The private LTE/5G infrastructure and device market grew over 7 percent last year, despite the uncertainty brought on by the pandemic, according to a new report from Mobile Experts. Joe Madden, company founder and principal analyst, said it was a portent for the future.
“We’re really jazzed up about the private LTE and 5G market because things are starting to change fast,” he said, “and we’ve just jacked up our forecasts because we’re seeing good things happening.”
The Mobile Experts forecast said that private LTE/5G infrastructure and devices will significantly increase their share of the overall private wireless market, growing from 11 percent in 2020 to 25 percent in 2026. The total private LTE/5G market opportunity, including services, will be more than $45 billion over the next six years, according to the report.
Mobile Experts looked at several industries in its report – oil & gas, utilities, manufacturing, transportation, government/public sector and mining – and how private networks are evolving to provide them with new capabilities to enhance productivity and safety.
“We have enterprises that are learning how to deploy private networks because they’re interested in automating some of their operations,” Madden said. “We have a lot of companies that want to use something like augmented-reality inspections, so that people can be more remote. It also allows them to do more of their work in factories from safer locations. So, we are seeing a lot of this kind of automation being accelerated in the market right now.”
Mobile Experts has observed active engagements from key suppliers of private LTE/5G. Mobile network operators and cloud players are bringing pre-packaged and custom Core/RAN/Transport solutions for varying needs across different industries.
“Virtualization is encouraging new players to enter the market and innovate – all that to say, we are seeing the momentum building and we expect this market to begin a strong and lengthy growth phase,” Madden said.
One of the biggest obstacles to the adoption of private LTE/5G has been the dependence upon Wi-Fi and the use of wired systems and a reticence to change. Additionally, spectrum was allocated for private broadband networks.
“So I think that’s just inertia is the single thing that’s held them back the most; plus they could only get a sliver of spectrum from 500 kilohertz to a megahertz wide,” Madden said, “but that began changing quickly when broadband spectrum was made available for these kinds of applications in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service.”
The need for security is another motivating reason behind private LTE/5G, according to Madden. Wi-Fi is not perceived by enterprises as being as secure as LTE or 5G, which have control and user point separation (CUPS). If there’s a camera analyzing welding joints for quality control at automotive chassis facility, the HD video is stored on-premise and never exposed to a hacker.
“With GSM 3G and early LTE, we had no separation of the control plane and user plane, which meant that the data had to be routed through the public cellular network,” Madden said. “One of the things that have changed in the last few years is that now we have control and user plane separation, so that the user plane data never leaves the company facility. That gives the enterprise a better feeling about the security of their data and the control over their own future.”
The Mobile Experts report separates business models into three areas: enterprise-direct, hybrid and private wireless-as-a-service. In enterprise-direct, the company directly buys its own equipment, whether or not it owns or subleases the spectrum. On the other extreme, the private wireless-as-a service uses a managed service provider, such as a mobile network operator using a slice of its network or even a neutral-host operator.
“We are going to have options where, for example, the enterprise might buy the spectrum or even buy their own equipment, but then they might want to use a cloud service for their core network, instead of buying their own software and running it on a server,” Madden said. “So, using the in-between option, you can own some elements and then offload some elements where it’s scalable and easy to do.”
Right now, enterprise-direct is the dominant business model used by railroads, utilities and others for supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) and internet of things (IoT) purposes. But over the next five years, the managed service provider model will grow at a rapid pace, according to Madden.
“We’re seeing a lot of enterprises realizing that deploying private LTE and private 5G is harder to do than they thought. It is not easy like Wi-Fi,” he said. “So private wireless-as-a-service, something offered by an operator, is coming on strong. We do see that growing and becoming a sizeable fraction of the market over the next five years.”
Communication Technology Services, a provider of in-building and campus wireless solutions, has acquired ClearSky Technologies, based out of Orlando, Florida.
ClearSky offers managed services that enable the planning, deploying, and managing of wireless communications and was an early entrant into the private wireless network space with a number of deployments in industries such as warehousing and hospitality.
The acquisition provides Communication Technology Services with foundation of network solutions and expertise that is critical to the deployment of private LTE and 5G networks.
In addition, ClearSky’s Forte product provides a ability to accelerate the integration of DAS deployments into carrier networks.
“ClearSky’s managed services portfolio coupled with CTS’ national scale and long history of engineering, designing, constructing and servicing in-building wireless networks positions us to provide a valuable and inclusive suite of services to the private wireless network marketplace,” said CTS CEO John Tegan, III.
