Emerging Technologies

Private LTE/5G deployments hit 2,900 by 2023’s end

According to a new research report from the IoT analyst firm Berg Insight, there were a total of 2,900 private LTE/5G networks deployed across the world at the end of 2023, including trial and pilot deployments. Private 5G network deployments are moving from trials to commercial operations. The deployments amounted to an estimated 700 networks, with trials accounting for close to half of them. Until 2028, experts forecast a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 33 percent for the number of private LTE/5G network deployments. This growth is expected to reach 11,900 networks at the end of the period. Commercial operations will deploy networks more quickly as they require less use case testing. Companies will also upgrade a significant number of private LTE network deployments to 5G within the next 2–3 years.

Berg Insight defines a private cellular network as a 3GPP-based private LTE/5G network. A private entity, such as an enterprise or government organization, exclusively uses it. Referred to as non-public networks by the 3GPP, private LTE/5G networks use spectrum defined by the 3GPP. They employ LTE or 5G NR base stations, small cells, and other radio access network (RAN) infrastructure to transmit voice and data to edge devices.

“The major RAN vendors, including Ericsson, Nokia, and Huawei, all play significant roles as integrated solution providers. Smaller RAN equipment providers pose a challenge to them”, said Fredrik Stalbrand, Principal Analyst, Berg Insight. Nokia counts the largest number of private network deployments. They have more than 635 private cellular network customers at the end of Q2-2023. “The vendors increasingly pursue channel-led sales strategies. Moreover, they have developed ecosystems of mobile operators, system integrators, VARs, and consulting partners to bring solutions to market”, continued Mr. Stalbrand. A number of small cell and other RAN equipment providers, including Airspan Networks, Baicells, CommScope, JMA Wireless, Mavenir, Samsung Networks, Sercomm, and ZTE, offer competitive LTE/5G radio products. In some cases, they also provide complete private network offerings.

Important specialised core network software vendors include Druid Software and Athonet (acquired by HPE in June 2023). Additionally, Affirmed Networks and Metaswitch are both part of Microsoft since mid-2020. In total, EPC/5GC offerings are available from close to 30 vendors. A third category is IT-centric players like Cisco and HPE. These companies focus on delivering fully integrated Wi-Fi and private LTE/5G solutions. This also enables network managers to administer Wi-Fi and private LTE/5G networks through a single pane of glass. Celona is a new entrant in the space, backed by NTT Data and Qualcomm, offering its integrated private cellular solution in a single SaaS subscription.

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