Global Private LTE Market will grow from $2.4 billion in 2018 to $4.5 billion by 2023, or a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 13 percent, according to market research released by MarketsandMarkets. The report, released Dec. 12, is titled, “Private LTE Market by Technology (FDD and TDD), Service, Application, Industry and Region – Global Forecast to 2023.”
Vendors in the private LTE market include Nokia, Ericsson, Verizon, Cisco, Samsung, Ruckus Wireless, NetNumber, Lemko, General Dynamics, Future Technologies, pdvWireless, Zinwave, Mavenir and Luminate Wireless, according to MarketsandMarkets.
Mobile Experts released an end-to-end study, CBRS 2018, in November, which provides a complete view of CBRS OnGo market development, including a five-year business model and technical analysis.
“The market for private LTE is very small right now. The equipment manufacturers are interested because it is a whole new class of customers and represent possible growth in a new market,” said Joe Madden, principal analyst, Mobile Experts.
Mobile Experts anticipates rapid growth over the next five years, with annual shipment of over 400,000 small cells for about $740 million in 2023, and more than 550 million handsets, CPEs and IoT devices.
“As the CBRS-enabled smartphones reach a meaningful penetration of the installed base (around 2021-2022), we may see enterprise and neutral host-led indoor deployments to further drive the market,” according to CBRS 2018.
Citizens Broadband Radio Service Will Ignite Private LTE
The FCC adopted a Report and Order “Promoting Investment in the 3550-3700 MHz Band” in October pushing the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) one step further to becoming reality. Some say that CBRS is a watershed moment for how private LTE systems will be deployed in the future.
The Citizens Broadband Radio Service at 3.5 GHz calls for three-tiered shared access between grandfathered incumbent access users, Priority Access Licenses (PALs), and General Authorized Access users.
“The rules bolster our confidence in the likely investment by the mobile and cable operators and lessens enthusiasm of the WISPs, enterprises, and other smaller players who looked forward to getting hands-on lower-cost“licensed” spectrum. Now that the rules are final and clear – i.e., license areas based on county and a 10-year term with renewability – the market is ready for a commercial rollout beyond trials,” according to the Mobile Experts.
While there has been plenty of growth potential and interest in private LTE, it has been held back by lack of spectrum, he said. That should change with the Citizens Broadband Radio Service.
“The beauty of CBRS is that these companies will be able to buy the spectrum at auction in early 2020,” Madden said. “It is perfect for companies, such as oil refineries, that want to own and control their networks.” An auction date for the PALs has not been set yet.
Private LTE Case Studies Already Appearing
This week, Nokia and Ukkoverkot, Finnish provider of 4G mobile data services, began providing a private LTE network to the Finnish Port of HaminaKotka. The port operator Steveco is using the network for improved situational awareness of container handling to warehouse logistics and port security. The dedicated low-latency network enables wirelessly connected cameras on cranes to provide real-time video streaming and analytics, as well as connectivity for trucks, sensors and workers.
American Tower and Ruckus Networks deployed the first commercial CBRS Private LTE network Nov. 9 at the newly-renovated ISM Raceway in Phoenix to expand connectivity in the infield, grandstands, camping grounds and Midway. The new system will complement the existing Wi-Fi system.
Ruckus Wireless was the first to secure FCC CBRS certification for their indoor and outdoor LTE Access Points. The ISM Raceway solution includes the Federated Wireless Spectrum Controller and the Ruckus Q710 and Q910 LTE APs. American Tower also installed the Ruckus T310 series and T610 series outdoor 802.11ac APs.
ExteNet Prepares CBRS-Ready Fixed Wireless Service
Another company that is moving forward on CBRS is ExteNet Systems, which initiated in September a field trial of a FCC Part 96-ready, CBRS LTE fixed wireless network with Inland Cellular, which serves southeastern Washington and north central Idaho. Commercial service rollout is currently targeted for early 2019.
