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The mobile network »7 ESSENTIAL THINGS I KNOW ABOUT … PRIVATE CELLULAR NETWORKS


By Aniruddho Basu, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Emerging Business, Mavenir.

1. Private networks are not new, but we are entering a new era for private networks

The concept of a dedicated wireless network is not new. Private mobile radio networks (PMR), then private LTE networks dedicated to public security uses, have been around for decades. But these networks tended to focus on specific use cases, with dedicated cores, International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) ranges, and network service features like Push-To-Talk. Basically, despite some early adopters like mining and offshore power, Private LTE never really crossed over to other market segments in any meaningful way. These end-user markets obviously engaged in Wi-Fi, where spectrum was free, access points were commoditized, deployment was straightforward, and there was no need to deal with physical SIM cards. But those points of difference are changing – and that’s due to 5G.

2. How 5G is making a difference

To understand why 5G is making a difference, you have to look back at the development of LTE. There was a feeling in Europe that much of the value of LTE had been captured in North America by the developers of the super consumer apps as well as the build of the app: like Apple, Google and Facebook among others, all part of the economic boom 4G application. As 5G standards were developed, European policymakers and industry (e.g. the European Telecommunications Commission, with the Horizon 2020 program, industry consortia such as 5GACIA, 5GAA, etc.) have taken on board. the lead in shaping the next impending G technology to transform their industrial and manufacturing base. , by integrating many industry-specific features into standards. This helped shape 5G, something that was built from the ground up to address use cases such as Industry 4.0, smart utilities, transportation, cities, and more. The focus on new parameters of latency, reliability, security, spectrum support, and deployment flexibility has moved 5G beyond the application-centric and consumer-centric areas of the network.

On top of that, there has been a relaxation of the spectrum environment – with 5G NR not only offering support for more bands, but having the ability to operate in shared and unlicensed spectrum bands. Once again, Europe and the United States have taken different paths here. In Europe, a country like Germany reserved 100 MHz of the 3.7 GHz band for corporate use, allocated directly to a business if an application met certain thresholds of quality and requirements, and in fact dissuaded operators from commercially profiting from this spectrum.

In the United States, where CBRS was the preferred mechanism for spectrum sharing, things moved more slowly. I think this was because companies waited until 5G devices and access points were available, and there was also some uncertainty about the business case due to the role of licensing. Priority Access (PAL), which has given operators a commercial presence in the value chain.

But in Europe and parts of Asia things are much more advanced and we are seeing networks supporting applications such as automated guided vehicles, production line robotics, and advanced location-based services. We predict that 2021 will be the year the United States also begins unleashing the potential of private 5G CBRS.

3. Private networks remain an opportunity for operators

We all know that operators have historically struggled with the corporate market. According to the recent GSMAI report on Operator Revenue in the Enterprise Market (March 21), the data indicates that the revenue of enterprises as a share of operator revenue ranges between 10% and 50%. With the majority of revenue coming from traditional communication services and the emphasis being heavily dependent on the sale of SIM connections, airtime and data plans. The transition from the pricing model to an enterprise where the KPI is aimed at improving operational efficiency or productivity, and not at the raw consumption of minutes or data, is not proving to be easy or straightforward.

We have also seen that while cellular technology based on 3GPP may generate economies of scale, in the case of private networks there is still a fair amount of overall systems integration and customization required to integrate the network. with legacy business applications, custom security policies and more.

MNOs need to review the business model and business constructs with companies. In addition, they must work on positioning their value in a world that will now have lightly licensed or possibly unlicensed spectrum. They therefore define their role around use cases that require mobility, where the device or user moves in the macro-network. Then, the operator’s play takes on its full meaning. I’m also seeing mobile network operators pivoting to new roles such as managed services or on-time managed network providers – this would be helpful for businesses and industries that take a more manual approach to the complexities of platform management – forms of dedicated cellular connectivity, which interact with the macro cell. networks.

4. 5G SA brings new gains

Autonomous 5G (5G SA) is an area that will really move this market forward, and even move it forward. There is a lot of movement here within the research institutes and the industry test bed, driving this market forward. Because it is designed on native cloud principles, with a modular service-based architecture, it can scale independently from the LTE core and decouple the data plane and the control plane. This brings many advantages in terms of deployment flexibility and also in the use cases it can support.

I would say once again that Europe is taking off here – for example there are many tenders for 5G SA in Germany for private network licensees. But we and others are also working in Japan and South Korea, working closely with mobile operators in these cases, to roll out 5G SA private networks.

5. Deployment flexibility is key

We have seen real benefits with our Network in a Box type shrink wrap solution, where we can quickly and easily deploy an on-campus solution for large industry. This provides a containerized, software-driven, contactless provisioning network in a box, but while integrated, it is also designed to be deployed as building blocks, responding to IT principles. It is difficult for major vendors to design solutions like this because while they can scale, they cannot disaggregate their solutions and scale them down. For Mavenir, which is based on virtualization and native cloud principles, we have succeeded in this approach. Additionally, once we took this architectural approach, enabling more automation and cloud principles also made it much easier to integrate with public cloud providers, meaning we can respond to the choice of deployment. of a given company.

In Europe, we are seeing that companies are more interested in on-campus solutions in order to be able to comply with privacy and security policies. In the United States, companies do not own any assets and do not take advantage of the public cloud or hybrid cloud.

6. Industry must overcome the challenges of marketing

Tackling the private network opportunity means reaching out to a diverse business base. For a provider, you go far beyond the few hundred mobile network operators you are used to engaging directly with. You examine hundreds of industries and tens of thousands of businesses – all with their own unique needs.

Mavenir has a clear strategy for treating traders as a Go-To-Market channel, but they are just one channel. At the same time, we leverage a network of major system integrators as well as regional or store IS and application companies that offer good specific local or vertical engagement. We also work with infrastructure owners on host neutral models, where the site owner provides third party network clients as a service. Finally, we go beyond a direct sales relationship to create deeper partnerships with NTT Data for example, where we combine our connectivity technology with their BSS / OSS to create a complete technology stack for a business case for private network. In every constellation – MNO, SI, full partnership – we understand the value we bring, what our partners bring and how it improves the end customer’s business. I would ask: is everyone equally clear about their role in the value chain?

7. Finally, the industry must expand the ecosystem

As you can see, we are blunt and clear that our ambition is to get hardware and software out and then create value on top of it. We want partners to become empowered as quickly as possible, and then we can focus on broadening and expanding the ecosystem to identify and create specific use cases.

For example, working with chipmakers to develop a packaged solution for use case specific AR / VR applications. So, for an AR application for preventive maintenance, we work with the ecosystem to create a packaged solution that is validated, tested and implemented with a third party application for delivery. Here we are more of a “sell with” model than a “sell through” model.

Once we move from a grassroots start-up model, we can really start to add value, and this is where private networks can really transform the businesses and the customers who deploy them.

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* This is a sponsored article produced by TMN for their report on the Private Networks Market. Download the full report here.