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Private Wireless Crosses the Chasm

And what we can expect in 2024

For many enterprise verticals, private 4G and 5G services are no longer a nice to have but have become  a strategic component for transforming business operations.

In the US we witnessed the adoption of private wireless significantly accelerate throughout the year.  

As the US continued its momentum in the CBRS bandwidth both 4G and 5G, we also have seen private wireless deployments taking a strong foothold globally with 5G. New 5G private wireless networks and devices supporting international bands have become widely available to enable new applications and use cases vital to industrial productivity around the world.

Key Use Cases

As the private wireless “crosses the chasm”, a clear picture is shaping up in front of our eyes. The need for reliable wireless connectivity with private cellular networks is driven by many digital automation projects across different industrial verticals with key use cases including:

Connected workforce with tablets or handheld scanners

  • Oil & gas refineries or petrochemical plants field operations that are moving from “good old paper and pen” based field inspections to ruggedized tablets.
  • Warehouses or airports where the workforce is using handheld scanners and need reliable connectivity not only indoors but also outdoors.
  • Retail store curbside pick-up where the store workforce using handheld devices to confirm delivery of goods to customers.

Automated guided vehicles (AGVs) or automated moving robots (AMRs)

  • Manufacturing factories that use AGVs and automated trucks to distribute parts and manufacturing components between different productions units or buildings in their factory campuses.
  • Warehouses and distributions centers where AMRs are increasingly used for packagestoring and delivery.

IoT sensors and IP cameras in many industrial, logistics and mining facilities

  • Outdoor IP cameras deployed for worker safety and perimeter security in remote outdoor location sin their facilities
  • IoT sensors and PLCs that require support for mobility

Broad industry device and spectrum support

All these use cases are being fueled by a strong ecosystem of mobile devices that are optimized for private wireless operations.Some of the notable announcements we have seen in 2023 include:

We have also seen private 5G spectrum opening in many countries globally in 3.3 GHz - 4.9 GHz range with a diverse set of devices supporting these bands. The list of countries with private spectrum already allocated includes US, Germany, Japan, Korea, UK, France, Netherland, Sweden, Poland, Belgium, Norway, Brazil, Taiwan, and Australia. Many more countries also announced imminent plans for private 5G spectrum including Canada, Europe, and Asia. Lastly, we see mobile network operators leasing their licensed spectrum for private wireless deployments in countries where private wireless spectrum has not opened yet.  

New private wireless services supercharging the industry

Lastly, a very exciting development in 2023 has been the announcement of neutral host networks in US that use CBRS spectrum for extending the coverage of public wireless to indoors and remote areas. These networks use the same private wireless infrastructure but also broadcast MNO network IDs (PLMN ID) using a MOCN gateway infrastructure. This enables much more cost effective and faster deployment model than traditional distributed antenna solutions.

TOP 5 PREDICTIONS FOR 2024

Given the great momentum we’ve seen in the market this year, next year is poised to be a stellar year for private wireless industry. Here are my Top 5 predictions for 2024:

1.     Energy, logistics and manufacturing sectors will drive bulk of private 5G deployments

  • Oil & Gas, Petrochemical and Power plants will lead the charge. Early adopter companies in this space will expand their initial private wireless deployments from a few sites to many of their facilities globally.
  • Warehouse, distribution centers and manufacturing facilities will see increased adoption, but the pace will be limited by their device refresh cycles.
  • The Mining sector, including mid-tier companies, will increasingly adopt the technology.

2.     Global expansion of private wireless outside US will be driven mainly in Europe

  • Bulk of the actual private 5G technology adoption will be driven by Europe while we will continue to see a mixture of LTE and 5G in US. This will really put the private 5G spectrum allocation mechanisms in different EU countries to test.
  • Far East Asia led by Korea, Japan and Australia will go beyond proof-of-concept (PoC) and start some meaningful production network deployments.

3.     Full integration with enterprise local area networks and security architecture, and automation of deployment & operations will be most critical aspects of private wireless solutions

  • As the industry scales up from proof-of-concept deployments to actual production deployments in many customer sites, manually configuring each of these deployments will be increasingly difficult. Automation and repeatable deployments will be the key to scale the ecosystem.
  • Although enhancements in 5G technology (Rel 16, 17 standards) will continue to be attractive for exciting new use cases, majority of deployment decisions will be based on real pain points in the filed today that current 4G & 5G products can solve and justify the ROI.
  • We will see acceleration in network as a service (NaaS) offerings that takes the burden away from end-customers and enables deployments to scale easily for many of their facilities in different locations.
  • We will start seeing AI used more widely used in private wireless deployments especially for configuration, optimization, and operations of these networks in a scalable manner.    

4.     Infrastructure vendor ecosystem will trim down to a few clear winners

  • Infrastructure vendors that can provide a full end-to-end solution with the above features will dominate the private wireless ecosystem.
  • System integrators that bring different components (RAN, Core network, Orchestration) to stitch together a coherent end-to-end solution will increasingly struggle to scale their solution to production scale.
  • O-RAN technology may gain some momentum in public network deployments in licensed bands, but private cellular deployments will be dominated by plug-and-play RAN systems that integrates existing LANs of enterprises.
  • Wi-Fi will continue to be complementary to private cellular deployments and seamless roaming of mobile devices between these technologies will become increasingly important (e.g., AGV moving in and out of a warehouse).

5.     Neutral host deployments in US in the CBRS band with at least two major MNOs will pave the way for cheaper and faster indoor public wireless

  • 2024 will be the year where the CBRS neutral host ecosystems matures in US with regards to deployment and operational aspects.
  • As the MOCN based neutral host technology proves itself as a very cost-effective alternative to DAS, we will see a huge pipeline growing especially in the carpeted enterprises such as higher education, healthcare and offices.
  • As US leads the way with this new deployment model, we will see furthermore interest developing globally by select set of MNOs.

In conclusion, 2023 marked a pivotal year for private wireless technology, solidifying its status as a transformative force that addresses critical challenges within enterprises globally. Private 4G and 5G services are no longer optional but have emerged as strategic elements for reshaping business operations across various verticals. The notable acceleration of private wireless adoption in the US, coupled with the global expansion of 5G deployments, underscores the widespread availability of new networks and devices supporting international bands, facilitating crucial applications and use cases for industrial productivity worldwide. To learn more about private 5G network deployments visit www.celona.io.

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