ExteNet’s virtualized LTE Evolved Packet Core (EPC) solution, bundled with Nokia’s Radio Access Network equipment, has served as the foundation for Inland’s 4G LTE service throughout its coverage area since 2016. Inland is now leveraging its existing mobile infrastructure to conduct a field trial with ExteNet on the 3.5 GHz CBRS spectrum to improve customer experience and meet demand connectivity and increased network capacity.
In May, Ericsson Verizon, Qualcomm and Federated Wireless deployed a private LTE system on CBRS spectrum.
The FCC is planning on unveiling its final(?) plan to promoting wireless investment in the 3550-3700 MHz Band at its November open meeting. The original plan for the Citizens Broadband Radio Service at 3.5 GHz, which came out back in 2015 and called for three-tiered shared access between incumbents, Priority Access Licenses (PALs) and General Authorized Access (GAA) users, soon got swept up in 5G-mania with carriers eyeballing it as part of their mid-band spectrum strategy.
The FCC is expected to adopt limited changes to the rules governing PALs to make them more useful for 5G, as well as more valuable at auction. Most importantly, it would increase the size of PAL license areas from census tracts to counties. Making the licenses renewable and extending their terms to 10 years will also make them more carrier-friendly. Establishing seven nationwide PALs with bidding credits for rural and Tribal entities will also establish the importance of the band in 5G.
“Our 3.5 GHz proposal … reflects the Commission’s aim of freeing up mid-band spectrum for 5G and other flexible uses,” Chairman Pail told the Americas Spectrum Management Conference in Washington DC. “This order makes targeted changes to our rules to promote investment and innovation in this important band. For example, by allowing providers to renew 3.5 GHz licenses, we’ll substantially increase their incentives to develop 5G services using this spectrum.”
The Order would also permit partitioning and disaggregation of areas within PALs and facilitate transmission over wider channels without significant power reductions.
The Commission maintained its in-band spectrum aggregation limit of 40 megahertz (in other words of four PALs) of the possible 70 megahertz per license area at any given point in time. Over half of the band—a minimum of 80 megahertz—is reserved for GAA use, which is licensed by rule. GAA users can operate throughout the entire 150 megahertz of the 3.5 GHz band on any frequencies not in use by PALs but may not interfere with them.
In another speech also in front of the Americas Spectrum Management Conference, FCC Comm. Michael O’Rielly said the previous licensing structure of the Priority Access Licenses was flawed because of the growth of mobile and the emergence of 5G.
“On that note, it’s clear that U.S. wireless providers and the international community have targeted the mid bands for 5G, with the CBRS band right in the bullseye,” O’Rielly said. “The United States must be at the forefront to determine and harmonize bands and establish standards so that our industries benefit. This is particularly true for the 3.5 GHz band, which is seen as the key global roaming band for 5G.”
3.5 GHz Band Could be First Home for 5G
The wireless industry is ready to move forward to deploy fixed or nomadic wireless in the 3.5 GHz band, Tony Sabatino, SABRE Industries, said in an interview with Clayton Funk, MVP Capital, at the AGL Local Summit in Kansas City last week. 5G as a mobility service will not come out in the 2020-2022 timeframe.
“CBRS Band will be the first launching point for high-speed fixed access in rural areas,” Sabatino said. “We are working in a rural area where we will help build out a fixed wireless solution, 6 – 8 megabits down. It is an exciting project with a particular utility.”
To get the true benefits of 5G, however, a lot of spectrum is needed, said Sabatino. Maybe 100 megahertz of spectrum. As a matter of course, he suggests that the FCC expand the CBRS up the dial to include the 4.2 GHz band, which would add 700 megahertz.
“You need a big swath of spectrum. [3.5-4.2 GHz] is the most interesting piece of spectrum out there right now. It is a good band for transmission. If you want to get households involved. If you go over 18 feet, you can use high-gain antennas,” he said.
