The demand for Private Mobile Networks (PMNs) based on LTE (and increasingly 5G) is being driven by the spiralling data, security, digitisation and enterprise mobility requirements of modern business and government entities. Organisations of all types are combining connected systems with big data and analytics to transform operations, increase automation and efficiency, or to deliver new services to their users. At the dawn of the 5G era, PMNs are sparking interest, investment, and popularity, powering a movement described as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Here, we will examine what exactly they are, look at the benefits and drivers, and seek to answer the question of why there is such a growing interest in PMNs.
A private LTE/5G network is a mobile network intended for the sole use of private entities such as enterprises, factories, or government organisations, that is not offered or accessible to the general public but instead uses spectrum defined in 3GPP standards. Traditionally, these have been most attractive to organisations such as manufacturing and mining companies where they were either too remote to be covered by an operator’s network or where additional in-building coverage was required. However, the market for PMNs has seen an explosion of interest and innovation in the past year, opening up countless new possibilities for use cases that can create massive changes in operations across different vertical markets.
The untapped potential of Private Mobile Networks
Private networks hold the power to radically transform business operations through the rise of new applications and use cases. As a result, recently there has been a surge in interest from vendors, operators, systems integrators, and end-user organisations, spurred on by the growing availability of equipment and a growing number of case studies demonstrating successful deployments from across a range of vertical markets.
Private networks are highly flexible and can support a range of different types of devices and applications and, as a result, we’re seeing growing interest from companies across manufacturing, communications/ IT, mining, ports and other sectors. We have also witnessed a number of success stories from PMNs that have already been deployed within the manufacturing sector, and in particular the automotive subsector, who have been early leaders in terms of investment, adoption, and have provided several compelling use cases. Today, automotive companies account for more than a quarter (25.3%) of the 79 identified manufacturing companies holding suitable licences or involved in known pilots or live deployments.
Private networks enable usage of automated guided vehicles (AGVs), surveillance cameras, remote machine and robotic control, robotic product picking, product tracking, and a wide range of other Industrial IoT (IIoT) use cases. In a survey by Nokia and ABI Research, 90% of manufacturing decision makers said they were investigating the use of either 4G and/or 5G in their operations, and 84% of these decision makers were considering a deployment of their own local private 4G/5G wireless networks.
The world is investing in Private Mobile Networks
In fact, numerous organisations have already taken the plunge and deployed their own private networks, with GSA having identified 45 countries/territories with live private network deployments based on LTE or 5G.
The arrival of LTE-Advanced systems delivered a step change in network capacity and throughput, while 5G networks have brought improved density (support for larger numbers of users or devices), and even greater capacity, as well as dramatic improvements to latency that enables use of mobile technology for time-critical applications. In addition to companies already using private networks, others are looking to develop their own for the first time, and there is also a large base of potential customers who currently operate LMR/PMR private networks based on technologies such as TETRA, P25 and DMR wishing to upgrade to LTE/5G. These customers are demanding critical broadband services that are simply not available from alternative technologies, and consequently Private Mobile Networks based on LTE and 5G have the potential to eventually replace much of this market.
GSA research from shows that, as of August 2021, there are at least 370 companies around the world that have been or are actively investing in PMNs based on LTE or 5G, showing that the number of live networks is only set to increase in the coming years.
Private Mobile Networks open a whole new world of possibilities for organisations – powering Industrial IoT, increasing efficiency and enabling new business models. These changes are set to be quite radical, meaning that, as others have suggested, it’s not overstating to suggest that this is likely to lead to developments akin to a Fourth Industrial Revolution. As GSA research shows, this market is currently undergoing a period of rapid expansion and it is exciting to witness both its growth and the wide range of innovation that it is set to enable.
GSA will be holding a Snapshot Webinar on Private Mobile Networks on Thursday 16th September, where our research team will share the latest global status of Private Mobile Network deployments across industry verticals, the countries setting spectrum bands aside for local private networks, and how local and wide-area private networks are being deployed. To register for this free webinar, please go to: https://gsacom.com/webinar/gsa-snapshot-private-mobile-networks/