Carriers can broker vertical spectrum access for private LTE and 5G, says Nokia
Note, this article continues from a previous post, entitled, ‘Three-tiered private 5G offer emerges as telcos embrace vertical, unlicensed bands’. Click here to go to the first instalment.
Nokia has warned mobile operators to grasp the nettle of private cellular, even if they are stung by the prospect of enterprises seeking control of their own networking. The message from the Finnish outfit, which has bypassed its traditional carrier customers to rack up private-networking sales to enterprises, is that operators are uniquely positioned to serve the industrial market, so long as they move quickly.
Stephane Daeuble, in charge of marketing for enterprise solutions at Nokia, says the old telecoms set must recognise a whole spectrum of industry, and serve all of its paranoias and predilections. That is how Nokia has gone about things in the Industry 4.0 market, he suggests; mobile operators can take spoils in the new battle around private networking, he adds, even if they feel knocked about in the early skirmishes.
But enough with the metaphors. Daeuble explains: “Operators should offer the kind of breadth of solutions that we offer – and build up their own offerings across different levels of solutions.” The boldest of them have already started to segment their industrial networking portfolios into three-tiered gold, silver, and bronze packages, as reported already.
The carrier version of a gold-level private networking deal invariably utilises slices of carrier-licensed spectrum, used for publicly available mobile networks. But it does not have to, says Daeuble, expanding coversation with Enterprise IoT Insights. “Nothing is stopping them from being the intermediary to get access to spectrum.”
In the three-tier categorisation, the gold standard only ring-fences the operation and management of the network, as a self-contained edge based infrastructure; it says nothing, actually, about the spectrum the network runs in. That is Nokia’s interpretation, anyway, as it seeks to enable every scenario for enterprises.
The Finnish firm is itself offering gold-style industrial cellular that utilises so-called vertical spectrum, as liberalised by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the US at 3.55-3.7 GHz in the CBRS band, and in quick-step by most other industrial nations via various access and control mechanisms.
Daeuble reflects: “The US set the whole scene for vertical spectrum. The rest of the world has followed; there are 10 or 15 countries now with systems in place to make spectrum available to the right kinds of industries. In that sense, CBRS has really helped, even if there has been a delay to get things in place.”
The delay has been only because of the complexity of the spectrum access system (SAS) for CBRS, in place to manage overlap and interference between incumbent users (the navy on the coast) and priority- and general-access (PAL and GAA) licensees. SAS testing for CBRS in the US has just completed; GAA licenses are available, and PAL auction is scheduled for the end of next month.
“The system provides reliability and flexibility,” reflects Daeuble. He maps the three-way private networking offer onto the new CBRS landscape, and cascades it across other geographies, which have been quick to recast the US model for shared and vertical spectrum. “It has been simpler for other countries, where it has been almost like free spectrum, allocated on a regional basis,” he notes.
He comments: “You could see a large operator building up an offer on these three tiers in the CBRS space, including with GAA spectrum. It is the same in Europe, where operators could do the same as us and provide a private wireless plug-in on vertical spectrum. Some of the larger operators with serious enterprise divisions, and a proper grasp of how to market to enterprises, are thinking like that.”
We should consider Nokia’s own portfolio, which it offers with direct sales to enterprises to enable various private networking setups. The firm upgraded its micro-core network solution, available since 2016, in November last year as a 5G-ready equivalent, called a Compact Mobility Unit (CMU). This CMU is the basis of its modular private wireless (MPW) solution for full-blooded private LTE and 5G.
On top, Nokia offers a Netflix-style as-a-service solution for on-premise LTE and edge computing, called Digital Automation Cloud (DAC), available with a set of data processing tools to support applications for smart manufacturing, predictive maintenance, and remote operations. The DAC offer works like a silver-grade plug-and-play platform for enterprises to quickly mobilise their Industry 4.0 strategies.
Daeuble explains: “Some enterprises want to do everything themselves, and keep control, which is where we typically sell the MPW solution. Others, mostly small and mid-sized firms, are more IT driven, and don’t want the complexity; that is where we provide the DAC solution, and manage some function of the network in the cloud.”
As suggested at the outset, a bronze-style private networking arrangement might be facilitated with unlicensed LTE-based solutions, offered as part of the stop-start MulteFire ecosystem. We will return to this, momentarily. But it is worth noting, as well, that this three-way categorisation is vague, actually.
“There are thousands of models; let’s be honest,” says Daeuble. He is just describing three, he explains, and the trio invariably mutates according to the priorities of the service provider. He tells it again, leaving out the MulteFire scenario altogether and presenting 5G slicing and LTE ‘proto-slicing’ as part of the mix, as an operator might spin an offer.
“We have seen that kind of demand, breaking down into two or three categories of customers, or architectures. That is what we are promoting, as well – that kind of three-tiered approach for fully autonomous networks, private networks as-a-service, and a private wireless network with core slicing from a network operator.”
It gets confusing, perhaps, if the categories become too rigid or granular. Daeuble switches focus instead to the competitive value of industrial networks running in privately-licensed vertical spectrum and in sub-licensed slices of operator spectrum.
“Large manufacturers have clear views about network management, where IT is often outsourced and OT is always under their control. Fully autonomous private cellular fits with that. It provides the best availability and reliability. There is no better way than to do it by yourself – if you can put in the investment and knowledge.”
But the spectrum combinations for private networking are numerous, and diversifying, and their permutations are entangled. Daeuble is even handed, and makes clear Nokia still considers operators as the primary conduit for its networking gear, even with its bold claims about selling directly to enterprises.
The point is that industrial IoT remains a rangy market, which cannot be so easily served by limited networking in a sliver of locally-held mid-band spectrum. Enterprises need a toolbox of digital solutions, which can be pinned to appropriate networking solutions.
Daeuble explains: “You can build a gold offering entirely in vertical spectrum. But operators have better variety – in the low bands and high bands, as well, for coverage and capacity – and any combination gives you something you can’t get by yourself.”
To be continued…