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What is Private LTE? How Operators Can Benefit from P-LTE Networks

by Tim Irwin Tim Irwin No Comments

Private LTE (P-LTE) presents an opportunity for telco operators by providing secure, reliable, flexible wireless connectivity. Learn why operators don’t need to wait for 5G to monetize their networks with use cases for Private LTE networks that can be launched today.

You’ve heard it all before. Telcos are trapped between rising traffic, shrinking margins, and flat revenue but — wait! — 5G will come to the rescue with new revenue-generating services. Yes, 5G does have a world of potential, but telcos can’t afford to wait for a future that may take years to arrive.

While we believe that 5G will be a game-changer, it could initially play out like a waiting game as mobile operators analyze various business cases. Autonomous vehicles, for example, are a great idea, but who makes the first move? Is it companies that put 5G chips in their cars in anticipation of a ubiquitous 5G network, or operators that need to unroll a reliable 5G fabric before car manufacturers commit to wireless control?

As the world waits for 5G to arrive—in networks, smartphones, IoT devices, etc. — LTE is already in place. So, here’s food for thought: What if operators and enterprises could monetize LTE networks right now in the same way they plan to monetize 5G networks? That is, by partnering to create value-added services for its enterprise customers through private LTE (P-LTE) networks.

Contents:

 

What is Private LTE?

Private LTE is a local 4G cellular network that provides businesses with the speed, security, device connectivity, and mobility needed to process data efficiently. As enterprises scale, P-LTE and MEC (multi-access edge computing) help them deploy mission-critical mobile applications to support business intelligence, IoT, smart factories, and more.

How Do Private LTE Networks Work?

Private LTE networks exist at the intersection of the traditional enterprise LAN, specialized industrial networks, and the public mobile network. They offer operators an opportunity to expand their mobile services into the profitable enterprise market arena.

P-LTE vs. Wi-Fi Networks: What’s the Difference?

Private LTE networks are similar to Wi-Fi networks in some ways but with a few very important distinctions and advantages. Here are the differences between Private LTE and Wi-Fi networks:

  1. Unlicensed Spectrum: Wi-Fi uses unlicensed spectrum, which opens the door to all sorts of RF pollution and compromised quality.
  2. Security: A mobile LTE network delivers a higher level of security than a Wi-Fi network.>
  3. Time & Effort: Running a large-scale Wi-Fi network is hard work; most enterprises don’t want to get into the business of RF planning.

What Are the Benefits of Private LTE?

A private LTE network is a relatively new, miniaturized version of the large-scale networks that most people are familiar with through their mobile phones. This private network enables a customized, secure, and high-performance mobile solution — especially compared to Wi-Fi, which is susceptible to congestion, spectrum noise, and interference.

There are many benefits to P-LTE, including:

  • Low latency
  • High bandwidth
  • End-to-end security
  • Higher throughput
  • Greater coverage
  • Legal and regulatory compliance improvements
  • Data localization/privacy
  • Operational simplicity
  • Backhaul savings

Private LTE Use Cases

Today, the mobile network is more or less a pipeline between content consumers and content providers. As mobile communications increase — and they stand to increase significantly for the foreseeable future — that pipeline needs to expand. If MNOs intend to backhaul that traffic through their network, they need to expand the entire pipeline, from core to edge. From a network transformation perspective, that’s like starting your journey by climbing Mt. Everest.

Private LTE networks offer a shortcut to expanding network capacity at the edge, which also gives MNOs more control over the user experience. They can deploy private LTE at the edge of their cell sites or at the edge of an enterprise’s network. By moving network services to the edge, MNOs can then decide whether traffic should remain local (e.g., a retailer delivering an in-store wireless experience to shoppers) or be backhauled through the network. This ability to break out services at the edge allows MNOs to include more security in the private LTE service or connect it directly to the cloud for more flexibility.

