Enterprises across industries require secure, fast, and automatic networks for their data/voice use cases to provide reliable connectivity over large areas, including buildings and underground facilities. To address such future network demands, organizations can now leverage private LTE – a non-public network that allows them to customize and optimize their network. It is designed considering their business use cases, enabling attributes such as low latency, uptime, resiliency, high cell-edge throughput, and network segregation, as per requirement.
Private LTE adoption and opportunity for enterprises
As enterprises are accelerating their digital transformation journey, the importance of private networks is growing exponentially. The COVID-19 has further increased the interest of enterprises in private LTE, accelerating its adoption timelines primarily for business resiliency and cost‐reduction purposes with the help of automation. With many organizations looking to deploy private LTE, the current market can be broadly categorized into three segments:
Mission-critical: Businesses that require always–on connectivity, network redundancy, and dedicated resource. Connectivity issues can lead to significant business and operational losses for such enterprises with mission-critical processes.
Industrial: Businesses that need automated processes for industry 4.0, high-capacity and ultra-reliable low-latency communication (URLLC) or require network slicing to bifurcate application supported usage and nature.
Traditional: Businesses that require wireless networking beyond traditional Wi-Fi (where redundancy and automation needs are lower). These include critical applications, where network loss can result in loss of revenue.
Private LTE spectrum and core components
Private LTE networks can be built using licensed spectrum with permission from network providers. Apart from licensed ones, two key non-licensed spectrum used for private LTE network are:
- CBRS (Citizen broadband radio service): 3.5Ghz network available only in the US
- Global 5G unlicensed band spectrum using MulteFire
There are two core components required to create Private LTE, with subcomponents in place that are necessary to support these two core components.
LTE small cells : It is a wireless transmission system designed to provide network coverage in smaller areas. The components required to create LTE small cells are:
- Spectrum: Licensed/unlicensed/CBRS
- Radio equipment
- Small cell gateway
Evolved packet core: It is an architecture built to support data connections, routing, and authentication of devices and sims. The components required to build EPC are:
- Mobility management entity (MME)
- Home subscriber server (HSS)
- Policy and authentication rules function
- Serving gateway
- PDN gateway
Industry-specific use cases for private LTE
Manufacturing: Manufacturing facilities are increasingly using/exploring the usage of private LTE to connect their IT systems to the operational technology equipment. This enables them to deploy automated guided vehicles (AGV), remote machine and predictive maintenance and other IIoT applications.
Warehouses: By leveraging private LTE, online retailers and warehouse operators can enable robotic product pick-ups, RFID, and tag-based product tracking.
Mining, oil, and gas: Private LTE provides mining and energy companies a stable network required for their IoT applications to connect with drilling machines, handhelds, and underground equipment in remote locations.
Utilities: Private LTE enables utility service providers to connect their IoT applications more easily and affordably to smart meters, transformers, battery-based energy storage systems, other grid infrastructure, and vehicles used by their mobile workforce.
Healthcare: Hospitals and clinics can leverage private LTE for tele-health care facilities, transferring large critical files, and real-time remote monitoring of patients and equipment. Private networks offer healthcare campus a secure and stable wireless environment that enables IoT devices to improve the overall employee and patient experience, instead of just communicating with each other.
Creating new opportunities for a smart ecosystem
To support enterprise in the adoption and implementation of private LTE, there are three different types of professional service providers for enterprise private LTE networks.
Network equipment providers: NEPs like Nokia, IBM, Ericsson, etc., approach enterprise private LTE deployment with their expertise on core network, radio access equipment, and highlighting new switches, gateways, access points that can be designed and built for a private LTE network.
Telecom providers – Remote locations have a comparatively lesser load on 4G and 5G public networks and network providers can leverage the same in the remote sites to deploy private LTE using licensed spectrum for enterprises.
Global systems integrators (GSI) – GSIs have vertical expertise, complete business and operational processes understanding, and a wide history of maintaining C-level relationships. System integrators can bring together best-of-breed partners for a particular enterprise solution. They create business use cases across a broad range of industries to evaluate and redefine operational processes and implement private LTE at a global scale.
GSI: The clear winner to deploy private LTE
The edge lies with GSIs when it comes to private LTE deployment because of their expertise in understanding the entire enterprise ecosystem. They hold an advantage to bring in multiple small niche partners together to provide best-in-breed solution for enterprises. They bring required skills in software architecture, cloud solutions, security, and majorly in IoT (strongest use case for deploying private LTE). Clearly, GSIs turn out to be the most suited partners for enterprises for all their private LTE needs.