Networking, a phenomenon that started in the 60’s and which has undoubtedly become an essential component of our lives, has been both an inspiration and a challenge for users and developers alike. With decades of growth in the field of networking behind us now, what started as a mere idea has now come to fruition – fully developed and stable connected networks.
Even in the modern world, where download speeds are measured in seconds, there is still growth to be seen and improvements to be made in the use of connectivity and networking. This growth is in progress even now, as enterprises face challenges with LANs (which are not cost-efficient) and WANs (which can fail to accomplish the tasks set for them). Where enterprises face challenges in connectivity with LANs and WANs, private LTE networks can come in and save the day.
There is a very good reason why private LTE networks are considered superior to other network solutions. The historical client numbers and growth projections are concrete proof of the effectiveness and reliability of private LTE networks and their capabilities. The flexibility and heightened security private networks offer make them more appealing to users and offer a lot of control, which most enterprises are looking for.
How Private LTE Works
When one considers the spectrum and the advantages of private LTE, we can see that there is already a well-established trust, both of networks and wireless connection integration solutions. Private LTE works by collecting access points and connecting them wirelessly, covering a vast area in between, and around the initial access points. These access points can be cell towers, small on-site cells, or a combination of both.
Depending on the degree of freedom a business needs to operate its own connection, private LTE networks can use the following spectra:
Licensed spectrum is normally used by cellular carriers to form and operate their end-user network infrastructure, but it can be used for private services as well. This spectrum has been the preferred route of private network users as they are fully licensed, and the operator does not have to worry about interruptions and spectrum crowding.
As the name indicates, under this spectrum end-user organizations can use private LTE networks – though they share it with other users setting up their own networks. One example of a network under this spectrum is Citizens Broadband Radio Services (or CBRS). The shared spectrum can be beneficial in that it brings together a diverse array of users and operators to share common frequency bands. Users also have the assurance of safety and security throughout their connectivity projects.
Private LTE network users can also choose to go through end-user organizations and carriers via an unlicensed spectrum. Some cellular carriers also use this spectrum to expand their bandwidth reach (e.g. LTE-U, LAA. Wi-Fi using UNII-3). It is usually free from restrictions and limitations from a governing body, and can be used as needed by organisations for their private networks.
Private LTE and Market Dynamics
Ever since private LTE became established and unleashed itself upon the market, it has exceeded expectations for its growth. The global market size of private LTE vendors and distributors has been predicted to grow from 4 Billion USD to 7.5 Billion USD in the next five years. This prediction, calculated with the Compound Annual Growth Rate, translates to 13.6% for the private LTE market through the forecast duration.
The driving force for developing the private LTE market is a desire to refine the initial product’s quality and to make it stand out from other network solutions. Many hurdles are still to be overcome with private networks in their current state (such as fragmented spectra), but the promising figures from private LTE vendors and greater industrial demand create more opportunities and funding for innovation and development. Some existing private LTE hurdles cause investors to think twice about spending their funds on the private LTE infrastructure – but other than that – private LTE is supported and promoted by commercial IoT and mobile robotics industries, shaping the market, increasing private network demands, and improving service quality.
The Driving Force
The main driving force behind the private LTE market is the availability of unlicensed spectrum (e.g. CBRS and MulteFire bands) for private network use. Organizations can effortlessly deploy and maintain private LTE networks by using both licensed and unlicensed spectrum. The two main frequency bands through which vendors can run their networks are the 5GHz and 3.5GHz bands. The use of these bands for private network use has been made possible thanks to vendors making chipsets, complex infrastructure components, and Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) available for commercial use.
Unlicensed bands are universally used for the promotion and distribution of private LTE networks. The availability of services within unlicensed bands can speed up the set-up process as these bands bypass the need for accessing licensed spectrum through Mobile Network Operators (the owners of these licensed bands). The frequency band of 3.5GHz is an integral part of the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) in the US, whereas the 5GHz band is used elsewhere in the world. The accessibility and availability of unlicensed bands in more locations across the globe is something private LTE network users are eagerly waiting for, so they can expand their reach and add to their network capabilities.
Interference and the Tier System
Issues surrounding the licensing of frequency bands are still present, and the challenge of finding a solution that works for all users is one of them. While there is an allocated system for spectrum distribution that helps private LTE users to gain access and then implement and run their networks, an exclusive three-tier sharing system for private LTE has also been introduced, which is being used to tackle the problems it currently faces in certain market regions.
In North America, the first tier of private LTE networks is used by the US Navy Radar and Satellite operations. Of course, there are some geographical limitations in play here, but they can be adjusted according to beam and azimuth.
The second tier is granted, quite simply, to the highest bidder. The winning bidder acquires the Priority Access License (PAL) through tier 2. This license is issued on the basis of the geographical location of the bidder.
The third tier is shared across other enterprises. The networks and bands in this tier have open access, minimal limitations, and are considered a non-prioritized band.
The leftover portion of the 3.5GHz band, which is not assigned to any of the higher tiers, is handed over to the Unlicensed General Authorized Access (GAA) users.