Sabatino believes building and venue owners will be interested in using CBRS to provide but fixed data to their tenants or patrons.
“Owners of multi-dwelling units don’t have to let Verizon or Comcast and AT&T into their buildings to offer service,” he said. “The building owner can provide service to the whole building, including IPTV, internet, home phone and other wireless services to their tenants, connectivity.”
CBRS may even provide competition to the carriers as utilities will have a great opportunity to mount antennas on all their vertical real estate, he added.
ExteNet Systems, Inland Cellular Prepare CBRS-Ready Fixed Wireless Service
Another company that is moving forward on CBRS is ExteNet Systems, which has announced a field trial of a FCC Part 96-ready, CBRS LTE fixed wireless network with Inland Cellular, which serves southeastern Washington and north central Idaho. ExteNet initiated the field trial for Inland in September 2018 and commercial service rollout is currently targeted for early 2019.
“At Inland Cellular we are constantly evaluating ways to advance our customer experience and provide our customer base with enhanced service offerings. Applying the CBRS use case to our existing infrastructure seemed like a natural progression for us. We are excited to work with ExteNet on this initial trial and eventual commercial CBRS service rollout for our customers,” said Nathan Weis, CEO of Inland Cellular in a press release.
ExteNet’s virtualized LTE Evolved Packet Core (EPC) solution, bundled with Nokia’s Radio Access Network (RAN) equipment, has served as the foundation for Inland’s 4G LTE service throughout its coverage area since 2016. Inland is now leveraging its existing mobile infrastructure to conduct a field trial with ExteNet on the 3.5 GHz CBRS spectrum to improve customer experience and meet demand connectivity and increased network capacity.
“For many rural service providers, finding a modern solution approach that is financially viable, operationally manageable and still carrier-grade, is a major challenge and often the barrier to rolling out the latest services,” said Jason Osborne, vice president of Business Development and Strategic Initiatives for ExteNet Systems.
ExteNet’s LTE service offering is an alternative to more traditional fiber or coaxial fixed broadband solutions, especially in expansive geographies or smaller communities. The 3GPP-compliant platform can serve as the foundation for enhanced communication services including LTE mobility, roaming, voice over LTE (VoLTE) and wireless enterprise while providing broadband speeds to amplify user experience.
ExteNet Systems has joined the Safer Buildings Coalition (SBC) to help set standards for in-building public safety wireless communications. The SBC’s primary mission is to ensure that First Responders (Fire, Law Enforcement and EMS) use state-of-the-art voice and data communications to communicate both inside buildings as well as to-and-from their Command Centers outside buildings during an event. SBC also advocates for the public’s cellular service inside buildings to function at optimal levels.
“ExteNet’s membership into the SBC comes as they are proactively looking to bring together commercial real estate (CRE) industry forces to help determine standards for in-building wireless,” stated Gregory Spraetz, SVP & GM of the Enterprise Network Solutions Business Unit at ExteNet Systems. “Our goal is to bring the neutral-host network operator focus to the coalition and help the SBC establish consistency in the standards nationwide.”
As ExteNet Systems looks toward expanding its footprint in the in-building wireless space, membership in the SBC highlights a continued commitment and expertise in preparing CRE for public-safety wireless communications.
“While building owners and managers look to prepare for the future of 5G, the immediate consideration of building for public safety should be of utmost concern,” said Ross Manire, President and CEO for ExteNet Systems. “According to the FCC, greater than 70 percent of calls to 911 centers come from wireless phones. For buildings to meet in-building communication safety codes, a seamless management of communications infrastructure isn’t just a nice-to-have but an absolutely vital need.”
ExteNet kicked off its membership with the Safer Building Coalition in Dallas in June 2018 at an Arden Media led industry event which emphasized the importance of cross-industry cooperation for in-building public safety nationwide. Featured speakers included Billy Rowland, Chief Engineer of the Bank of America Plaza; Tim Danz, Chief Engineer of 345 California; Ken Grantham of the Highland Park (TX) Fire Department and Ken Rehbehn, Principal Analyst at Critical Communications besides ExteNet executives.
