Navigating the private cellular maze: when, where and how?

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Private cellular networks are expected to play a significant role in future on-premise connectivity but where they are best suited is still unclear. We explore the different opportunities and strategies for enterprises looking to take advantage of the capabilities that private cellular offers.

The private cellular opportunity is rarely clear-cut

Private cellular networks (4G or 5G) are touted to be a key part of future wireless technologies for enterprise on premise connectivity. They promise to bring enhanced capabilities over existing connectivity solutions, such as reliability, mobility and quality of service, tailored to customers’ needs.

However, the nature of the private cellular opportunity does not look the same for every enterprise. The need and value for the private cellular capabilities depend heavily on technical requirements such as the nature of the operating sites and need for on-premise mobility but the ability to capture this value depends on stakeholder alignment and whether the organisation is able to capitalise on these capabilities. Therefore, we identify 4 archetype situations below to evaluate the private cellular opportunity and based on our insights from our interview and survey programme with over 200 enterprises globally, we identify headline strategies for different types of enterprises for considering private 4G or 5G.

Key recommendations for enterprises looking at private 4G/5G

As the private cellular opportunity differs significantly for enterprises in different situations and industries, we identify four essential guiding principles for any enterprise evaluating different options (including private cellular) for their on-premise connectivity.

1. Define your connectivity vision based on your overall business goals with as much clarity and precision as possible. Enterprises should see connectivity as a means of achieving your overall business objectives and executing your operational technology (OT) strategies, and develop a clear multi-year vision and technology strategy associated to your on-premise connectivity deployments. Develop a detailed plan to serve this, which should articulate the specific
timeframes, milestones as well as realistic scenarios to address any “unknowns” such as potential costs, spectrum availability and future 3GPP releases

2. Assess your connectivity needs and look to build as much flexibility as possible in defining your requirements. Identify the key use cases and applications within your defined scope. However, the value and return on investment of a private cellular network depends on potential network synergies and the ability to consolidate fragmented systems. Therefore, enterprises should take their current and future needs into consideration and build flexibility into their deployments. Specifications should preserve as much optionality as possible and be futureproofed to be able to aggregate existing needs and serve any future needs.

3. Identify if, where and how private cellular networking fits in your connectivity toolkit and build your roadmap around that. Your connectivity vision should be the basis for a strong blueprint and roadmap so you should be able to clearly define the role that each connectivity solution plays within your arsenal and work with partners that fit into this.

4. Seek to validate your deployments and use it as a means to inform and educate others. See any proofs of concept (PoCs) or live deployments as a proof of value and measure any achieved benefits on key business metrics. Use these outcomes as a way to advise others on solutions aligned to your vision.

Key recommendations for telco operators and other providers

Based on our recommendations above, telecoms operators and other network providers should focus on selling hybrid solutions and avoid taking an approach too focused on selling one solution, whether it be private cellular, Wi-Fi or other alternatives.

  • Embrace your role as a network provider in formulating their on-premise connectivity vision, plan and roadmap and build as much specificity and flexibility as possible. Help your key stakeholders articulate this vision to others within their organisation to establish and achieve better alignment.
  • Work with your customers to build the right connectivity toolkit and identify which tools are best placed to serve specific use cases and applications.
  • Look to set up a sandbox or test lab as proof of value to demonstrate the value of private cellular as a means of educating customers and driving better understanding, buy-in and eventually adoption within the enterprise organisation.

Table of Contents

Executive Summary……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..2
Table of Figures……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………5
Preface…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………6
Private cellular networks: A key enabler of transformation or just hype? ……………………………………………7
What do we mean by private cellular network? ………………………………………………………………………………..7
Enhanced capabilities, reduced complexity but at what cost?…………………………………………………………8
The relative private 4G/5G merits do not depend on technical factors alone……………………………………11
Level of stakeholder alignment……………………………………………………………………………………………………….11
Degree of “cellularity”………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………14
Identifying the private networking sweet spot……………………………………………………………………………………16
Segment 1: The sweet spot for private LTE and 5G networks ……………………………………………………….16
Segment 2: Value constrained by internal challenges…………………………………………………………………….17
Segment 3: Wider role of connectivity as an enabler ……………………………………………………………………..18
Segment 4: The battle of connectivity solutions …………………………………………………………………………….18
Recommendations for enterprises…………………………………………………………………………………………………….19
Recommendations for telecoms operators and other private cellular providers ………………………………23
Conclusion………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….27
About Dell and Intel…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….28
Appendices…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………29
There are many different types of private cellular networks…………………………………………………………..29
A third of enterprises use four or more different connectivity solutions ………………………………………..31
Wi-Fi and ethernet is still widely adopted by enterprises………………………………………………………………..31
Security is ranked as the most important benefit of private networks …………………………………………..32
Reliability is also selected as one of the top three benefits of deploying a private network…………..32
Cost and the lack of a device/solution ecosystem emerged as key challenges…………………………….33
Telcos are still the preferred lead partner for private cellular …………………………………………………………34