IoT requirements.
While industrial IoT applications may drive OnGo in dedicated private LTE deployments, those Private LTE networks can also be extended to meet the growing demand for mobile traffic handling, especially indoors, where LTE coverage is needed most. Many commercial buildings use modern materials like metalized glasses, which are good for energy-saving but bad for cellular signal propagation. While the need at major public venues like sports stadiums and airports are addressed with indoor mobile coverage solutions like Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS), other buildings like multi-tenant office buildings, hotels, etc. are unfortunately left behind – hoping that outside macro tower can provide sufficient coverage indoors. The owners of such buildings have been impatiently waiting for a solution for many years. With so many different areas vying for limited capital expenditure dollars, these indoor projects simply don’t make the cut when the mobile operators are focused only on major venues and buildings. Private LTE networks, deployed by enterprises or neutral host providers, can expand the reach of LTE deeper into more places than the operators can do on their own.
To make OnGo in-building wireless successful, enterprise “private” LTE networks must be “extended” to work with operators’ “public” networks. In other words, “private” LTE core networks must work seamlessly with the operators’ core networks such that operators’ subscribers can roam onto private LTE networks and still access operator services as if a subscriber device is still on its operator’s network. To provide identification of “private” networks, a shared Home Network Identifier (HNI) has been identified by ATIS and CBRS Alliance for CBRS/OnGo use cases. This is a great idea. To reap the benefits, the operators will need to cooperate in authentication and policy control. In addition, the operators must pre-provision shared HNI as part of their device SIM credentials, so that the device is “aware” that it can roam onto private or neutral host OnGo network to access mobile services.
Expanding LTE coverage into more places is becoming vital for enterprises and operators alike, as overall demand for mobile connectivity is unabated. Industrial IoT applications running on Private LTE are providing near-term opportunities, as the mobile industry expands market opportunities beyond mobile broadband into massive and critical industrial IoT applications. OnGo can address many new applications today with LTE on shared CBRS spectrum, handling both IoT and broadband access. If the operators choose to cooperate, private LTE can expand mobile broadband coverage in more indoor places as well, and everybody wins.
About Kyung Mun
Kyung Mun is a Senior Analyst at Mobile Experts LLC, a network of market and technology experts that analyze mobile communications market. Over the course of his 20+ years in wireless and cable industries in a dynamic range of roles from engineering to product management and technology strategy, he has contributed to the advancement of mobile communication, while working at leading companies in the mobile value chain including Motorola, Texas Instruments, Alcatel-Lucent, and a few startups in between. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin and Georgia Tech, and an MBA from Southern Methodist University.
This article originally ran on the website of the CBRS Alliance.