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Huge Upside for Private Wireless Network Infrastructure

Across the globe, mobile network operators continue to invest in public network infrastructure to support the growing demand for new applications. Moreover, there is an increasing need for purpose-built private cellular networks that enable the deployment of new Internet of Things (IoT) apps.

The fourth-generation (4G) long-term evolution (LTE) mobile technology standard and the fifth-generation (5G) standard are the foundation for these new emerging wireless network use cases.

Private LTE/5G infrastructure is any 3GPP-based LTE and/or 5G network deployed for a specific enterprise or industrial customer that provides 'dedicated access'.

Private Wireless Network Market Development

It includes networks that may utilize dedicated -- licensed, unlicensed, or shared -- spectrum, dedicated infrastructure, and private devices embedded with unique subscriber identity module (SIM) chips. 

Furthermore, private LTE/5G infrastructure carries traffic native to a specific organization, with no shared resources in use by any third-party entities.

Worldwide revenue attributable to the sales of private LTE/5G infrastructure will grow from $945 million in 2019 to an estimated $5.7 billion in 2024 with a 5-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 43.4 percent.

This includes aggregated spending on radio access network (RAN), core, and transport infrastructure.

"Private LTE infrastructure is already used by select verticals worldwide to solve mission-critical networking challenges. However, the barrier to consumption has remained high, limiting adoption to organizations possessing in-house competency and access to dedicated spectrum," said Patrick Filkins, senior research analyst at IDC.

With more spectrum being made available for enterprise uses, coinciding with the arrival of commercial 5G, interest has grown toward using private LTE/5G solutions as a basis for connectivity across a multitude of mission-critical, industrial and traditional enterprise organizations.

Many organizations are deploying private LTE today, and a select few are beginning to deploy private 5G in limited instances. While many of these industry verticals overlap in both use case and network needs, the market opportunity can be categorized into three segments:

Mission-critical: Verticals that require 'always-on' connectivity addressable through redundancy and dedicated resources, as well as the clear need or desire for mobile site connectivity. Loss of connectivity would likely result in significant negative business or operational outcomes.

Industrial: Verticals whose primary focus is process and industrial automation for Industry 4.0. It also generally involves providing high-capacity and ultra-reliable low-latency communication (5G URLLC) either with time-sensitive networking (TSN) or as an alternative.

Traditional enterprise or business-critical: These are verticals that require deterministic wireless networking beyond traditional Wi-Fi, but where redundancy and automation needs are lower. These include 'business-critical' applications, where the loss of connectivity could result in loss of revenue.

Outlook for Private Wireless Network App Growth

I believe that with improvements in speed, latency, and higher density of connected devices, the emerging Wi-Fi 6 wireless local area network (WLAN) standard is likely to be ideal for indoor enterprise network applications.

That said, CIOs and CTOs will compare the unique attributes of wireless technologies and select the most suitable one for each enterprise application scenario. Therefore, we'll likely see situations where 5G and Wi-Fi 6 infrastructure will coexist, and interconnect to provide the optimal wireless network coverage.

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