Private networks vs network slicing

Private mobile broadband networks that leverage shared and licence-exempt spectrum have big appeal for firms that handle sensitive data, but where will the spectrum come from, and could the fledgling industry be crushed once 5G network slicing comes into its own? Sam Fenwick reports

If you are in the two-way radio industry, you may be asking yourself, ‘why should I care about small cells and private LTE networks?’ The best answer is that their level of affordability and ease of deployment may determine the speed at which any transition to push-to-talk over cellular in an in-building context occurs, as John Swarbrick, Andromeda’s founder and managing director, explains. “PTT over cellular hasn’t made a dent in the on-site LMR [land mobile radio] market for many reasons. The big one is the need to pay a monthly subscription to a mobile operator, a cost that doesn’t apply to LMR and quickly mounts up. But equally challenging is poor in-building mobile coverage, variable capacity (particularly for public buildings) and lack of resilience. Wi-Fi doesn’t really solve any of these problems either. I believe private 4G networks offer the solution, but [they need] productising.”

Swarbrick adds that he sees MOTOTRBO Nitro – Motorola Solutions’ private broadband land mobile radio solution, which uses CBRS [Citizens Broadband Radio Service; a 150MHz wide broadcast band of the 3.5GHz band] spectrum, is available via a subscription model, and includes the SLX2000 indoor access point and purpose-built devices such as the SLN1000 – as “the first step in that direction in the US market, but again it’s still at the test licence stage”.

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