Although the use cases for private LTE will largely be driven by enterprises themselves, here are five applications that represent an opportunity for MNOs right now:

  1. Secure in-building wireless access
  2. In-store experiences
  3. Healthcare applications
  4. Theft mitigation
  5. Stadiums

Application 1: Secure in-building wireless access

Most enterprises use Wi-Fi for in-building wireless communications. But Wi-Fi has limitations in coverage, bandwidth, and security that LTE does not. Enterprises could use a P-LTE network in their building to provide secure, wireless access to business applications. They can even add an extra layer of security to their communications by using a captive portal within the private LTE network to serve as an authentication proxy, thus blocking unauthorized users from accessing those applications.

Application 2: In-store experiences

Another use case is for retail and in-store experiences. Retail customers are looking for enhanced experiences in brick-and-mortar stores, from digital shopping assistants to augmented reality. A private LTE can help deliver these experiences on mobile devices with security, quality, and low latency.

Application 3: Healthcare applications

The healthcare industry is heavily regulated in terms of how it can collect and share data. While many of these regulations are around personally identifiable information, even devices like heart monitors are subject to strict requirements. Wireless heart monitors must demonstrate a chain of trust in communications that ensures data cannot be manipulated in transit. A private LTE service combined with technology such as virtual probe can provide a detailed record of every IP flow and satisfy the need for compliance reporting and auditing.

Application 4: Theft mitigation for IoT devices

While the chances of someone running off with our home thermostat are probably slim, manufacturing companies are reasonably concerned about equipment theft, particularly when that equipment contains sensitive information. In the event that a wireless-enabled device is removed illegally from a factory floor, a private LTE service could allow the device owner to effectively shut off that device’s operation once it leaves the P-LTE network’s range, even limiting the device’s functionality to just sending out a location signal.

Application 5: Stadiums

Sporting events are often cited as an ideal use case for 5G technology, but private LTE services can deliver the same cost-efficient connectivity for dynamic events that require short periods of large wireless capacity. Much like in-store experiences, in-stadium experiences can include augmented reality, secure mobile payments, and enhanced wireless connectivity within the stadium structure.

Private LTE for Stadiums

How Can Operators Make Money from Private LTE Networks?

Think about it: Right now, mobile network demands are on an upward curve and they’re only going to get higher. Mobile network operators (MNOs) find themselves in the middle, a pipeline between ravenous content consumers and profitable over-the-top content providers.

As the air interface technology increases bandwidth at one end of the pipe (i.e., higher consumption or more product to consume), operators have to increase the size of their pipe between the radio and the content, which means more coverage, more capacity, more complexity, etc. — but, importantly, not more money for the telco operators.

What if telco operators could create a better network experience by pushing network services out to the edge of the network? Operators would only need to expand capacity at the edge to deliver high-speed, low-latency services, rather than upgrading their entire network from end to end. Then, when 5G finally does arrive, the private LTE services can be seamlessly integrated into the 5G architecture to continue monetizing those services.

Private LTE Helps Enterprises Work Smarter

Enterprises understand the value of having a better mobile experience close to their end users, whether the user is a customer in a store or an employee in an office. That experience should include enforceable SLAs — something that you can’t get with unlicensed Wi-Fi spectrum, but you can get with licensed LTE spectrum — as well as security and managed services.

Unlike consumer smartphone services, enterprise services are easier for operators to monetize, particularly when they’re aligned with a clear business case.

For example, a private LTE network that delivers a better video experience would be valuable to a content provider’s audience. An operator could deploy that extra edge capacity for HD video consumers as part of a revenue-sharing plan with the content provider. Best of all, when 5G finally does arrive, you’re already engaged with enterprises in delivering next-gen services — a relationship you can build on with the new opportunities that 5G will bring.

Ready to Get Started?

There’s actually a lot that enterprises can do with a P-LTE network right now. Private LTE applications and services provide an entry point into next-generation services that can drive revenue today. Enterprises will pay more for these experiences because their customers will pay more for them. You don’t need to wait for 5G to monetize the future; the revenue opportunities exist for P-LTE right now. And, when 5G does arrive, private LTE can easily integrate into a 5G architecture for seamless revenue streaming.

