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Networks: Trends and Analysis of LTE-Based and 5G-Based Networks

Contributed article by Michele Mackenzie, Janette Stewart and Ibraheem Kasujee of Analysys Mason

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.

Region LTE 5G
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.

 

The Misguided mmWave Dance

Perspective by Ernest Worthman

One of the big selling points of 5G is that it will work miracles for data rates, latency, security, agility and so forth. We cannot really call that a lie, because 5G does have the potential of upping the bar for these performance parameters by at least an order of magnitude, or more.

The real problem is that, in the early hype of 5G, this sleight of hand was promised across all radio spectrum segments even though it was well known that little of what 5G offers can happen below 3 GHz. C-Band offers a better platform but still has limits to 5Gs promised over-the-top performance. It would take a while before the industry would fess up to the fact that the full benefits of 5G can be realized only in the higher spectrum where unencumbered wide swaths of contiguous bandwidth are available, i.e., the mmWave spectrum.

I read what Mike Kapko of SDxCentral had to say about a visit Earl Lum of EJL Wireless Research made to Verizon’s San Diego 5G market to analyze its 5G Ultra-Wideband network. I want to drill down on some of his observations and comments.

According to Kapko, Lum did a “thorough study of Verizon’s mmWave small cells, including coverage and performance.” From that study, Kapko reported, Lum stated that the case for high-frequency spectrum would only see very extreme use cases. To be fair, in this instance the discussion was about Verizon’s ramp-up of expansive mid-band 5G deployment. But the rest of Kapko’s report of his interview with Lum seemed to imply that mmWave would never be a primary platform for anything.

Whoa there, podner!

Although mmWave may not end up as a primary platform like its lower-spectrum relatives, millimeter-wave will certainly be ubiquitous in the applications it is suited for – and there are many.

Let us put aside that much of the mmWave hype of yesterday was just that – hype. It was everywhere, especially from carriers. The real issue is what mmWave is really capable of and how that will play into the overall 5G wireless umbrella for all players, not just the carriers.

First of all, mmWave is a short-distance platform for most use cases, especially for mobile broadband. There are long-hop microwave use cases, but those are relatively limited and not really common in the 5G space. However, being a short-distance platform will not stop the proliferation of potential mmWave applications and use cases. I wholeheartedly disagree that mmWave will only see “very extreme use cases.”

I believe the potential for the mmWave use case is ubiquitous – from edge compute to holograms and everything in between. There are dozens of use cases where mmWave will be just what the doctor ordered. It will be the only technology that will meet uber-stringent specifications of speed and latency.

These use cases depend upon mmWave spectrum becoming available. However, that will not be an issue. We can use the 30 GHz-to-150 GHz spectrum where, for starters, contiguous spectrum is available. Eventually, use cases will creep up to higher frequencies as the technology to utilize the higher spectrum evolves and matures.

Just for kicks, here is a short list of use cases I am familiar with that will work in the mmWave arena. This is just the higher-level flyover. Additionally, there are many applications and opportunities within each of these:

  • Edge compute
  • Autonomous vehicles
  • Pico cells (most commonly, residential, and commercial in-building applications)
  • Ultra-broadband (various applications)
  • Military (fire control in the military, for example
  • Machine-to-machine (M2M)
  • Enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB)
  • Last-mile copper and fiber replacements
  • Everywhere XR (all flavors)
  • Security (high-definition video streaming/broadcast)
  • Smart factories, farms, manufacturing and warehousing (Industrial IoT, Industry 4.0)
  • Entertainment venues
  • FWA
  • Enterprises

This really only scratches the surface, but an endless list would be pointless. This serves to present my perspective.

The one thing Lum, as well as some other analysts such as MoffettNathanson, is correct about is that, for the carriers, in the <6 GHz spectrum, and to some degree in the 3.5 GHz C-band, mmWave will not play a large role. It will generally be relegated to offload applications and cells and will comprise of only a small percentage of that particular 5G spectrum usage. Meanwhile, exactly how and for what mmWave spectrum will integrate with low-band spectrum is still a bit fuzzy.

Early on, those with more than a cursory understanding of RF technology knew the hype of 5G mmWave would fall short, eventually. Not just mmWave, but the whole 5G ecosystem. But this is a mmWave discussion, so … staying focused ….

When it comes to large-size deployments of straight mmWave, it will not work. To bathe any large metropolis with a mmWave network would require an unreasonably large number of APs – hundreds of thousands – a practical and logistical impossibility. The tangential support such as power, antenna proliferation and more also becomes impractical. Nevertheless, we also understood the promise of it – short-distance coverage applications.

Many companies are working on such applications and the mmWave technology to make it happen. Ericsson, Qualcomm, Keysight, TI, Infineon and dozens, if not hundreds, of others are involved in mmWave to one degree or another.

