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The operator opportunity for private mobile networksThe operator opportunity for private mobile networks

Are mobile operators central to the private mobile network opportunity? Or, with new enterprise spectrum allocations, are they destined to be usurped by vendors, systems integrators and enterprises themselves?

Gabriel Brown

May 1, 2020

3 Min Read
The operator opportunity for private mobile networks

Private mobile networks, designed for the performance, coverage and security requirements of enterprise users, represent a growth market. In its Private Mobile Networks Market Tracker, research firm Omdia counts 465 projects worldwide since 2016, driven higher by a surge of interest since the start of 2019, with 44 new projects in Q1 2019, rising to 141 projects initiated in Q4 2019, and another 104 so far in 2020.

Light Reading also now has a dedicated section covering the technologies, use cases and sectors leading the private network market: https://www.lightreading.com/private-networks.asp

But what about the telecom operator opportunity? Are mobile operators central to the private mobile network opportunity? Or, with new enterprise spectrum allocations, are they destined to be usurped by vendors, systems integrators and enterprises themselves?

To investigate this and other important private network ecosystem issues, Heavy Reading conducted two online surveys in January 2020 of professionals working for telecom operators and of end-user enterprise professionals with experience of wireless networking. The intent was (1) to better understand how operators see the opportunity to add value and run these networks on behalf of enterprise customers and (2) to gain direct insight into how enterprise themselves see private networks.

You can download the survey report, at no charge, here: The Telecom Operator Opportunity for Private Mobile Networks.

Private mobile networks, by definition, represent a rupture with the public network model that defines the mobile industry. How the major actors in the ecosystem interact and collaborate will determine the shape and growth rate of this market segment.

The survey revealed that ecosystem partnerships are looked on favorably by both operators and enterprises. Very clearly, collaboration between enterprises, operational technology companies, systems integrators, technology vendors and telecom operators will be a defining feature of the majority of 4G/5G private network deployments. This was probably to be expected.

The question of which party leads a project is more nuanced. Operators, when asked about engagement model, said they are keen to work with vendor and systems integrator partners, but tend to think the operator will lead the project. A commendably open-minded 32% of operator respondents expect partnership models, where operators participate as equals with vendors and systems integrators, will prevail. The largest group, however, is the 48% that expect operators to lead the engagement, with vendors and integrators standing behind them to provide support and technology.

Enterprises value multi-party engagement models even more highly. They are equally opened-minded about working with operators, vendors or systems integrators as lead contractors (each scored 22%). The largest number, however, is the 27% that indicated they see a combination of telco, vendor and integrator partners as the preferred model.

The takeaway is that, for operators to succeed in this market, they will, in the first instance, need to increase their outreach to partners across the ecosystem and contribute their expertise, industry connections and market access. It may also be the case that in certain market segments the operator should accept it is not best placed to lead the engagement and that by taking a supporting role it can still contribute value and, in this way, help grow the overall market.

— Gabriel Brown, Principal Analyst, Mobile Networks & 5G, Heavy Reading

This Heavy Reading special report, The Telecom Operator Opportunity for Private Mobile Networks, was produced with support from sponsors Ericsson, Intel, NetNumber and Qualcomm. We thank them for their support. However, the report was entirely written by Heavy Reading and does not necessarily reflect the views of sponsors.

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About the Author(s)

Gabriel Brown

Principal Analyst, Heavy Reading

Gabriel Brown's coverage at Heavy Reading focuses on wireless data networking technologies, including 3G/HSPA, WiMax, and LTE, with a specific focus on how these technologies impact the wider mobile Internet services market. He has covered the wireless data industry since 1998, previously as Chief Analyst of the monthly Unstrung Insider, published by Heavy Reading's parent company Light Reading. Before moving to Heavy Reading, Brown was additionally responsible for the overall editorial planning of Light Reading's entire line of Insider research newsletters. Prior to joining Unstrung, Brown was the editor of IP Wireline and Wireless Week at London's Euromoney Institutional Investor. He often presents research findings at industry events and is regularly consulted by wireless networking technology leaders. He is based in the U.K.

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