Learn how private LTE networks can unlock more revenue for you right now at affirmednetworks.com/products-solutions.

Affirmed UnityCloud Recognized as a Leader in GlobalData 5G Mobile Core Disruptor Report

by Anudha Sawarkar Anudha Sawarkar No Comments

Affirmed’s UnityCloud solution received an overall “Leader” rating in analyst firm GlobalData’s recent research report: “5G Mobile Core Disruptors: Competitive Landscape Assessment.” GlobalData lead analyst Glen Hunt evaluated emerging 5G mobile core (5GC) offerings from four “potentially disruptive” 5GC providers, including Affirmed Networks, now part of Microsoft.

In addition to our overall “Leader” rating, UnityCloud received “Leader” ratings in the Market Momentum, Marketing and Product Scope, and Solution Architecture categories, and “Very Strong” ratings in the Performance and Carrier-Grade Features, Service & Support, and Supported Access Technologies categories. These were the highest comprehensive scores of any of the providers evaluated in the report.

Product scores for Affirmed UnityCloud – 5G Core

The report cites the momentum UnityCloud’s cloud-native technology base and deployment in multiple telco networks as a differentiator over newer entrants in the market. The solution’s integration with multiple cloud providers – including Azure – was also called out as a strength and a means for providing MNOs and enterprises “freedom of choice” when sourcing solution options. UnityCloud was also recognized for its maturity as a solution, its microservices architecture, and the company’s overall financial stability and access to other resources available as part of Microsoft’s Azure Business Unit.

To maintain and enhance its competitive position in the marketplace and to continue to differentiate itself from other providers, the report suggests that Affirmed should stress “the maturity of its cloud-native technology, and its ability to deliver any combination of private and public cloud services.”

We’re honored to be recognized for our leadership and the strength of our UnityCloud solution by GlobalData as we continue to help mobile network operators in their evolution to 5G technology.

Read the full report here.

Affirmed Private Network Service revolutionizes private enterprise 5G networks for Operators with a fully automated, integrated solution on Azure

by Affirmed Affirmed No Comments

As enterprises continue their digital transformations with the evolution to 5G technology and deploy next-generation applications, many will be turning to dedicated private mobile networks to deliver the low latencies, massive bandwidths, strong security, and flexible scalability those applications will require. This marks a tremendous opportunity for mobile network operators (MNOs) and mobile service providers (MSPs) to quickly and securely deliver private LTE/5G network services to those enterprises.

Affirmed Private Network Service (APNS) empowers MNOs and MSPs to seize this opportunity with technology that combines Affirmed’s industry-leading mobile core with Microsoft Azure’s capabilities to create a complete turnkey solution for private LTE/5G networks for enterprises. On June 16, as part of their Azure Private MEC offering announcement, Microsoft also announced the availability of APNS on the Azure marketplace.

APNS is a fully managed, end-to-end solution that MNOs and MSPs can deploy to offer enterprises a carrier-grade private network. This lays the foundation for the application of a wide range of next-generation 5G use cases – including Industry 4.0 – over a flexible, scalable, cost-efficient core service. With its seamless integration between private and public networks, APNS allows comprehensive mobility across multiple enterprise sites and across geographical locations.

“Affirmed Private Network Service combines 5G core technology with the cloud, providing operators with the ability to scale private networks to thousands of enterprise locations,” said Sanjay Mewada, Worldwide Marketing Leader, Microsoft. “Along with high-speed, high-bandwidth connectivity, APNS and Azure will give enterprises enormous flexibility in three key areas: dynamically scaling regional locations on demand, maximizing CapEx and OpEx savings on cloud infrastructure, and the ability to manage applications and connectivity on an end-to-end basis.”

