According to a new research report from the IoT analyst firm Berg Insight, private LTE/5G network deployments are set to tenfold during the period 2021–2026.
There are today more than 1,000 private LTE networks deployed globally, serving a variety of use cases. Private 5G network deployments are so far mainly concentrated to trial and pilot deployments and amounts to an estimated 200–300 networks. Until 2026, the number of private LTE/5G network deployments are expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 57 percent to reach 13,500 networks at the end of the period.
Berg Insight defines a private cellular network as a 3GPP-based private LTE/5G network built for the sole use of a private entity such as an enterprise or government organisation. Referred to as non-public networks by the 3GPP, private LTE/5G networks use spectrum defined by the 3GPP and LTE or 5G NR base stations, small cells and other radio access network (RAN) infrastructure to transmit voice and data to edge devices.
Advancements in cellular technology, along with the increasing availability of dedicated spectrum for industries are currently transforming the private cellular network market from a niche to a substantial market. These developments open up a range of opportunities for the cellular ecosystem, fuelling a new wave of investments by established network equipment vendors but also attracting new entrants into the space.
The major RAN vendors (Ericsson, Nokia and Huawei) all play significant roles as integrated solution providers and are challenged by a number smaller RAN equipment providers including Airspan Networks, JMA Wireless, Mavenir, CommScope and Samsung Networks, which provide competitive LTE/5G radio products. Important specialised core network software vendors include Druid Software and Athonet, as well as Affirmed Networks and Metaswitch that are both part of Microsoft since mid-2020. In line with the trend of network functions virtualization, the major cloud service providers have increased their focus on the telecommunications market. Besides AWS and Microsoft, Celona and Cisco are notable players that have entered the market in recent time.
“Spectrum availability is the most important enabling factor for the adoption of private LTE/5G networks”, said Fredrik Stalbrand, Senior Analyst at Berg Insight. While the CBRS band in the US allows for both private LTE and 5G network deployments, organisations looking to deploy private LTE networks generally need to gain access to spectrum via mobile operators in most other markets. National regulators in an increasing number of countries, especially in Europe, are introducing local licensing models for private 5G. The private 5G ecosystem is however still in an early stage, especially on the device side.
Mr. Stalbrand concluded:
“As a wider selection of 5G NR devices becomes available, an increasing number of private 5G network trials will convert into full deployments starting in 2023.”