Deploying a private network is emerging as a key way for enterprises and industrial users to exploit advanced 5G capabilities and features.
The major 5G mobile network operators (MNOs) are currently focusing on applications based on consumer-oriented mobile broadband (MBB) services. However, the 5G standards are designed to support a variety of other applications. For example, the same technology that is used in major 5G mobile networks can be tailored to be used in private LTE/5G networks that address the complex and highly bespoke nature of the 5G services that enterprises and a range of sectors might be interested in.
In this article, we use this data to illustrate the trends in the use of private LTE networks and private 5G networks and explain these trends in terms of new 5G standards and spectrum availability.
What are private LTE/5G networks?
A private LTE/5G network is a cellular network that is built specifically for an individual enterprise. Such networks are most commonly deployed on a single site (for example, in a factory or a mine). Private LTE/5G networks can also be deployed to address wide-area network requirements such as a utility’s need to monitor a transmission network. Private LTE/5G networks differ from public mobile networks; the latter are typically currently designed to support the wide-area network requirements of the consumer smartphone market.
There are several deployment models that can be used for private LTE/5G networks. Some of the key differences between these models are the type of spectrum used, the core network architecture, and how the network is deployed (for example, by an MNO, specialist company, equipment vendor, system integrator, or the user itself).
Private LTE/5G networks are often used to connect a diverse range of device types. Private 5G networks in particular are being used to wirelessly connect a large number of sensors and different device types and to provide wireless connections with performance that is comparable to that from fixed cabling. This is needed to maintain the high reliability and low latency that is required for real-time data analytics, image analysis, and control-type applications.
The main users of private LTE networks are different from those of private 5G networks
Our latest data indicates that a growing variety of applications and sectors are using private networks. A wider range of vertical markets are using LTE-based private networks than 5G-based networks, largely because LTE technology has been available for longer (see Figures 1 and 2).
Figure 1: Users of LTE-based private networks, worldwide, from data published in June 2021.
Figure 2: Users of 5G-based private networks, worldwide, from data published in June 2021.
Nearly half of the 5G private networks that are currently listed in our tracker are deployed in factories. LTE-based private network use is more fragmented; the main users include factories, ports, and mines.
5G networks support more-advanced applications than LTE networks
LTE-based private networks have mostly been used for MBB connectivity (for example, mobile workforce), industrial equipment connectivity, and asset tracking, as shown in Figure 3. Private 5G networks are also being used for industrial equipment connectivity and asset tracking but are additionally used in automatic guided vehicles (AGVs) (see Figure 4). These applications use 5G’s low-latency capabilities to enable real-time data capture, real-time process analysis, and intelligent maintenance. Advanced applications can also make use of the new spectrum that is available for 5G networks, which has wider contiguous channels and advanced antenna systems to provide the additional capacity and network performance needed for the most demanding applications.
Figure 3: Applications most commonly supported by LTE-based private networks, worldwide, from data published in June 2021.
Figure 4: Applications most commonly supported by 5G-based private networks, worldwide, from data published in June 2021.
New spectrum is enabling additional use cases for private 5G networks
Analysys Mason’s Private LTE/5G networks tracker indicates that private LTE/5G networks use either licensed mobile spectrum, shared access spectrum (such as CBRS spectrum in the USA), or local access licenses. The latter is becoming more prevalent with 5G now that specific bands for local 5G use have been made available in several markets. These bands vary between different countries, but prominent examples include the 3.7–3.8 GHz band in Germany, the 3.8–4.2 GHz band in the UK and the 2570–2620 MHz band in France.1 CBRS spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band has been available for some time in the USA for use in both LTE and 5G private networks on a shared access basis.
Most of the systems listed in Analysys Mason’s tracker are still reported to be using licensed mobile spectrum (that is, spectrum licensed to MNOs). However, a growing number of private 5G networks are making use of locally licensed spectrum that regulators have made available to support private network deployments (see Figure 5).
Figure 5: Type of spectrum used in private LTE/5G networks, worldwide, from data published in June 2021.
The bands that are typically used vary depending on the market in question. The most commonly used bands for LTE-based and 5G-based private networks are shown below.
|Europe||2.6 GHz and 3.5 GHz||3.7–3.8 GHz and 3.8–4.2 GHz|
|Americas||3.5 GHz (CBRS)||3.5 GHz and mmWave|
|Asia–Pacific||1800 MHz||28 GHz|
One benefit of the new 5G spectrum is that it is better-suited to low-latency applications that need wider channels. This means that more-demanding factory-based applications could be delivered over wireless 5G links instead of fixed cabling. The use of wireless technology may provide a range of benefits to users, such as greater scalability and flexibility to move or reconfigure machinery without the constraints of wired connections. These wider channels are principally available in spectrum bands in the 3.4 – 4.2 GHz frequency range and are not available within the bands most commonly used for private LTE networks, such as 1800 MHz and 2.6 GHz.
MNOs are increasingly getting involved with private network deployments
MNOs are increasingly getting involved with the deployment of private 5G networks (either as network providers or delivery partners) due to the complexity of 5G technology and the demanding factory and industrial applications that 5G is being used to support. Indeed, for private LTE networks, the majority of systems are managed by network equipment providers (NEPs), whereas there is an equal split between the share of systems managed by NEPs and those managed by MNOs for private 5G networks (see Figure 6).
Figure 6: Providers for private LTE and 5G networks, worldwide, from data published in June 2021
1 The European 5G Observatory provides further details on the various approaches to private 5G network spectrum in Europe. European 5G Observatory (2020), 5G private licenses spectrum in
Janette Stewart is one of Analysys Mason’s senior spectrum experts, with 25 years of experience in radio engineering, wireless technologies, spectrum policy, and spectrum management. Janette joined Analysys Mason in 2001, having previously worked for the UK Radiocommunications Agency (now Ofcom). Janette’s expertise lies in mobile, wireless, and broadband technologies and markets and her consulting experience includes advising on market developments in the wireless sector, wireless technology evolution, wireless business modeling, spectrum valuation, spectrum strategy, competition, and regulation issues in the wireless market. She holds a BEng in Electronic Engineering from the University of Edinburgh, and an MSc in Radio Communications from the University of Bradford.
Michele MacKenzie is an analyst for Analysys Mason’s IoT and M2M Services research program, with responsibility for M2M and LPWA forecasts. She has over 20 years of experience as an analyst and researches IoT verticals such as utilities, automotive, healthcare, fleet management, and the industrial IoT. She also writes reports on the role of network technologies such as NB-IoT and 5G. Michele leads Analysys Mason’s research on private LTE/5G networks and has produced reports on the competitive landscape and network deployment models, as well as a forecast of network spending on private LTE/5G. Prior to joining Analysys Mason in February 2014, Michele was a freelance analyst with a focus on M2M and IoT technology and trends.
Ibraheem is a member of the Operator Business Services and IoT research team in London and contributes to the IoT and M2M Services and Private Networks research programs. He has written on topics including private LTE/5G networks, IoT eSIMs and iSIMs, and LPWA networks, and has researched IoT verticals such as smart metering and smart buildings. Ibraheem holds a BSc in economics from the University of Warwick and wrote his dissertation on the impact of technology on sleep.