A mining engineer, a 5G wireless technology provider, a value-added reseller and an excavation equipment manufacturer walk into a bar.
No, it’s not the set-up for a joke. It’s a description of the kind of partnerships we can expect to see more often as we enter the private wireless network era.
With a global market size at 18 billion in 2020, the global Private Wireless networks market is expected to grow at 18% CAGR from 2020 to 2029, reaching above USD 80 billion by 2029 according to market data.
What are we to expect from this new era besides robust growth? One thing’s for certain: the age of the private wireless network will be different from previous telecommunications eras in several key respects. Understanding these differences is vital, whether you’re a service provider, a partner such as a distributor, systems integrator or value-added reseller, or an enterprise considering a private wireless network
The most important difference is that successful deployments will depend on successful ecosystem partnerships — like the one to which I alluded above. Here are the reasons why:
Reason #1: IT is being asked to do things it’s never done before.
For most of its history, Information Technology (IT) has been used to support human actions and decisions. Now that’s changing. We’re building out the Internet of Things (IoT) and introducing more innovations such as autonomous machinery, automated mining operations and remote agricultural monitoring. IT is increasingly supporting better situational awareness, such as real-time video from drones, vehicles and body cameras. Organizations are seeking superior operational efficiency and productivity by continuously monitoring first responders’ bio-vital signs and gathering data from sensor-based industrial robotics. AI and machine learning systems are demanding high bandwidth, low latency and massive connectivity. In fact, according to GrandView Research, a private network is widely preferred across various industry verticals, including manufacturing, energy and utilities, transportation and logistics, aerospace and defense, oil and gas, mining, government and public safety.
4.9G/LTE and 5G private wireless networks are the preferred communications medium for these newer applications because traditional Wi-Fi and wired networks are limited in coverage, capacity and mobility. 5G private wireless networks enable these applications by providing enterprise customers with super fast speeds, lower latency and control over their connectivity, with options at the edge. Customers now have a flexible solution that delivers real-world results and next-level performance.
All of these new — and often mission-critical — applications put increased demands on communications networks. No longer simply information pipelines, private wireless networks now need specifications tailored to meet the unique needs of each application and the industry supporting it. That requires a closer dialogue among enterprises, industry consultants, network solution providers and other partners.
Reason #2: Specialized work requires specialized industry knowledge. One of the primary benefits of private wireless networks is that each one can be custom configured to the needs of the application. These applications are often highly industry- or even company-specific. Think of automated mining, for example. A network solutions provider on its own is unlikely to possess the industry and application knowledge to build an effective solution.
The answer is to partner — as Nokia did with Komatsu (the heavy equipment manufacturer) and Sandvik (the mining engineering company) — to take advantage of the specialized knowledge needed to craft the optimum solution. Similarly, Nokia recently teamed up with LS ELECTRIC, a leading South Korean provider of electric power equipment and automation solutions, to develop solutions for factory automation and data center and Electric Vehicle charging services.
Reason #3: Customers want end-to-end solutions. Companies that want to deploy private wireless networks aren’t primarily looking for communications technology; they’re seeking a solution to a business problem or opportunity. They don’t want to individually vet and assemble the components. They prefer a comprehensive solution with the details left to more knowledgeable industry experts. That requires a team of vendors working collaboratively. Companies that partner to provide best-in-class connectivity and digitalization platforms along with installation and deployment services, scene analytics and other value-added services are what enterprises are seeking today.
Reason #4: “Private” means unique.
When companies opt for a private network, they no longer have to tailor their configuration or equipment to the specifications of a public network. They can have a solution built that precisely meets the unique requirements of their application for speed, bandwidth, redundancy, security and more. They might even need specialized gear, such as ruggedized equipment and devices for harsher environments. Partnerships make it easier to build that one-of-a-kind solution.
Enterprises in search of unique communications solutions will turn to private 4.9G/LTE and 5G wireless networks because they provide the best available reliability, coverage, capacity and security — aspects critical for operations in harsh and remote environments, including mine sites. Private wireless networks also decrease total cost of ownership (TCO) and the use of licensed spectrum eliminates possible interference from other nearby networks.
Reason #5: Private wireless networks enable new, value-added services. Some companies are deploying private wireless networks to improve the way they perform an existing job. Others are turning to private wireless networks to launch entirely new services that deliver extra value to their customers. For example, chemical giant Dow, Inc. sought to leverage a private wireless network to support Industry 4.0-enabled worker safety and collaboration, asset tracking and other manufacturing capabilities. Nokia worked together with Kyndryl to bring that vision to life. Only an effective ecosystem partnership could take the Dow concept from innovative idea to working reality.
What does this mean for potential partners?
The increasing importance of partnerships has several ramifications for those companies hoping to capture their piece of the growing wireless private network pie:
- Complementary technologies need to be adaptable and “play well with others.” With so many diverse industries and applications to serve, solution and component providers and other go-to-market partners will need to ensure that their offerings are flexible and open enough to be tailored to many different scenarios.
- Success will depend as much on partnership skills as technology. While cutting-edge, robust, reliable technology is a necessity, prospective go-to-market partners should devote as much effort to forging relationships across the ecosystem as they do to R&D.
- A broad knowledge of the marketplace and the key players in particular technologies, industries, geographies and applications is helpful. Going after private wireless business will require all parties involved to pick and choose the industries and applications best suited to their capabilities, as well as the prospective customers and the most promising ecosystem partners.
- With multiple partners working in concert on each project, collaboration and project management skills must be well-honed. Deploying a private wireless network can be a complex undertaking. Strong project management and teamwork are essential to complete projects on-time and within budget.
What does this mean for enterprises considering a private wireless network?
If your organization is in the market for a private wireless network, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Make sure the solution you choose is built on a flexible platform. The more flexible the platform, the more you’ll be able to choose from the broadest range of best-of-breed offerings and vendors that contribute to the solution.
- Keep future options open. Deploying a private wireless network is only the beginning. Your needs will likely grow and evolve over time and the vendors you choose will need to adapt with you.
- Evaluate vendors based on their past partnership successes. In joint projects, there’s no substitute for experience. Seek out vendors who have proven they can make partnerships work, especially when deploying private networks for mission-critical applications.
The era of the private wireless network is here. And if everyone focuses on making the necessary partnerships work, we can expect to see more diverse groups of partners walking into bars together – to toast each other and celebrate their successful deployments.