19 May 2022

Private networks need to prove value

As enterprise digitisation continues to gain momentum, countries are looking to private networks to address Industry 4.0 objectives with dedicated spectrum for private mobile networks already allocated to industry players in France, the US, Germany, Japan and the UK. We have commented on how the private networks landscape is developing in Europe and we have made a case for private networks in India.  

Private networks are most commonly delivered in one of three forms: as a dedicated network, a hybrid public/private network or a network slice on a public mobile network. They can use either licensed, unlicensed or shared spectrum. As the network virtualisation trend continues, the ecosystem of vendors has expanded beyond traditional telco players to include equipment vendors, system integrators, hyperscalers, and large enterprises themselves, such as Bosch creating a richer and more diverse playing field. 

In a bid to foster innovation, the UK regulator, Ofcom, enabled spectrum sharing options through new shared access licences (Local Access Licence – LAL and Shared Access Licence – SAL) in July 2019. While there is demand for shared spectrum licences – as of 24 August 2021, Ofcom issued 1,235 SALs to 51 different companies, and 18 LALs to five different companies – it is still relatively low. 

What this demonstrates is that assigning spectrum to verticals isn't enough to drive market adoption.  

According to the GSA, in February 2022, there were 22 private networks in the UK. Just over half of the UK private networks are using only 5G technology, the rest either a mix of 4G/LTE & 5G (8) and LTE (2). However, the 5G devices ecosystem is not matured yet, so these networks are still 4.9G. The availability of industrial grade devices depends on the standardisation of the 3GPP Releases. The industrial chipsets, based on Release 16, are scheduled to come to market from 2023. As a result, mainstream adoption of 5G solutions is unlikely to happen before then. Furthermore, once available, Release 16 5G industrial features (reliability, low latency, etc.) will need to be tested in partnership with industrial OEMs to help to convince them of the enhanced scope of capabilities of 5G for industrial use cases. Therefore, it will be some time beyond 2023 when 5G private networks will start to scale.  

Manufacturing is a particularly important vertical for private networks, as it accounts for almost a quarter of all private networks in the UK. Vodafone’s ‘Powering Up Manufacturing, Levelling Up Britain’ report finds that 5G could add as much as £6.3bn to the value of the UK manufacturing industry by 2030. In order to achieve their business transformation goals and assure data isolation and security, some manufacturers will need dedicated network resources, i.e. private networks. Despite manufacturing companies having a clear view of what does and doesn’t work for them, they are typically risk averse. Thus, showcasing how connectivity, be it 4G or 5G, can benefit industrial operations is a critical component in the argument for incremental investment into digital transformation. The 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme (5GTT) goal is just that. Trials at the Worcestershire 5G testbed have shown that applying 5G in the area of preventative maintenance can increase productivity by 1%, while AR-based machine maintenance can yield a 0.54% productivity gain. While these numbers might seem small at a first glance, they translate into large savings. One use case UK-wide would generate a £6.5bn increase per annum.  

For private networks to scale, vendors need to talk the same language as their clients. For a simple reason, enterprises buy outcomes, e.g. increased productivity, not technology.  

Private Networks User Guides & podcast

Private networks: a new user guide by techUK

Our #techUKPrivateNetworks campaign week celebrated the publication of a new user guide techUK has produced, to help prospective private networks customers, across enterprise and the public sector, understand the key benefits of adopting advanced connectivity in their organisations. The guide helps users as they formulate a business case for investing in enhanced private networks, and the key success factors. We also shine a spotlight on several case studies. 

Private networks: a techUK user guide

Gain a clear understanding of the benefits of adopting private network technology for your business with this techUK user guide.

Download for free

Private network ecosystem: Management model - A new techUK guide

techUK's Advanced Communications Services Working Group created a new guide for organisations considering building out services using 5G networking technology entitled 'Private network ecosystem: Management model'

It introduces and describes the principles of neutral hosts, and then goes on to describe the architecture and ecosystem which supports the provision of shared services, particularly in the context of high capacity/low latency applications, which will drive 5G deployment. While this paper is focussed on 5G, many of the principles of neutral hosts, and the discussion of edge versus core provision will apply to other technologies such as Wi-Fi, including Wi-Fi 6.

Private network ecosystem: Management model

A technical guide by techUK for users of private networks, outlining how the ecosystem is managed. It outlines the architecture of edge native applications in the architecture of the ecosystem, the value chain and operating models, resilience, operations, and the role of Neutral Hosts. 

Download for free


The techUK podcast: Making the case for Private Networks

In this episode of the techUK podcast, we explore the topic of private networks for enterprise, specifically, how we can accelerate the deployment of private networks from beyond the testbed phase and drive adoption across industry and the public sector.  

The episode covers the key challenges for enterprise customers that the telecoms sector can address with advanced connectivity services, including 5G and Wi-Fi 6, and how we, the supplier base, can effectively deliver on the benefits of private networks. 

Sophie James, Head of Telecoms and Spectrum Policy at techUK, joins a conversation with Simon Parry, CTO at Nokia EnterpriseCatherine Gull, Consultant at Cellnex and Dez O’Connor, Senior Manager at Cisco. Sophie also catches up with Mike Kennett, Senior Consultant & Head of Regulatory Affairs at Freshwave



Guest blog by Sylwia Kechiche, Principal Analyst, Enterprise at Ookla — Follow Ookla on Twitter and LinkedIn

To read more from the Future Private Networks campaign week check out our landing page here