Panelists at the Wireless West Conference last week agreed that the wireless industry is shifting its small cell deployment into high gear, discussing both the reasons behind that growth and the issues that might hinder it.
Several factors are driving the deployment of hundreds of thousands of small cells annually, according to Jeff Lewis, president and founder, Verticom, who moderated “Small Cells, Big Market,” from general economic momentum to positive telecom industry trends. Specifically, he also cited the growing number of 5G use cases plus clarity surrounding timelines for 5G NR standards and deployment. Additionally, mobile edge computing is a key component of scalable 5G architecture.
“In addition to FirstNet, you have the TV repack and relocation initiative. You have incremental industry spend of $2 billion. Throw in regulatory and tax reform and you have another $2 billion of free cash flow,” Lewis said. “With the successful 5G trials going on nationwide, ROI models have begun to factor in less risk, which increases the project approval rate. Any time you have less risk and a more predictable deployment model, capex increases.”
One carrier, T-Mobile, has a “robust small cell program,” planning on deploying 25,000 small cells in the 18 to 24 months, according to Hollie Maldonado, site development manager, T-Mobile. She contrasted that number to the 20 years it took for the carrier to build out its current lineup of 60,000 macrosites.
Crown Castle, which as 50,000 small cell sites, is in the process of 5,000 more sites in the western market. “We are seeing enormous growth in small cells,” said Dan Schweizer, Crown Castle International government relations. “We are trying to build as many of them as we can.”
Kishore Raja, Boingo Wireless VP engineering, said there is an additional catalyst for small cell growth, noting they can now be deployed in two different ways on unlicensed spectrum as well as licensed, bringing with it new business models. “Now, there is a third avenue: the 150 megahertz at 3.5 GHz of spectrum in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service,” Raja said. “This opens up small cells to neutral host operators sharing spectrum with the incumbents.”
Opening up New Markets
The panelists discussed new markets that small cells bring to their companies. T-Mobile is currently deploying small cells to offload 4G LTE capacity from its macrosites, but the same sites will bring 5G services as close as possible to users. Crown Castle will use hyperdensification for offload of fiber data traffic and carrying mission critical Internet of Things data in an aesthetically pleasing manner. Small cells give Boingo Wireless an additional tool to solve issues in its current venues and also allow it to serve additional venues that before did not make economic sense. ExteNet uses small cells to densify the networks of carriers.
The challenge, according to Raja, is creating the user experience. “Whether the deployment is New Radio, millimeter wave, 4G, 4G advanced, Wi-Fi or any others, the goal is a clean, seamless user experience as they move from network to network,” he said. “Virtualization will be very key to managing these networks, both in terms of capex and opex.”
Opposition from Municipalities May Be a Drag on Small Cell Deployment
While the panelists agreed on the need for small cells to the future of the wireless industry, they also agreed that without streamlining of the municipal zoning processes the idea of deploying 100s of thousands of them seems impossible.
“We know one of the keys to achieving that goal is working with local governments. We have our work cut out for us,” Maldonado said. “We have launched a hefty site advocacy campaign in several markets to ensure that groundwork has been laid to execute quickly.”
Extenet is trying to drive down costs and streamline processes in the rights of way at a local level with the municipalities, according Greg Spraetz, SVP & GM enterprise solutions, ExteNet Systems.
Schweizer noted the work done by states and the FCC facilitating small cells. “Texas, Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico have all passed streamlining bills. Hawaii and California are pending,” he said. “I don’t believe we should have put small cells through zoning. There should be an agreed-upon form factor with the city, the industry has to do its part to build attractive sites that are compatible with existing residential areas and we should be able to pull a permit like any other right-of-way user.”
