Given the interest in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band in the United States, it’s no surprise that the private LTE market is expected to grow. But the U.S. is not the only place where private LTE networks are on the rise.
SNS Telecom & IT said earlier this year that it expects private LTE and 5G networks to surpass $2.5 billion in annual spending by the end of 2018. The research firm further estimates that the market will grow at a CAGR of about 30% between 2018 and 2021, eventually accounting for more than $5 billion by the end of 2021.
In the United States, the main drivers include the growing adoption of high-speed data and low-latency applications for critical communications and industrial IoT applications; lack of commercial network coverage in indoor, industrial and remote environments; and mobile traffic growth in enterprise buildings, campuses and public venues; as well as the emergence of unlicensed and shared spectrum schemes such as CBRS, according to James Bennett, director at SNS Worldwide.
A lot of companies in the U.S., like General Electric (GE), are talking about building private LTE networks with the CBRS 3.5 GHz spectrum. GE and others in its camp are calling for census tract-sized licenses for CBRS rather than the larger market sized licenses that wireless carriers are going after. The FCC is still making its final determination on where that lands.
SNS analysts believe census-tract licensing will certainly increase the likelihood of more private LTE networks in the United States, particularly in sectors such as energy, utilities and transportation, where geographically targeted deployments are required, Bennett said.
At present, private LTE networks in the United States are based upon dedicated spectrum licenses such as the spectrum holdings for FirstNet, INET (Infrastructure Networks), Southern Linc and Tampnet; spectrum leased from operators; and dedicated in-building systems deployed for enterprises by mobile operators themselves, Bennett told FierceWirelessTech.
“The finalization of CBRS rules will essentially bring a cost-effective alternative to the options above, making it significantly easier for organizations to deploy and self-manage their private LTE and 5G-ready networks with the regulatory open-ness and simplicity of Wi-Fi,” he said via email.
Outside the United States, other significant drivers for growth in private LTE include network modernization programs to replace high-cost LMR systems, such as for public safety, and initiatives to transition from traditionally disparate wireless communications systems, such as TETRA and Wi-Fi, to private LTE and 5G-ready systems to support both voice and broadband data services, according to SNS.