Who’s driving private wireless networks demand?

Vodafone UK is targeting sectors such as manufacturing with its 5G standalone mobile private network solution.

Vodafone UK is targeting sectors such as manufacturing with its 5G standalone mobile private network solution.

  • The private LTE and 5G networks sector is set for significant growth during the next few years
  • New forecast from SNS Telecom & IT values the market at US$6.4bn per year by 2026
  • Report identifies the potential of multiple industrial verticals, from agriculture to utilities

Last week we reported that the market for private LTE and 5G networks is set to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18% over the next three years, from about US$4bn to be worth in excess of US$6.4bn per year in 2026, but which industry verticals are driving this demand?

This is one of the key questions addressed in the recent report, The Private LTE & 5G Network Ecosystem: 2023 – 2030 - Opportunities, Challenges, Strategies, Industry Verticals & Forecasts, from SNS Telecom & IT. And the answer is… quite a few, actually!

As well as identifying the sector’s trends and its prospective value, the report looks at the demand drivers from multiple individual sectors, ranging from agriculture to utilities, and provides considerable detail on them all. 

For example, as far the agriculture industry is concerned, private cellular network installations range from custom-built 250 MHz LTE networks that provide wide area cellular coverage for agribusiness machinery, vehicles, sensors and field workers in Brazil to Japan’s standalone local 5G networks supporting 4K UHD (ultra-high definition) video transmission, mobile robotics, remote-controlled tractors and other advanced smart agriculture-related application capabilities.

Other verticals covered include: Aviation, where private LTE and 5G networks have been deployed or are being trialled to support internal operations at some of the world’s busiest international and domestic airports; and broadcasting, where the likes of the BBC, RTE, and many other major companies are using private 5G networks – both permanent and temporary – to support live content production and internal communication. 

Elsewhere, institutes of higher education are in the vanguard of hosting on-premises 5G networks in campus environments, while other educational establishments and bodies support purpose-built LTE networks to help eliminate the digital divide for remote learning. And in the healthcare sector, dedicated 5G campus networks are being installed to support smart healthcare applications in many hospitals around the globe.

Meanwhile, mining companies are increasingly deploying 3GPP-based private wireless networks at their surface and underground operations to support mine-wide communications between workers, real-time video monitoring, tele-operation of mining equipment, fleet management, self-driving trucks and other applications, while those in the oil and gas industry are using private cellular networks in many different ways to address their diverse connectivity requirements. For instance, Aramco (Saudi Arabian Oil Company) is using a 450 MHz LTE network for critical communications, LEO satellite-based NB-internet-of-things (IoT) coverage to enable connectivity for remote IoT assets, and private 5G networks for advanced Industry 4.0-related applications.

It’s the same in the ports and maritime transport sector, where many players are investing in private LTE and 5G networks to provide high-speed and low-latency wireless connectivity for applications, such as AGVs (automated guided vehicles), remote-controlled cranes, smart cargo handling and predictive maintenance at ports, while onboard private cellular networks – supported by satellite backhaul links – are widely in use to provide voice, data, messaging and IoT connectivity services for both passenger and cargo vessels at sea.

Then there’s the railway transport sector. Even though the transition from GSM-R to the FRMCS (Future Railway Mobile Communication System) won’t take place for five or six years yet, a number of LTE and 5G-based networks for railway communications are being deployed, including SGP's (Société du Grand Paris) private LTE network for the Paris Métro system and the China State Railway Group's 5G RDB initiative. Elsewhere in Europe, Germany’s Deutsche Bahn and the SNCF French national railways network are advanced in their plans to deploy 5G-based rail connectivity projects.

In the utilities sector, private mobile networks range from wide area 3GPP networks – operating in 410 MHz, 450 MHz, 900 MHz and other sub-1 GHz spectrum bands – for smart grid communications all the way through to purpose-built LTE and 5G networks to provide localised wireless connectivity in critical infrastructure facilities, such as power plants, substations and offshore windfarms. 

Thus, LTE and 5G-based private cellular networks are diverse and include isolated end-to-end non-private networks (NPNs) in industrial and enterprise settings, local RAN equipment for targeted cellular coverage, dedicated on-premise core network functions, virtual sliced private networks, secure MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) platforms for critical communications, and wide area networks for application scenarios such as PPDR (public protection and disaster relief) broadband, smart utility grids, railway communications and A2G (Air-to-Ground) connectivity. 

Private LTE and 5G networks are a huge opportunity and are being deployed worldwide, and by the turn of the decade they will be widely deployed across multiple sectors and in many geographic markets: The telcos will be hoping that public 5G services will also prove to be as popular. 

- Martyn Warwick, Editor in Chief, TelecomTV