The wireless industry is seeing two significant shifts – the need for greater indoor cellular coverage for mission critical applications and the ability for enterprises to deploy their own private LTE and 5G networks. ClearSky’s unique managed service solutions coupled with CTS’ world class wireless network design and construction capabilities makes it possible for CTS to bring both public and private wireless services into any building in the U.S.
“The ClearSky team is very excited to join the CTS family. Combining ClearSky’s product offerings with CTS’ nationwide footprint and deployment expertise will give us a massive competitive advantage in the emerging private wireless network markets,” said ClearSky Chief Executive Officer Mike Roudi. Mike will join the CTS management team and lead its managed services business.
To keep up with the latest digital trends, workplaces are implementing private LTE and industrial IoT networks to help enhance performance and productivity while ensuring minimal human intervention, which will drive the private LTE market to $13 billion by 2026, according to a recent study from market research firm Global Market Insights.
The demand for private LTE market is anticipated to grow at an incremental rate based of increasing adoption of connected devices that require a reliable and secure communication network, the study said. Rapid urbanization and industrialization are driving the need for advanced communication technologies that are capable of handling smart logistics and manufacturing.
Rising number of investments and developmental activities conducted by federal governments to promote the idea of smart cities could massively benefit the business outlook for private LTE providers over the predicted timeframe. However, high deployment costs pertaining to network upgrades could pose as one of the major dampening factors for this private LTE market.
The mining sector is steadily shifting towards remote applications and autonomous technologies to perform crucial tasks. Autonomous or remotely controlled equipment functioning through private networks could help mine owners to minimize human fatalities and accidents. Back in 2017, the mining industry saw nearly 17 fatalities that could be avoided by remote-controlled instruments.
The mining sector is one of the important aspects of the global economy and is integral to the infrastructure development of the nation. Mining corporations use digital solutions to adapt to the fluctuating demand, address the rising safety & environmental concerns, and control the operational costs. These solutions help introduce new levels of agility and automation to the mining facilities. It is speculated that the mining sector could spend nearly $2.9 billion on private networking by 2022.
In October 2020, Canada-based telecommunications company, Shaw Communications, established a partnership with Nokia for the placement of Canada’s first industrial grade Private LTE market network for Teck Resources’ mining systems. Labelled RACE21, the program is developed to transform the ways of mining by the company by harnessing innovation and technology. Besides, the network is also likely to offer larger connectivity and coverage at Teck’s Elkview Operations in British Columbia.
Rising adoption of smart connected systems across numerous industry verticals like transportation, urban planning, and manufacturing could enhance the deployment of private LTE networks across North America. The region controlled a major portion of the market share in 2019 and is predicted to maintain this trend by 2026.
Local agencies are also gaining interest in expanding their private LTE network. Citing an instance, Nokia along with Omega Wireless is working on launching 600 MHz private LTE network project that will support numerous critical applications for the New York Power Authority. The program intends to test the value of Nokia’s industrial-grade private LTE solution on Omega’s Band 71 spectrum.
Key Companies covered in private LTE market are AT&T, Boingo, Casa Systems, Cisco, Druid Software, Ericsson, Future Technologies, General Dynamics, Huawei, Motorola, NetNumber, Nokia, PDV Wireless, Qualcomm, Rivada Networks, Ruckus Networks, Samsung, Sierra, SpiderCloud Wireless, Tait, Verizon, and ZTE.
Source: Global Market Insights
One of the great things about emerging technologies is that they often give a boost to existing, or previous generations of technologies unless they supersede them.
Private networks are one of the verticals that is beginning to get legs. It seems that the technologies that are enabling 5G are also infusing into 4G. I recently discussed private LTE and where it is going. This missive continues that discussion on to 5G and the advantages of private 5G over private 4G. It focuses on one of the use cases that is deploying 5G.
5G technologies, such as bandwidth manipulation, improved latency, new frequencies, etc., are creating opportunities in the private network space.
One early and promising vertical is manufacturing. While there are any number of sub-verticals in manufacturing, the global manufacturing platform is going to benefit significantly from the expanded metrics of 5G. However, it has its own infrastructure, commonly referred to as the Industrial Internet of things (IIoT).
Emerging technologies and developments in technology have given the IIoT a boost, and it promises to be one of the rising stars of 5G. As the IIoT gains traction it will be integrating the next iteration of Industry “X”.0 – 4.0. This integration promises to bump up the manufacturing sector by another order of magnitude.
IIoT and Industry 4.0
However, before I go into how private 5G will play in this ecosystem, perhaps a quick paragraph on the IIoT and industry 4.0 is warranted.
