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.
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, Private 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.
Private 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:
- Unlicensed Spectrum: Wi-Fi uses unlicensed spectrum, which opens the door to all sorts of RF pollution and compromised quality.
- Security: A mobile LTE network delivers a higher level of security than a Wi-Fi network.>
- 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 Private LTE networks, 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 uses cases for private LTE will largely be driven by enterprises themselves, here are five applications that represent an opportunity for MNOs right now:
- Secure in-building wireless access
- In-store experiences
- Healthcare applications
- Theft mitigation
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 private 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 private LTE 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 private 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.
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 private 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.