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Private Wireless – 2020, the year everything changed

Listen to the podcast discusses the year enterprises and government pivoted to private wireless and why 260+ companies chose it to improve their competitive edge.

Stephane Daeuble

Stephane Daeuble
Head of Marketing for Nokia’s Enterprise Solutions division

Stephane Daeuble, Head of Marketing for Nokia’s Enterprise Solutions Division, in conversation with James Blackman of Enterprise IoT Insights, looks back at 2020, which he sees as a kind of tipping point for the private wireless market.

Key points:

  • Rapprochement between OT and IT
  • The private market is accelerating towards exit velocity
  • Governments are now on the private spectrum bandwagon
  • Unlicensed spectrum solutions take a big step forward with Nokia
  • National mobile operators are getting into the game

Podcast at a glance

Historically, industry has been split between operational and information technology. OT has traditionally chosen technology in terms of what is required for a specific point solution. IT had a more enterprise-wide perspective, but the technology they were concerned with was largely related to administration and not core to the business. With Industry 4.0, both perspectives are needed and collaboration is required. There are signs that industries are realizing this as they treat digitalization as an enterprise-wide transformation program.

Several years ago, Nokia famously predicted that the private wireless opportunity could see as many as 15 million customers. This kind of mass adoption of private wireless by businesses and organization of every kind has yet to materialize; however, the market is beginning to gather momentum. People now understand what private wireless is and why it is going to be needed to fully realize Industry 4.0. After four years of incremental growth, in the last year, Nokia has almost doubled its private wireless customer base. One of the key reasons for the uptake is the maturation of the 4G/LTE ecosystem of devices and chipsets in 2020. 4.9G/LTE now covers most industrial use cases and LTE chipsets can now be found in most industrial sub-systems, equipment, PPE, and autonomous vehicles such as mining trucks.

2020 also represented the year when governments understood the need to make spectrum available. Besides CBRS in the US, governments in Europe have been making bits of spectrum available that had never been allocated and are finding other spectrum that can be shared. In the US, the 900MHz band is now available and there is excitement about the 6GHz band becoming available as unlicensed spectrum. In some European countries they are releasing old GSM spectrum in the 400–460MHz bands, which will be lower bandwidth but allow economic coverage for large territories.

Unlicensed spectrum will play a big role, especially for smaller companies. Recognizing this, 3GPP is currently working on a version of 5G for unlicensed spectrum. Companies whose operations move around the world, such as construction companies, will be able to use unlicensed spectrum wherever they are without having to arrange licensed access.

Unlicensed spectrum will also be used as a high-capacity layer that supplements low bandwidth coverage of large areas. Even CSPs are anticipating using it this way, to supplement their mobile coverage. MulteFire is a key technology in this area, based as it is on LTE.

National mobile operators seem to be figuring out what role they will play in this market. 2020 was the first year that they have begun to take private wireless seriously. Nokia is working closely with American giants AT&T and Verizon, Orange in France and other national operators to help them develop their private wireless enterprise offerings for their customers.

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