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Private Campus Networks represent an attractive opportunity for operators, but few are taking it

One of the drivers of this growth is the continuous improvement in connectivity technologies. Such private networks offer the opportunity for both localised coverage of buildings, campuses (defined as enterprise-controlled localised environments), airports and public spaces, as well as high-speed, reliable, low-latency connectivity for newer IoT-based use cases, and of course critical communications.

As such they offer operators a significant opportunity for new revenue streams. However, operators risk losing out if they do not act quickly.

There are other drivers of the market. First, the need for modernisation of land mobile radio (LMR) systems, which lack broadband capabilities, offer limited value for money and many major deployments are nearing end of life. These conditions are driving investments, especially in public safety, utilities, public venues (e.g. airports, ports) and natural resource segments (oil and gas, mining).

A further driver is that of industry digitalisation (including Industry 4.0 initiatives). This is being driven by new use cases that generate strong productivity improvements and/or operational efficiencies – making them particularly for logistics/supply and manufacturing segments.

According to this year’s annual Ericsson Mobility Report, the adoption of cellular technology varies across market segments. However, these segments all have similar needs, with up to 90 per cent of network connectivity requirements in common. This makes cellular technologies attractive and is a key reason why LTE/5G is already the chosen technology for many industry segments. Others are still evaluating alternatives, such as  fixed or Wi-Fi, ensuring that heterogeneous connectivity will continue, despite the claims of some the most ardent proponents of 5G.

Enterprises now have economically feasible use cases and technologically justified needs for private 5G or LTE technology on their premises. But, few operators have developed a strategic approach to satisfy demand, which is why enterprises have begun to fight for access to their own spectrum.

Regulators are now willing to listen to auctioning spectrum locally. At the same time, new disruptive players are emerging with simple “out of the box” network solutions. It means that enterprises and private network providers are forging ahead without the need for operators to be involved. And, with more than 15 million globally already (according to ADL), there’s a clear case for operators to leverage their skills. But, few are taking advantage and it may already be too late for many. Savvy operators recognise this, but the seeming lack of interest more generally suggests, once again, that operators are too distracted by glitzy consumer launches to pay attention to the real prize of 5G.