Industry Voices — Owen: Device availability is key to private networks in unlicensed spectrum

Private LTE networks were once the preserve of mobile operators with licensed spectrum. But the barriers to the adoption of private LTE networks are falling rapidly. The availability of end-to-end, plug-and-play LTE network solutions coupled with the emergence of new unlicensed spectrum bands, will be an industry game changer and will embolden commercial and industrial enterprises to invest in private LTE networks, thus bypassing mobile operators.

At present, most industrial and commercial enterprises use a mix of open/proprietary wireless and wired communications technologies to connect machines and people. LTE, a mature, standards-based technology, enables enterprises to reduce deployment and operational costs and avoid vendor lock-in in both infrastructure and devices while at the same time offering the benefits of a higher degree of control, data security and reliability compared to public networks run by the MNOs. However, some users with very specific IoT/IIoT requirements may need to continue to use proprietary equipment.

Counterpoint Research believes that many of the largest enterprises and industrial companies will acquire their own spectrum and build and manage their own networks. Others will partner with a new breed of independent vertical-focused cellular network operators with spectrum access, whilst the remainder will use established MNOs. Early adopters are likely to be the largest corporations with deep pockets and a compelling business case.

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