High-profile clientele help accelerate private wireless

The Disc Golf Pro Tour and Johnson & Johnson join many other companies in voicing interest in private wireless networking. That has attracted a large number of vendors to the space.

Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies

June 4, 2024

4 Min Read
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Tesla, Johnson & Johnson, Audi, Cummins, Nvidia and the Disc Golf Pro Tour are some of the latest names to jump into private wireless networking. And, according to some players in the market, momentum is starting to reach a tipping point.

For example, Verizon's Dan Falkner, who is VP of wireless business products, told Mobile World Live that private wireless networking is starting to mature as customers begin to understand the benefits of the technology, and analysts agree.

"Private wireless is now growing at a formidable pace," said analyst Stefan Pongratz, of Dell'Oro Group, in a recent release. The firm reported in April that full year revenues in the private wireless radio access network (RAN) market accelerated around 40% in 2023 (though that's still just 2% of the overall RAN market).

"This stands in contrast to public RAN and enterprise WLAN – both segments are projected to contract in 2024," Pongratz said in a nod to the ongoing troubles of RAN heavyweights like Ericsson and Nokia.

Indeed, it's likely why WLAN equipment giant HPE recently announced the addition of 5G to its Aruba-branded enterprise networking portfolio, a product that stems from the company's acquisition last year of private wireless networking vendor Athonet.

"HPE Aruba Networking is uniquely positioned to enable new applications for private cellular by integrating the Athonet mobile core solutions with our traditional strengths in enterprise networking," Stuart Strickland, HPE's wireless chief technology officer of Aruba Networking, said in a release.

Making it simple

In its pursuit of private wireless 5G, HPE is joining the likes of Celona and Dense Air in developing its own RAN equipment, according to Omdia Analyst Pablo Tomasi. Omdia and Light Reading are both owned by the same parent company, Informa.

Tomasi noted that HPE's 5G equipment will first support deployments in the 3.5GHz CBRS band in the US and will later expand to other bands including C-band in the US, 3.5GHz in Europe and 4.5GHz in Japan.

More broadly, though, HPE wants to make 5G as easy for enterprises to deploy as Wi-Fi, according to Tomasi.

"For HPE, the future of private 5G is rooted in simplicity. An enterprise can get RAN, core, hardware, integration, management and SIM cards from a single company. Yet, simplicity is an elusive target in private 5G," he wrote.

Part of the problem is price. HPE may want to appeal to smaller businesses that currently use Wi-Fi, Tomasi said, but doing so may drag down prices for the whole private wireless industry, thereby cutting into HPE's margins.

"Overall, HPE shows a strong commitment to this market and the top-level solid strategy. However, this is the first of many moves that HPE needs to make, if it is to become a leader in the nascent private 5G market," Tomasi summarized.

HPE, for its part, is already touting some of its early private wireless customers, such as the Disc Golf Pro Tour (DGPT).

"The new HPE Aruba Networking Enterprise Private 5G offering will make it that much easier for companies to do what we've done and meet their requirements for pervasive coverage with an integrated offering using CBRS," said Baker Helton, DGPT's VP of business administration, in a release.

Customer parade

Other companies are also testing private wireless networking solutions: Automaker Tesla recently boasted of its private 5G network in Berlin; Chipmaking giant Nvidia is preparing to use its private 5G network to test open RAN equipment; and Verizon recently inked a major private wireless networking deal with Cummins.

The latest company to test the private wireless networking waters is healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson. Its orthopedics division, DePuy Synthes, filed FCC documents to test a "5G NSA Private Cellular Network" using Nokia equipment in the 3.45GHz band in its Raynham, Massachusetts, facility.

Officials from Johnson & Johnson and Nokia did not immediately respond to questions from Light Reading about the deployment.

The potential to win enterprise business is attracting many companies into the private wireless sector. Some of HPE's biggest competitors – Cisco, Dell and Ericsson – are also playing in the space, as are network operators like AT&T and Verizon, hyperscale players like AWS, and startups ranging from Federated Wireless to Betacom.

However, most in the sector agree that the private wireless networking industry hasn't developed as quickly as hoped. Whether the tide has shifted during 2024 remains to be seen.

About the Author(s)

Mike Dano

Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading

Mike Dano is Light Reading's Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies. Mike can be reached at [email protected], @mikeddano or on LinkedIn.

Based in Denver, Mike has covered the wireless industry as a journalist for almost two decades, first at RCR Wireless News and then at FierceWireless and recalls once writing a story about the transition from black and white to color screens on cell phones.

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