Additionally, the industry is also aware of mmWave challenges. Challenges have been known for decades, and the industry has developed a mature and successful approach to dealing with them. I have been involved in mmWave site design over the years, so I have at least a cursory understanding of what it takes for their successful deployment and long-term successful functioning. Designing and deploying mmWave sites, whatever they are, is just a matter of considering the degradation elements and conditions.

That is not to say that mmWave is a one-size-fits-all. Certainly, there are use cases where mmWave just will not do the job, for whatever reason. However, the industry is aware of that.

I am always surprised when analysts paint a technology with a wide brush. Although there may be a lot of analysts who understand the non-technical aspect of RF, few can weld technology with economics and other metrics.

In the end, I completely disagree with Lum’s assessment that mmWave will not become a major player in 5G. 5G is not just about eMBB or C-band. Outside of that, the mmWave market is fertile and full of applications and use cases – and potential.

__________________

Ernest Worthman is an executive editor with AGL Media Group.

 

FCC Concludes CBRS Spectrum Auction

By J. Sharpe Smith, Senior Editor

Let the Innovation Begin!

The FCC’s auction of Priority Access Licenses (PAL) in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), which began July 23, ended yesterday raising $4.5 billion in bids. The auction offered 22,631 licenses in the 3550-3650 MHz band, which was the largest number of spectrum licenses ever put on the block in an FCC auction. These 70 megahertz of licensed spectrum may serve a mix of uses, from  mid-band capacity for the carriers’ deployment of 5G to private wireless systems used by enterprises and municipalities.

“Ericsson stands ready to support these CBRS networks with its outdoor micro radio, outdoor massive MIMO radio, indoor Radio Dot, and our domain coordinator software fully supporting the PAL frequencies.” Says Paul Challoner VP network product solutions.

Bidders won 20,625 of the 22,631 available licenses, or more than 91.1percent. The auction was a success, according FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who said the demand for the licenses resulted from reforms made to the rules for the 3.5 GHz band, which were spearheaded by FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly. Dave Wright, head of the CBRS Alliance also applauded the results of the auction.

“Whether judged by traditional metrics such as total auction proceeds and price/MHz/Pop, or by non-traditional metrics such as the number and diversity of bidders, the demand for rural as well as metro licenses, and the overall number of licenses awarded – one has to conclude that Auction 105 far exceeded expectations,” Wright said. “This is further confirmation of the value of this shared band and is the last component to be put into service, enabling the full realization and potential of the 3-Tier spectrum sharing model.”

Spectrum Will Enable Smaller, Rural Operators

Although it is too early to know the winners, the auction will most likely enable new market entrants, including smaller and rural operators, to build low-cost carrier-grade networks, which will lead to hundreds of new networks, according to a new report from Colorado-based cooperative CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange, which examines how the CBRS band could change the broadband industry.

“We think that operators can build a high-quality network by acquiring a small amount of licensed spectrum,” according to the report. “Having the ability to toggle between licensed and unlicensed channels allows operators to maintain high throughput speeds. For example, when data traffic levels are high, operators can use their licensed spectrum as an overflow channel and when data traffic is light, they can use the lower-cost unlicensed channel.”

The owners of PALs in the CBRS band will mix with the users of the general authorized access (GAA) licenses to create to create new business models with new market players. Some of the possible bidders in the auction were Chevron, Occidental Petroleum, fiber supplier Corning, John Deere and universities, according to Cobank.

“For rural America, John Deere stands out for its investments in agricultural technologies,” the report said. “Deere’s interest in buying spectrum may signal its intent to become a network operator where it bundles high-speed data connectivity with farming equipment. After all, the company’s investments in precision agriculture, etc. won’t be fully realized until access to high speed data networks broadens in rural America.”

The most likely purchasers of the PALs were mobile network operators looking to supplement their other spectrum holdings, cable multiple-system operators (MSOs), existing CBRS-based wireless internet service providers (WISPs), enterprises, local governments, telcos and investors who see the opportunity to obtain CBRS spectrum and then subdivide it into smaller parcels for use by smaller enterprises and entities, according to Iain Gillott, founder and president of iGR, a market strategy consultancy, in an article published by AGL eDigest.

“It is this last group that is particularly interesting,” Gillott wrote. “Because PALs are at the county level, the chances of an enterprise being able to afford a PAL is unlikely, unless it has significant spectrum needs across the entire area. But a larger enterprise/investor could buy one or more PALs in a given area and then make the spectrum available to a single commercial building owner or single warehouse.

“For example, imagine one of the major public cloud providers obtaining PALs across the United State and then making the spectrum available to their cloud customers for internet of things (IoT) applications,” he added.

Detailed auction results, including the names of Auction 105 winning bidders, will be released in a few days. For more information, visit: www.fcc.gov/auction/105.

