Mobile Operators Amping up Capabilities for Private Wireless Networks

Kathryn Weldon – Research Director, Business Network and IT Services – Americas

Summary Bullets:

• GlobalData’s Private LTE/5G Wireless Network Services report update shows mixed results for the last six months as operators faced increasing competition from system integrators, network equipment, and infrastructure vendors; several operators publicly acknowledged slower than anticipated momentum.

• In spite of this difficult competitive environment, most operators enhanced offerings or struck alliances to help boost the likelihood of opportunities down the road. All still consider private wireless networks to be a substantial revenue opportunity.

The public announcements below were made between September 2022 and February 2023 and disclosed a mixture of technology and go-to-market alliances, a few new customer trials or commercial deals, some unique offerings for specific segments or verticals, and adjacent network or technology advancements that should have a positive effect on future private network momentum.

Public Announcements

US Operators
AT&T tested its private 5G network for military environments with US defense contractor Northrop Grumman in collaboration with Fujitsu. Verizon Business announced a deal with the National Football League (NFL) to deploy private 5G networks in each of the 30 NFL stadiums in the US. Verizon also deployed its private 5G wireless network inside KPMG Lakehouse as part a partnership to deliver a 5G network in the healthcare and life sciences sectors. It also announced a private 5G network located at Deloitte’s ‘The Smart Factory’ in Wichita, Kansas (US) to provide an immersive industry experience center. T-Mobile and Amazon Web Services (AWS) noted they are working together to pair T-Mobile’s 5G Advanced Network Solutions portfolio with AWS cloud-based services and scalable, pre-integrated applications, so customers can more easily discover, customize, and deploy 5G edge compute for digital transformation.

UK/European Operators
BT partnered with Atos to launch Digital Vision, a solution based on Atos’ computer vision platform and BT’s connectivity and compute offerings, including public and private 5G, fiber broadband, edge computing, and IoT connectivity management. Deutsche Telekom introduced an inexpensive private 5G network offer for SMEs using Microsoft’s MEC pay-by-usage bundle, including a cellular core network, RAN components, compute, and application services. Deutsche Telekom tested an Azure-based private network with a German pharmaceutical company, which wants to connect AR glasses for remote maintenance and forklifts for object recognition and inventory management. Orange Belgium deployed a 5G standalone core network with partners Ericsson, Nokia, and Oracle, enabling advanced services including a virtual mobile private network solution served from a network slice. Telefónica Tech announced a partnership with Microsoft for Azure Private Edge Zone to enable automation and control of industrial processes on local private 5G networks in industrial settings. Telefónica Deutschland, (O2), announced plans to move its 5G core network to the cloud in order to deploy networks more rapidly for private and business customers. Vodafone deployed a private 4G/5G network for Porsche Engineering in Southern Italy in what it claimed to be the first hybrid deployment (i.e., fully integrated with Vodafone’s public mobile network) in Europe. The company also launched an affordable private network for small business users and homeowners with a prototype bank card-sized Raspberry Pi 4 personal computer and a small, advanced silicon chipset, which can increase capacity wherever required.

Other Trends
There have also been a lot of recent announcements regarding private network initiatives among non-operator ecosystem players that want to cash in on what they deem as a major opportunity. For example, during Mobile World Congress 2023, both Cisco and HPE made announcements that strengthen their respective positions, including new partnerships and acquisitions such as HPE’s expansion of its connected edge-to-cloud offering with the acquisition of private cellular network technology provider Athonet. Cisco announced partnerships with Intel, NEC, Qualcomm, Red River, and Federated Wireless to automate and manage private 5G and extend it to government customers. Nokia and Ericsson also added to their portfolios over the past few months. In February 2023, Nokia added high-performance Dell PowerEdge servers to support processing needs of Industry 4.0 use cases, MXIE GPU support for advanced real-time video analytics, and a hardware-as-a-service model. It also extended its lab-as-a-service offering to private wireless networks, providing an environment for companies to do rigorous testing of devices and applications prior to deployment. Ericsson’s Cradlepoint NetCloud Private Networks launched in January 2023 and is a subscription-based pre-packaged solution for IT-oriented enterprises in logistics, light manufacturing, government, retail, healthcare, and hospitality. It includes cellular access points, a mobility gateway (e.g., converged 4G/5G cellular core), network planning software, spectrum allocation services, routers and adapters, private SIMs, support, and warranty, all unified and orchestrated through its management platform NetCloud Manager.

While some operators have expressed short-term worries about their momentum, the market for private wireless networks remains one of the most dynamic areas in networking in 2023 with a diverse set of service providers, systems integrators, solution software providers, and network vendors all vying to generate substantial revenues as 5G networks continue their evolution to become a viable technology for enterprise networking and application requirements. The flexibility of cellular combined with the security and data privacy afforded by private networks is starting to displace or complement WiFi inside buildings, stadiums, and campuses as enterprise requirements grow to include low-latency, high bandwidth, and real-time use cases. Edge computing is an enabling technology aligned with private networks that augments the capabilities of 4G/5G, adding even more low latency, optimized compute and storage, and localized data privacy elements.

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