Recent rules adopted by the FCC, which exempted small cells from NEPA and SHPO regulations, will save the industry a lot of money and deployment time, according to Raja.
Schweizer cautioned streamlining regulations and legislation do not replace good relationships with municipalities. “There is no silver bullet,” he said. “Good state regulation does not obviate the need for government relations and being a trusted partner.”
J. Sharpe Smith
J. Sharpe Smith joined AGL in 2007 as contributing editor to the magazine and as editor of eDigest email newsletter. He has 27 years of experience writing about industrial communications, paging, cellular, small cells, DAS and towers. Previously, he worked for the Enterprise Wireless Alliance as editor of the Enterprise Wireless Magazine. Before that, he edited the Wireless Journal for CTIA and he began his wireless journalism career with Phillips Publishing, now Access Intelligence.
ExteNet Systems’ acquisition of MetroFiber d/b/a Axiom Fiber Networks, adds 20 miles of 864-strand fiber-count network in lower Manhattan, supplementing the fiber-optic network that supports the firm’s +2,000 nodes constructed or under construction in the New York metropolitan area.
“Clearly one of the major components of our Manhattan build is the fiber plant,” said Ross Manire, ExteNet president and CEO. “Axiom’s fiber is going to allow us to move forward with our distributed network deployments, which require a lot of fiber. We pull multiple strands to each node, so we need a lot of fiber in Manhattan. That is what originally got us interested in them.”
But there was more to Axiom Fiber Networks than just fiber. The firm provided high performance telecom infrastructure services over its dark fiber network to enterprise customers including, financial firms, government agencies, healthcare providers, educational institutions and media organizations.
“As we got further into the due diligence process, we decided to take advantage of the expertise of Felipe Alvarez [previously CEO of Axiom] and his team to help us monetize the fiber plant in our existing build areas with New York as the priority. That was the added benefit that we saw in this opportunity.”
Axiom goes deep inside the enterprise to provide companies with dark fiber and custom network solutions. With the deal closed, ExteNet can pursue new vectors in the enterprise space.
“As it pertains to optical network solutions, which are focused on the enterprise space, we weren’t doing it with the focus it requires,” Manire said. “The benefit of having Felipe and his team on board is that they come from this environment and they know what it takes, they know the system requirements. They will do it on a focused basis.”
The Axiom network, which has online five major carrier hotels, allows interconnection and connectivity to the cloud. It also gives the firm the ability to put together solutions that interconnect buildings with edge devices at the carrier hotels.
“We have been looking at the convergence of the wireless infrastructure providers and pure telecom. The line is completely blurred,” Manire said. “There is a drive to use fiber, to densify; to push fiber deeper and deeper into buildings. It is an interesting time to further drive that convergence.”
ExteNet began deploying providing cellular coverage with outdoor DAS technology in 2005 and in 2008 moved into in-building wireless. In 2016, it expanded into enterprise communications infrastructure with the purchase of Telecommunications Properties Inc. and began to manage the fiber network inside the building. Additionally, micro data centers to facilitate tenants moving to the cloud, or third parties moving content to the edge of the network were added to the portfolio.
The wireless industry has been wrestling with the challenge of providing services to enterprises too small to warrant a carrier-funded DAS or small-cell system. The acquisition of Axiom is another evolution for ExteNet, adding more products targeted at the enterprise.
J. Sharpe Smith is the Senior Editor/eDigest. He joined AGL in 2007 as contributing editor to the magazine and as editor of eDigest email newsletter. He has 27 years of experience writing about industrial communications, paging, cellular, small cells, DAS and towers. Previously, he worked for the Enterprise Wireless Alliance as editor of the Enterprise Wireless Magazine. Before that, he edited the Wireless Journal for CTIA and he began his wireless journalism career with Phillips Publishing, now Access Intelligence. Sharpe Smith may be contacted at: email@example.com.