There is a very good reason why private LTE networks are considered superior to other network solutions. Read more to find out why.
Computer 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, many IoT applications are mission critical and require very low latency and high security. So in the context of IoT deployments, there are still improvements to be made in the use of cellular networks for IoT connectivity. This growth is in progress even now, as enterprises face challenges with technologies such as Wi-Fi and ethernet cabling in LANs (which do not offer the flexibility and security required for mission critical IoT applications) and public cellular WANs (which don’t match the low latency, high security requirements of many IoT deployments). Where enterprises face challenges in connectivity within LANs and WANs, private LTE networks can provide the answer.
There is a very good reason why private networks are considered superior to other network solutions. The movement towards the decentralization of the network and the recent spectrum auctions in many countries (e.g. CBRS in the USA) have finally given enterprises the opportunity to own and control private LTE networks for their IoT deployments. . 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.
There are several ways to deploy a private LTE network, depending on whether the enterprise needs to connect a standalone campus area (island) or whether the campus LAN needs to be connected to the public network. It is also possible to deploy a private LTE network on public spectrum. In the case of a campus network deployed on unlicensed spectrum, a Radio Access Network (RAN) is deployed using a small cell base station connected to the Evolved Packet Core (EPC), which can be software based.
Depending on the degree of freedom a business needs to operate its own connection, private 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 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 deploy private LTE networks – though they share the spectrum 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.
Enterprises can also deploy private networks on 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 acquired by organisations for their private networks.
Ever since private networks became an option for enterprises looking to own their IoT networks, it has exceeded growth expectations. The global private LTE market is also expected to go from strength to strength over the next five years.
The driving force for developing the private LTE market is a desire for enterprises to own and control their IoT networks. However, many do not have the resources or skill sets in house to manage a private network. This is where connectivity service providers with the relevant experience in deploying and managing private networks can provide managed services to ease the process for enterprises and allow them to focus on their core business. The promising figures from private LTE vendors and greater industrial demand create more opportunities and funding for innovation and development. Some enterprises are concerned about the cost of deploying private networks, particularly the initial outlay on private LTE infrastructure, but this cost is offset by the savings generated longer term, since once the network is in place they do not need to pay recurring connectivity costs. Private LTE is therefore rapidly becoming a viable option for enterprises from all sectors, including manufacturing, utilities, healthcare and supply chain, where the mission critical nature of their IoT applications and the requirement for a high level of security is increasing the demand for private networks.
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 networks by using both licensed and unlicensed spectrum. There are a number of frequency bands on which vendors can deploy their networks, including the 5GHz and 3.5GHz bands. The use of these bands for private networks will be driven by vendors making chipsets, RAN infrastructure components, and Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) available for commercial use.
Unlicensed bands are used in a growing number of countries worldwide for the deployment of private LTE networks. The availability of services within unlicensed bands can speed up the set-up process for enterprises as there is no need to rely on 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 network users are eagerly waiting for, so they can expand their reach and add to their network capabilities.
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 the spectrum used to deploy private networks 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 CBRS spectrum for private LTE networks is used by the US Navy Radar and Satellite operations. This is mainly used in coastal areas and in locations close to military radar stations and satellite receiver stations.
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.
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 initial 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 network is high, however, this initial financial outlay shows its value in terms of the savings in ongoing connectivity costs, 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 LTE is widely available today, the commercialization of private LTE solutions and particularly the hardware that will enable them is still a work-in-progress.
Vendors have reported an upward trend in the use of private 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 rely on traditional 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’ cloud 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.
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.
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 use cases for private 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.
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 overseen by various national governments. In addition to 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 networking.
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 networks provide the means to deliver 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 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.
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 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 knows 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.