AT&T Snaps Up More AWS Spectrum

AT&T has added to its Advanced Wireless Service (AWS) spectrum cache with the acquisition of 49 licenses in the 1710-1755 MHz and 2110-2155 MHz bands from Aloha Partners II, covering nearly 50 million people in 14 states, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas.

As a result of recent spectrum consolidation (AT&T purchase of LEAP and T-Mobile’s buy of US Cellular’s AWS spectrum), Aloha Partners stood as the largest remaining independent AWS spectrum holder, according to Wells Fargo Senior Analyst Jennifer Fritzsche.

“This is an important transaction for AT&T, in our view, because it adds capacity to its AWS spectrum holdings, notably to the AWS received from its acquisition of LEAP,” Fritzsche wrote in a research note. “We note the importance of AWS to AT&T as the spectrum is what we characterize as ‘plug and play’ in that there is already a developed ecosystem and most phones already support this spectrum for roaming.”

Aloha Partners Deal Dovetails LEAP Spectrum Buy

Last July, AT&T purchased LEAP Wireless, which had frequencies in the PCS and AWS bands that were complementary to AT&T’s existing spectrum. LEAP had spectrum covering 41 million pops, which AT&T plans to use for 4G LTE deployment.

The LEAP deal provided AT&T with 20 megahertz of spectrum in metro areas including Las Vegas, San Diego, Washington, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Denver, Cincinnati, Charlotte, Chicago, Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Phoenix.

AT&T is deploying AWS for LTE until the Wireless Communications Service (2.3 GHz) comes online, which is scheduled for 2015.

Formed in 2004, Aloha Partners II purchased 15 licenses covering 38 million pops from the FCC in the Advanced Wireless Spectrum (AWS) auction. In 2007 and 2008, Aloha Partners II purchased an additional 37 AWS licenses covering 12 million pops from Nextwave Wireless. Before the sale, Aloha Partners II said it was the eighth-largest owner of spectrum in the United States, with licenses that cover 50 million people.

Originally, Aloha Partners II had planned to build its own wireless broadband networks. But faced with the growth in data demand from smartphones and tablets, the company said on its website that it no longer believed it had sufficient spectrum to meet demand and was considering joint ventures with existing wireless carriers to implement its strategy. 

Verizon-Cable Company Spectrum Acquisition OK’d by Justice

The U.S. Department of Justice will allow both Verizon’s proposed acquisitions of spectrum from the cable companies and T-Mobile USA’s contingent purchase of a significant portion of that spectrum from Verizon to go forward.  The transactions facilitate active use of the spectrum and will benefit wireless consumers, according to the department. The transactions still must be reviewed by the FCC.

But the spectrum agreement came with a cost. Verizon and SpectrumCo (Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks and Cox Communications) will have to make changes to several agreements concerning both the sale of bundled wireless and wireline services and the formation of a technology research joint venture, both of which were deemed to be anticompetitive by the Justice Dept.

“By limiting the scope and duration of the commercial agreements among Verizon and the cable companies while at the same time allowing Verizon and T-Mobile to proceed with their spectrum acquisitions, the department has provided the right remedy for competition and consumers,” said Joseph Wayland, acting assistant attorney general in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.  “The Antitrust Division’s enforcement action ensures that robust competition between Verizon and the cable companies continues now and in the future as technological change alters the telecommunications landscape.”

Verizon and the cable companies, which are direct competitors in many local markets, had become just a little bit too cozy for the Justice Department’s liking, having entered into a series of commercial agreements that required the companies to sell each other’s products and create an exclusive technology research joint venture.

“The series of commercial agreements between Verizon and the cable companies would have threatened this competition,” the Justice Department wrote. “Most notably, the agreements, as originally structured, would have required Verizon Wireless to sell the cable companies’ services on an “equivalent basis” with FiOS where FiOS is available, thereby reducing Verizon’s ability and incentive to sell its own services aggressively.”

In December of last year, SpectrumCo, a joint venture among Comcast Corporation, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, announced an agreement to sell Verizon its 122 Advanced Wireless Services spectrum licenses covering 259 million POPs for $3.6 billion. News of the deal and the approval by Justice is good for the wireless infrastructure industry. The added spectrum will undoubtedly fuel Verizon Wireless, as well as T-Mobile, in the deployment of cell sites and amendments to existing sites.

Jonathan Campbell, PCIA director of government affairs, reacted to the decision, saying “The Verizon-SpectrumCo deal will benefit wireless consumers by freeing up unused spectrum which — along with essential wireless infrastructure — can be used to deliver next-generation wireless services. PCIA applauds the parties, the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission for their efforts to reach an agreement that will facilitate deployment of vital wireless services.”

For more information, visit:

http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2012/August/12-at-1014.html