GSA Report Confirms Key Trends in Private LTE/5G While Highlighting the Difficulty in Tracking Deployments

J. Marcus

Summary Bullets:

• The Global Mobile Suppliers’ Association (GSA) report demonstrates continued growth in private LTE/5G network deployments within key sectors and regions.

• The report is mostly consistent with GlobalData’s own market tracking data, but not always; variances in definitions and available data sources can account for discrepancies between the different databases.

The GSA has published its latest quarterly report on private cellular networks, adding data from another 66 new networks in Q3 2022 (and 214 during Q1 2022 to Q3 2022) for a total of 955. Its aggregate tracking statistics provide perhaps the most comprehensive view of trends in private LTE and 5G technology deployment over the last few years, given the participation of GSA members such as Ericsson, Huawei, Mavenir, and Nokia in the data collection. Among its key messages for Q3 2022 is that the three fastest-growing industry sectors had been mining, defense, and manufacturing. It also reports that manufacturing, education, and mining remain the three largest sectors in terms of number of deployments, although the actual size and scale of deployments varies by user type.

GlobalData has been providing clients with its own private cellular deployments data within its Connected Enterprise Tracker since early-2022. The GlobalData tracker differs in that it only includes public references, while the GSA report includes data from suppliers about the 58% of customers who wish not to be identified publicly (in addition to their public references). As a result, the GSA report is more comprehensive in terms of number of private networks tracked by vertical, technology type, and region, but GlobalData’s Connected Enterprise Tracker includes more information for each deployment (e.g., use case, country, suppliers, vertical, and a brief text description). The GlobalData tracker also includes deployments made by suppliers who are not contributing data to the GSA report.

It may be instructive to compare the market splits in the two data sets in order to understand which types of customers are concerned or not concerned about allowing their suppliers to publicize their technology choices. Are suppliers leaning on certain types of customers for publishing their private network case studies? Are enterprises in one region more willing to share their innovations with the world than companies in other parts of the world?

The regional shares are mostly consistent between the two data sets (please see chart above) with the obvious exception that the publicly named private network deployments in GlobalData’s tracker are more likely to be based in Europe than those in the GSA report, which includes both public and confidential deployment information. Enterprises in North America and Asia-Pacific may see their technology choices as a competitive move to be guarded rather than something to be publicized. The same may be true for the Middle East and Africa. On the other hand, suppliers may see Europe as a key early battleground where they need to demonstrate traction in individual countries and work hard on getting customers there to agree to reveal details publicly, especially given the competitive dynamics of Industry 4.0 within manufacturing and other sectors, which are especially prominent there. This might skew the percentage share toward Europe in GlobalData’s database, as might the fact that the GSA limits inclusion to deployments valued at a minimum of EUR100,000.

Speaking of verticals, how do the two data sets differ? While GlobalData has segments broken down into 17 verticals, the GSA has defined 30 different sectors and does not provide numerical data for each, so we can only compare by estimating numbers from a bar chart displayed in its report while making assumptions on which segments match up between the two sources. There are many similarities in the vertical sector percentage shares, especially when looking at verticals, which have not been especially active in private LTE/5G (e.g., retail, agriculture, and healthcare). Other similarities can be found between the two sources when comparing numbers for oil and gas, utilities, and mining.

One major difference is in the sector that accounts for the most deployments in both data sets: manufacturing. The GSA report shows the sector with approximately 20% of private network deployments, while the GlobalData tracker reports a much larger share of 32%. Looking at the individual deployments in GlobalData’s tracker, there are plenty that do not mention the key GSA members as suppliers. That doesn’t necessarily mean they weren’t involved in the background of solutions delivered by partners (especially telco partners), but a number of deployments in GlobalData’s tracker include vendors and service providers that are not contributing data to the GSA report.

Another discrepancy is in the public sector. GlobalData’s tracker uses ‘government’ as the vertical inclusive of local and national government bodies, including military, public safety, and most smart city deployments, which accounts for 8% of deployments so far, while the GSA’s data (split between several equivalent sub-segments) appears to show a much larger share (i.e., approximately twice as large) based on the information indicated in its report. It is counter-intuitive to think that public sector organizations as a group would be less-likely to agree to publicize their technology deployments than manufacturers, which these discrepancies suggest on the surface, so there is likely another reason.

GlobalData’s private networks tracker is a sub-set of its Connected Enterprise Tracker, and so GlobalData only includes those deployments using the connectivity for at least one IoT/M2M application; if the network is simply providing alternative coverage for voice/data services, it doesn’t belong in the context of GlobalData’s database. Likewise, if the information provided in a press release or case study is limited and doesn’t specifically mention connecting sensors or other non-smartphone devices, GlobalData doesn’t include it. There has been a number of these by local governments and military bases, particularly in the US, which are presumably included in the GSA report and may account for its much larger shares of public sector deployments as well as the GlobalData tracker’s smaller regional share for North America.

All this goes to show that tracking private LTE/5G network deployments is a problematic endeavor, especially given the difficulty of comparing data sets. No one really knows how many private cellular networks have been deployed so far. The GSA says 955 (with an asterix to account for the limitations of its data), Nokia says it has deployed 515, Verizon has said earlier in 2022 it had up to 300 in its 12-month pipeline, while AWS says it has 190 private networks—mostly LTE—in production, but it hasn’t published a single customer reference. Other analysts and publications have estimated thousands.

GlobalData will continue to track public references for private cellular network deployments in order to make whatever sense out of what is being done out in the open by enterprises, public sector organizations, and their suppliers; and for now, GlobalData is still most interested in what the technology can do for digitizing operations, whether it’s collecting data for operational insights or the automation of processes. As GlobalData collects more data in 2023, we will share further analysis of the continuing trends.

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