Powerful, flexible, scalable

Affirmed Private Network Service consists of Affirmed Mobile Core, Affirmed Service Manager, Microsoft Azure Stack Edge platform, and Azure Network Function Manager. APNS is built on a cloud-native architecture that allows MNOs and MSPs to deploy an entire mobile core at the edge of the network, entirely in the cloud, or as a hybrid, with the control pane in the cloud and the user plane on the enterprise edge. That flexibility and scalability removes much of the complexity and other barriers to deploying a private LTE/5G network and offers a number of benefits, including:

Lower cost of entry

By enabling MNOs and MSPs to deploy a virtualized 5G core in the cloud, APNS helps to significantly reduce the cost of deploying 5G technology.

Simplified operation and management

The integration between Affirmed’s mobile core and Microsoft Azure enables MNOs and MSPs to easily deploy and manage private 5G networks remotely, from service orchestration and lifecycle management to maintaining and monitoring KPIs.

MNO-integrated mobility

APNS delivers seamless mobility across multiple enterprise sites through its distributed subscriber core and provides full mobility between private and public networks.

Deep business insights

MNOs, MSPs, and enterprises can leverage advanced services from Azure marketplace partners, including analytics, AI, machine learning, and other technologies.

With greater 5G adoption, the edge will become even more critical to driving new and future applications such as AR/VR, IoT, M2M, automation, and robotics. Moving, processing, and storing massive amounts of data closer to the end user will be a key requirement for enterprises. MNOs and MSPs will be critical enablers in this transformation. We welcome MNOs and MSPs to explore how they can create the next generation of 5G and cloud-based infrastructure for their enterprise customers and help them accelerate their digital transformation. Click here to learn more about how APNS and Azure can help you build that network today.

Making—and not just saving—money should be your focus with 5G

by Seshadri Sathyanarayan Seshadri Sathyanarayan No Comments

For years, “bigger, faster, cheaper” has been the mantra for telecom transformation. In the 5G future, however, the new mantra is value. While saving money is good for communications service providers (CSPs), the focus with 5G should be making money. Communications service providers CSPs need to look beyond reducing the total cost of ownership (TCO) of their network and invest in increasing the total value of ownership (TVO) of their network by delivering new revenue-generating services to enterprises and consumers.

CSPs, of course, have heard this message before. The rise of over-the-top (OTT) providers during the 4G transformation included a warning to CSPs not to become merely bit-pipe providers. But the opportunity in 5G is very different from 4G because the demand for new mobile services is there and is being driven by enterprises this time. Smart factories, real-time healthcare applications, autonomous vehicles, private mobile networks, and augmented/virtual reality experiences are just some of the 5G applications that enterprises are looking to their CSPs to help deliver and manage.

Building Valuable Networks

So, how do you build a more valuable network? A value-driven network focuses on service creation and innovation rather than simply driving down costs. Moving hardware into the cloud is primarily a TCO play because it drives down CapEx costs through better resource utilization. But what happens when you move edge services into the cloud? Or the entire 5G mobile core?

Strategies like these become game-changers for delivering private 5G services to enterprises because now you don’t have to worry about processing real-time data off-site or backhauling sensitive data over the Internet. And if you connect those services to a cloud platform like Azure, you can bring in machine learning, AI, and other technologies to bear on those enterprise services.

How CSPs Can Use a TVO Approach to 5G

A TVO-driven approach isn’t intuitive for telecommunications companies because the focus for years has been running the network as a cost center rather than an innovation engine. With the arrival of 5G, there are many more opportunities for CSPs to bring innovation to enterprises and even enhance the offerings of OTT providers through partnerships.

Multi-access edge computing (MEC) is one such innovation, and network slicing is another. Bringing this technology to the enterprise market is about more than connecting endpoints; it’s about connecting businesses to the advanced technology that will power mobile solutions of the future.

Using a “TCO Plus TVO” Equation

There is a cost-saving component to 5G transformation, to be sure. The ability to shift virtualized network functions from a CSP’s premises to a public cloud service provider, for example, brings additional levels of cost efficiencies. These TCO-driven initiatives are where CSPs start the journey to 5G because they can pay for the investments to come. However, the real payoff in 5G transformation occurs when you combine these savings with new revenue generation. The “TCO plus TVO” equation is what CSPs need to make money from 5G and create a sustainable future strategy.

