Networks built for an individual campus or factory, run separately from the operator's public infrastructure, have been one of the big talking points of the industry in the last year. In countries such as Germany, decisions to reserve valuable spectrum for these deployments have made tongues wag even faster, infuriating telecom operators that claim these airwaves as theirs alone.
The private network permutations are seemingly countless: networks run by a telco on behalf of an enterprise; networks built by vendors for the enterprise to operate itself; networks that use an enterprise's own spectrum; networks that lease frequencies from a service provider; networks that take a "slice" of the public system; networks that feature a "core" on the factory premises. The list goes on, and with it the array of product opportunities for players targeting this market.
This year, five companies have been shortlisted for "Most Innovative Private Wireless Networks Strategy." They are:
The Leading Lights winners, and the identities of this year's Light Reading Hall of Fame inductees, will be announced online, on August 21, during a special video presentation on www.lightreading.com, one month before the start of the Big 5G Event.
Here's a closer look at the companies shortlisted in Most Innovative Private Wireless Networks Strategy:
Boingo Wireless – Neutral Host Private Network
Taking advantage of the US release of spectrum in the CBRS band, Boingo has shunted its Neutral Host Private Network out of the lab and into the glare of commercial activity. The system has been set up to power private networks – based, of course, on CBRS airwaves – for large venues such as airports. Indeed, a number of those are already using the technology to meet connectivity requirements.
Part of the beauty of it all is that customers do not have to worry about capital-intensive buildouts and backhaul requirements. Those are all taken care of by Boingo. The private networks can also be operated alongside licensed and unlicensed cellular and Wi-Fi networks at the same location. Demand for the offer seems to have been good already: Boingo says it enjoyed its most successful year ever in 2019, with record revenues, and is seeing continued growth in 2020.
Celona – Celona Edge
Celona's three-pronged attack on the private network space ticks some important boxes, providing radio access network (RAN), edge and orchestrator products to enterprise customers. The RAN layer comes with 4G and 5G "plug and play" access points that terminate on the cloud-native Celona Edge, while the cloud-hosted orchestrator is set up to support traditional network operations as well as more sophisticated optimization based on artificial intelligence, says Celona. Customers also get a network-slicing offer that provides service guarantees for mission-critical applications.
Celona says it has invested considerable resources in the new private network products, spending money on the development of RAN tools, microservice features and orchestrator software. In such a hot part of the telecom market, that should start to pay off quickly.
Federated Wireless – Connectivity-as-a-Service
Offered as a managed service, the private networks offer from Federated Wireless caters to 4G and 5G needs in the enterprise setting. The vendor takes charge of installing and maintaining the network, and promises features including support for mission-critical applications, compatibility with the AWS and Azure cloud environments and subscription-based fees.
The package is aimed at several key scenarios, too, including manufacturing, warehousing and logistics settings where shop-floor automation, robotics and bar-code scanning are becoming increasingly important. Federated Wireless says it can support applications requiring low latency, thanks to its edge computing investments, and include ruggedized laptops and push-to-talk devices in any network so that mission-critical communications are secured.
Mavenir – Mavenir Private Networks
US-based Mavenir, one of the most active players in the open RAN community, has thrown its hat into the private networks ring with a cloud-native, software-based system that, it says, runs on general-purpose equipment and, of course, is based on open RAN technology. The technology, importantly, can run "in isolation" from external systems, giving the customer physical ownership and control over all the components installed at the premises.
Unsurprising as it may be, the highlighting of open RAN features does make the Mavenir offer stand out as an entry and could attract enterprises that are as concerned as operators about overreliance on big vendors such as Nokia, whose own march into the private networks market has buoyed revenues at its youngish enterprise business.
Nokia – Nokia Industrial-Grade Private Wireless Solutions Suite
One of the big beasts of the network equipment market, Nokia has had its private networks business to thank partly for the impressive growth at its Enterprise division throughout the coronavirus crisis, with sales up 19% in the first six months of the year. With about 180 large enterprise customers deploying its private network technology, the Finnish vendor made some important updates to its suite of private network services in November that have propelled its growth.
Suite is an apt description for what is a comprehensive offering that caters to organizations in the transportation, energy, manufacturing, public sector and webscale segments of the market. For companies happy to give all the service management to Nokia or another partner, there is the Digital Automation Cloud service. For those wanting more control, Nokia offers something called Modular Private Wireless, bringing a full core network onto the local site. And in July, Nokia added a standalone 5G service that should appeal to customers looking for more advanced 5G capabilities.
— Iain Morris, International Editor, Light Reading