Three-tiered private 5G offer emerges as telcos embrace vertical, unlicensed bands
Network operators are looking to segment their private LTE and 5G offers for enterprises into gold, silver, and bronze tiers to distinguish between standalone systems using slices of public networks, managed services using privately-licensed ‘vertical’ spectrum, and plug-and-play installations running in unlicensed bands.
So says Nokia, relaying the types of conversations it has been having with the operator set, as it has developed its own private LTE and 5G portfolio to match the liberalisation of spectrum for industrial usage in various markets, and sought to engage with enterprises both directly and via its traditional operator partners.
The Finnish firm told Enterprise IoT Insights it has deployed around 20 private networks so far in the 3.55-3.7 GHz CBRS band in the US, freed-up by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for shared and private usage, in order to stimulate industrial change and economic growth.
Nokia said in February it signed “nearly” 40 new customers for private LTE networks in the three months to the end of 2019. It grew its private LTE client base by around 50 per cent in the period. Nokia now has contracts for private LTE networks with 150 customers in total, it claims.
Stephane Daeuble, in charge of enterprise solutions marketing at Nokia, said telecoms providers, across the board, are considering a three-tier gold-silver-bronze style system to market various combinations of wireless spectrum and mobile networking for industrial markets.
In general, the telecoms sector is looking to classify a premium (‘gold’ standard) private-networking offer for enterprises as a full-blooded edge-based wireless setup, where network functions, network management, and telecoms data, and enterprise data are all retained on site.
Such arrangements of private networks will use either dedicated slices of ‘public’ airwaves, promoted by traditional operators particularly, or ‘vertical’ spectrum that has been reserved as part of industrial allocations (as with the CBRS band in the US), and sometimes a combination of both of these.
Mobile operators will prioritise industrial slices of their standalone 5G infrastructure (and ‘proto-slices’ of their LTE infrastructure) in the highest tiers of their industrial portfolios, as they take shape, noted Daeuble, as he explained how operators might market such a three-tier system to enterprises.
He said: “The gold offer might be a fully optimised deployment, where everything is running on site, leveraging the operators’ own spectrum – because that’s one of their big strengths. The silver offer could be more of a private-wireless as-a-service type of solution using vertical spectrum. The bronze one could be based on MulteFire, for example, using unlicensed spectrum.”
But they should also be in position to offer all combinations of spectrum licensing and network management to capitalise on the Industry 4.0 movement, he warned.
Operators must act fast to embrace the new spectrum dynamics in the industrial market, including where networking goes outside of their own spectrum holdings, or else lose business to nimbler operatives, including old familiars like Nokia as well as newer-breed providers that are playing in the widening margins of radio provision.
Daeuble explained: “It does not mean operators cannot be involved, or don’t want to be involved. They should serve that market, around vertical spectrum, and really move fast on it – they should make up their minds quickly and move rapidly. Because every month they wait, they are missing opportunities.”
To be continued…