Help and Opportunity
It is true that every successful project has supporters behind it, who provide insights for growth and contribute towards the project’s success. Similarly, private LTE network providers are using the momentum gained in commercial, enterprise, and business solutions to drive their innovations forward. The private LTE market will thrive if this pace is kept up by those organizations working to increase the use and demand of IoT and affiliated technologies. There is strong evidence that links IoT and the wide use of private LTE networks within the industrial and commercial markets, and some of the main contributors to this evolving service are companies like Nokia, Samsung, and Cisco.
The Challenge of Cost
We now know both the current and potential benefits of private LTE networking, and the vast applications an enterprise can build around a secure and reliable network connection. Keeping what private networking is (and what it can bring to the table) in mind, the cost of creating a verified and reliable private LTE system is logically higher than it would be if we were using a standard LAN or WAN.
It’s true that the initial investment when it comes to creating a private LTE network is high, however, this initial financial outlay shows its value in terms of improved processes, the potential advantage to be gained over competitors, and the secure, reliable network that you have once implementation is complete – a network that addresses the challenges posed by less capable LAN and WAN connections. Although there are more than a few cellular companies offering LTE services today, the commercialization of private LTE systems while continuing development and finding a way to drive costs down is still a work-in-progress.
Vendors and initial producers of private LTE include:
- Nokia (Finland)
- Huawei (China)
- Athonet (Italy)
- Affirmed Networks (US)
- Ericsson (Sweden)
- ZTE (China)
- NEC (Japan)
- Samsung (South Korea)
- Druid Software (Ireland)
The Growth of Private LTE in Global Markets
Vendors have reported an upward trend in the use of private LTE networks globally. With the promise of increased speed thanks to 5G and the availability of unlicensed spectrum, the biggest service users in the world (primarily located in North America and Europe), are finally realizing the true potential of not having to go through service providers for their own private cellular networks.
Smaller IT companies are also emerging as serious players in the private cellular network field, thanks to help from commercial ‘off-the-shelf’ servers which are used to run software-enabled networking. This means smaller companies can innovate within the mobile network industry, without the need for expensive and specialized hardware.
The continuous growth and innovation of private LTE services can be attributed to a number of different factors and breakthroughs. We must also keep in mind that many of the milestones reached were achieved through the efforts of people who have been involved with such services since the early days.
Efforts by Vendors
The vendors of private LTE networks play a major role in the distribution of their product in both existing and potential markets. Many marketing efforts by private vendors have made use of organic and inorganic methods to broaden their reach and their sales. Marketing private networking correctly is a key component in making enough revenue to manufacture more private LTE products, and further their development.
Successful marketing within North America and Europe has established a lot of trust in the reliability and use of private networks, and it’s also giving other industries solid use cases to look at for proof of deployment concept purposes.
Acceptance by Core Sectors
Private LTE markets are supported by core sectors which have previously expressed their willingness to accept new networking strategies. Other than trialling such solutions and then investing in them, these core sectors also promoted private LTE networks – adding to their growing popularity in digitalization and automation of industrial processes. These indirect marketing efforts made by users of private LTE networks help the development and marketing of private networks on a much broader scale. There are still some challenges that remain unresolved as the market continues its progression, but the positive feedback from these core sectors is both encouraging and reassuring.
The Role of Governments
A big contribution to the expansion of private LTE marketing has been made by government-run entities. Along with CBRS and MulteFire Alliance, government organizations around the world are actively coordinating with private LTE vendors and developers. Regional growth and marketing are assisted by the oversight of various national governments. Outside of the support being provided to users of the various spectra and bands, governments themselves are also employing automation tech and carrying out digital transformations which rely on private LTE networking.
The Benefits of Private LTE Networking for Governments
Security and coverage are two major aspects that governmental bodies need from their networks. There are services and projects at both local and national levels which rely on private networking to keep a stable nation running. Emergency services, 24/7 connectivity, the timely delivery of reports during times of crisis, and reliable communication on and off-shore are among some of these services.
Private LTE has been highly reliable in this respect. Whether the task is to monitor traffic in cities and on highways, report disturbances and crimes, connect hospitals and medical care personnel, or aid politicians in better communication – private LTE networks provide general care and services to citizens and give governments the versatility and control they need to respond to their connectivity and data exchange priorities.
As the modern-day world is dependent on technology and fast communication, private LTE is by far the most reliable option for meeting these needs. Due to the positive outcomes brought by private LTE networks, governments are more inclined to support the enhancement of private and public network facilities, and pave the way for improvements in unlicensed and shared spectra.
How Private LTE is Shaping the Future
With the public’s growing general awareness of private networks, and the way that the technology is establishing itself as a necessary part of industry and tech, we can feel confident in the market projections given for private LTE networking.
We can see more industries investing in the marketing and development of private networking services, and with more businesses relying on the use of IoT solutions and reliable connectivity, private networking providers are working even harder to ensure a secure and adaptable future for private LTE networks.
As Pod Group know well, networking and communication have undoubtedly come a long way. From narrowband radio equipment to broadband facilities, from low capacities and insecure links to infinite data coverage and end-to-end encrypted connections, from localized and slow networking to globally interlinked and fast as light connectivity. All these positive changes in networking are positive outcomes brought about by private LTE developers and vendors – people and teams that have already shaped the future, and will keep on aiming for even better results.