First of all, they are not joined at the hip as some suggest. The IIoT is the grittier end of the IoT (or the Internet of Everything/Everyone – IoX as I like to call it). It is, predominantly, the M2M-based manufacturing sector of the IoX.
By implementing industry 4.0 metrics (analytics, automation, lean approaches, virtualization, AI, machine learning, etc.) the IIoT is expected to add 10 to 25 percent in manufacturing efficiency – even better as IoX technologies mature. Basically, by integrating Industry 4.0 principles, techniques and operating methodologies, tomorrow’s factories will be “intelligent.”
Why private and why 5G wireless?
The answer to why private is relatively straightforward. There are two main reasons. The first is because private networks can use both licensed and unlicensed spectrum. Having the option of using licensed spectrum gives the client much more control over network metrics (who uses it, footprint, spectrum, wireless technologies, privacy, etc.). Being able to use unlicensed spectrum offers a cost savings option.
The second is security. Private networks have the ability to be secured in a way that public networks cannot. In a nutshell, private networks have the ability to be fully controlled by the client, using whatever security scheme they wish.
The answer to why 5G is also relatively straightforward. Most significant is the availability of both existing and new spectrum, and bandwidth manipulation within such spectrum. 5G offers the private client the option of acquiring 10s to 100s of megahertz of contiguous spectrum in the mmWave bands. This is crucial for two reasons; the number of devices and the speed of the network. If the manufacturing campus is extensive, sub-6 MHz spectrum offers an extended coverage area if necessary.
In addition, combining both mmWave and sub-6 GHz networks offers flexibility unheard of in earlier private networks. This works because 5G networks can integrate Industry 4.0 platforms such as virtualization, self-organizing/healing networks and automated software control of the hardware (both digital and analog).
An avant-garde example of this concept is being developed by Mercedes-Benz. Not only is this going to be on the cutting edge of the IIoT, but it will be one of the first use cases of a private 5G network. They are building a state-of-the-art automobile production plant in Sindelfingen, Germany. It is going to use 5G, and local Wi-Fi networks, to automate much of the M2M-connections, and the related systems across a 20,000 square meter facility.
Critical to Mercedes-Benz is security – primarily keeping data in and keeping hackers out. The entire 5G network is secured. That transmits sensitive production data within the organization without passing through any third parties.
Next is the ability of 5G to offer low latency. A private 5G network can offer amazing latency numbers because they have smaller footprints, and devices can be chosen with that as a design criterion. Software can be chosen and optimized for latency, as well.
Finally, it is about the data. Large scale manufacturing facilities, integrating AI, will generate huge volumes of data. Such voluminous amounts of data can only be handled by plenty of bandwidth. 5G can provide that.
The private scenario is attractive to such operations because it allows full control of the network by the client. This creates the ability to optimize processes, making them more precise, flexible and efficient. It also allows the client to customize functionality. For example, linking product tracking data to the assembly line. This can help improve the efficiency and precision of the processes.
Mercedes-Benz is not the only one finding private networks attractive. Recently, Audi announced it will set up a 5G network trial with Ericsson (who is involved with Mercedes-Benz).
Going forward, I have discussed that early use cases for 5G will fall along such lines rather than enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB). Not only manufacturing, but segments like agriculture, infrastructure, utilities, transportation, and the like are all early verticals for 5G. This is where the proving ground is showing up. And, it will also be the place where RoI is likely to first appear.
Carolina West Wireless has signed a multi-year network modernization deal with Ericsson to use the Ericsson Fast VoLTE Launch, which will allow Wi-Fi calling and future 5G access, as well as VoLTE. The agreement also includes network densification, expansion and upgrade to 3GPP standards-based 5G New Radio (NR) hardware and software capabilities.
Slayton Stewart, CEO of Carolina West Wireless, said the contract helps the carrier today with improved LTE service and tomorrow with next generation cellular.
“Ericsson has a field-proven VoLTE solution, and we’re making the investments today that will help us evolve our networks tomorrow. Ericsson has been a long-standing partner of ours, and their end-to-end 5G-ready solution offerings allow us to provide our customers with the most advanced technology,” Stewart said.
With VoLTE in place in the network, consumers will have access to more flexible and easy-to-use communication services integrated on a multitude of devices, which will work seamlessly when users move between different accesses like LTE and Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi calling enables operator voice services to be provided in more locations, such as indoor environments by complementing macro network coverage.
In 2018, Carolina West Wireless announced an agreement to use Ericsson’s cloud-based Network Management as a Service solution to offload end-to-end management of monitoring, troubleshooting, configuration and optimization of their network.