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Private Networks

T-Mobile's CEO explains the company's new private 5G strategy

T-Mobile on Monday took the wraps off its new private wireless networking offerings, and the company's CEO spoke about it at length during an investor event.

"CIOs everywhere are interested in this topic right now," T-Mobile's Mike Sievert said Monday at the J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Communications Conference. "And they're interested in it for a reason. They want more secure networks, they want dedicated [network] capacity, they want dedicated spectrum, which means they understand the throughput. They want service level commitments, and they want it all as-a-service. And we're able to provide that in a unique way."

Ultimately, Sievert said, T-Mobile's new private networking offering is designed to help the company increase its market share among business users from around 10% today to around 20% by 2025.

T-Mobile touts extensive 2.5GHz coverage. (Source: T-Mobile)
T-Mobile touts extensive 2.5GHz coverage.
(Source: T-Mobile)

In a series of releases Monday morning, T-Mobile outlined its private wireless networking strategy – housed in its new 5G Advanced Network Solutions (ANS) division – with vendors including Ericsson, Nokia and Dell Technologies. Ericsson and Nokia will supply networking equipment for the private networks (they already supply 5G equipment for T-Mobile's public network). Dell, meantime, will supply edge computing equipment, including its "VxRail hyperconverged infrastructure," so that T-Mobile's enterprise customers can store and process their data locally, such as in large business campuses, factories or universities.

T-Mobile's private wireless strategy revolves around three basic options:

  • Public Network, which is "architected so that data travels less distance from the device to the compute resource and back," according to the operator.
  • Hybrid Mobile Network, which T-Mobile said "is ideal for things like immersive VR training, computer vision and inspections and other demanding applications, without the expense of a fully private solution."
  • Private Mobile Network, which is "needed for only the most demanding applications, like industrial automation in a factory or fully autonomous robots," T-Mobile said.

In its announcement, T-Mobile said SailGP – which operates an international boat-racing competition – is using its ANS Hybrid Network solution. "Not only did T-Mobile's 5G Hybrid Mobile Network deliver superior reliability in the most extreme conditions, it provided up to 50% reduction in latency. This superfast data transfer helped coaches and athletes make better decisions while racing at highway-like speeds. It also brought fans closer to the action, giving them an unmatched viewing experience," according to T-Mobile.

Sievert said T-Mobile counts a "substantial minority" of other ANS customers among the Fortune 50, but he declined to name them. T-Mobile's Callie Field told Reuters that those customers include an automaker, an airline operator (possibly Alaska Airlines, which already has a public agreement with T-Mobile) and a theme park (likely Disney World).

Field recently took over T-Mobile's business operations from Mike Katz, who was named the operator's CMO.

Playing catch-up

Although T-Mobile officials have been talking about the concept for years, T-Mobile is officially entering the private 5G networking space several years behind its competitors.

AT&T and Verizon have both been offering various flavors of enterprise edge computing and private enterprise networks for several years now. For example, Verizon has been touting its private wireless networking efforts with Associated British Ports in the UK for almost a year, while AT&T's private wireless network inside a Samsung factory has been a talking point for that operator for years. Even Dish Network – which is working to build a nationwide 5G network in the US – has discussed several of its private wireless networking deployments.

Broadly, T-Mobile is entering a sector crowded with all kinds of competitors. In private wireless networking, infrastructure providers like Ericsson and Airspan compete directly with cloud computing giants like Microsoft and Amazon, wireless network operators such as AT&T and Dish Network, and startups ranging from Betacom to Celona to Artemis. However, most such competitors agree it's still early days in a market that ABI predicts could grow to $109 billion by 2030.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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