How to Calculate Total Value of Ownership

Calculating TVO can be problematic because most 5G services are still in the development stage. Likely, the most profitable 5G services have yet to be discovered. But to illustrate the opportunity, we’ve created a TVO formula to show how investing in network innovation can pay high dividends. You can view that formula and the business case for considering TVO as the best measurement for 5G success in our new whitepaper, Total Value of Ownership: The New Metric for 5G Transformation. The paper outlines why TVO is essential, what it looks like, how to measure it, and how to get there.

Making Money With 5G

Saving money is good, but making money with 5G is better. Read the paper and find out how Microsoft can help you and business customers make more money with 5G technology.

Five Metrics to a Successful 5G Digital Transformation

by Seshadri Sathyanarayan Seshadri Sathyanarayan No Comments

Most of us are familiar with the concept of total cost of ownership, or TCO. But I would submit that the total value of ownership (TVO) is a far more relevant metric when weighing the investment of 5G digital transformation. A more relevant metric is needed because 5G transformation is so different from the network transformations of the past, both in terms of what it requires and what it can achieve.

Digital transformation 1.0 centered mostly on CapEx reduction through virtualization. The goal was to decouple the hardware from the software to give telco operators more flexibility and efficiency in how they deployed their networks as well as who they partnered with to deploy them. While this first wave of digital transformation did reduce costs, it didn’t present many opportunities for new revenue creation.

With 5G, the second wave of digital transformation arrives, bringing with it cloud and cloud-native technologies that not only reduce costs, but also reduce operational complexity and accelerate time-to-market for new services. Just as webscale companies like Facebook and Netflix have done with their cloud networks, telco operators can now turn their network into a competitive differentiator and an agile platform for new services.

5 Metrics for 5G Transformation

Pervasive improvements require pervasive change. While bringing cloud and cloud-native technologies to the network is an important part of the 5G transformation, it is just one part of a broader telco transformation that needs to take place. There are, in fact, five areas of transformation that telcos need to consider in order to ensure that they maximize the value of their 5G investment.

1. Network Architecture

Migrating from a virtualized infrastructure to a cloud-based infrastructure is the first step in transforming the network for 5G, but not the final step. The goal for operators should be a cloud-native architecture that can support the rapid creation of new services and take advantage of orchestration efficiencies through containers and Kubernetes.

2. Hybrid Coexistence and Joint Operation

It goes without saying that 5G digital transformation for most operators will be an iterative process that could take anywhere from five to ten years to complete. During that time, operators will need to run existing 4G and 5G networks concurrently – across private and public cloud deployment environments in a hybrid mode. Seamless joint operation and co-existence is key to ensuring strong revenue pipelines “status quo” business can continue while the migration to a value business happens overtime.

3. Business Organization

5G is more than a network transformation; it’s a business transformation. Telcos need to re-align their business, and especially their network management teams, to adapt to the changes that 5G will bring to their networks. At Affirmed, we spend a lot of our time with telcos discussing how best to re-organize procurement, technology planning, engineering, network support, and other teams to thrive in a 5G environment.

4. Network Automation

Where 4G transformation was more of a CapEx reduction play, 5G transformation is about both CapEx and OpEx reduction. With a cloud-native architecture, telcos can run their networks in a fully automated fashion. Automation opens the door to lower OpEx costs and, importantly, much faster and more agile service creation.

5 . Business Model

For years, telco investment models have been CapEx-oriented with long-term ROI projections. At the same time, telcos have been regulated in what they can charge for services, which means they’ve had to squeeze OpEx costs to increase margins. As telcos move to the cloud, however, CapEx investments are replaced by a subscription-based model. This fundamentally changes the business model and requires telcos to shift their revenue models accordingly.

In Closing

It’s a lot to think about 5G transformation, which is why I’ll be breaking down these key considerations in greater detail with an upcoming blog series on 5G digital transformation, 2.0 and beyond. 5G and the cloud are here to stay, so stay tuned here for more on this industry-changing transformation.