IHS: Private LTE networks to be used by >1 million users by 2021
Written by: Sam Fenwick | Published:
L-R: Thomas Lynch, director of IHS Critical Communications Group and Jianhua Peng, president of Huawei's Enterprise Wireless Business Unit launching the "LTE in Public Safety" white paper

IHS, a global analysis firm and Huawei partnered to develop a white paper entitled LTE in Public Safety, which was released at the 4th eLTE Industry Alliance Summit held on May 30 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

The white paper provides an analysis of the role private LTE networks can play in the public safety sector including market scale, technology development trends, standards development, spectrum planning in major global regions, and the influence of industry organisations. It also provides recommendations on network deployment policies, industry chain development and market growth.

“Private LTE networks have been growing rapidly in recent years. The market scale of private LTE networks in the public safety sector reached more than $539 million in 2015,” said Thomas Lynch, co-author of the white paper and director of IHS Critical Communications Group. “IHS forecasts that the market scale of private LTE eNodeB in the sector will reach $1.3 billion by 2019. IHS’ long-term forecast data shows that the growth rate of private LTE networks will be even higher. Private LTE network systems are expected to be adopted by more than one million users by 2021.”

IHS expects that initially there may be may be a low number of devices per eNodeB, as the private networks first start rolling out radio coverage, later increasing in subscriber numbers as end-users choose to adopt the technology across their organisation.

2015 saw global device sales of $108 million for private LTE networks and 63,000 devices were shipped for use on them, which implies an average sale price of $1714.29 per device. By 2019, the authors of the white paper expect that more than 60 per cent of narrowband users will have migrated to digital.

The white paper states that a global survey send to critical communications end-users across various sectors, 46 per cent of respondents envisage using private networks in the future, compared with 33.3 per cent envisaging the use of a shared commercial network and 21.2 per cent saying that they don’t envisage using an LTE network.

The white paper examines three main models for the use of private LTE: User-centric (constructed and maintained by the end-user), Hybrid-approach (end user built, third party maintained) and Vendor-centric (constructed and maintained by third parties).

It sees the main advantage of the third option (Vendor-centric) being the low initial expenditure from the users’ perspective, but at the cost of service fees and subscriptions to use the network. Also as it is vendor-built, “the vendor is able to open up the network to multiple end-users… [which] may pose a concern for the end user but offer opportunities to reduce the OPEX for the individual end-user due to sharing operational costs and overheads.” The white paper adds that this type of network is most appropriate for small end-users seeking to migrate to LTE without raising capital to do so. The Hybrid approach is suggested as being “beneficial for many end-users looking to guarantee network access and invest long-term in LTE network construction, yet reduce overall expenditure…”

The white paper notes that spectrum for PPDR broadband has already been assigned in the US, China, the Middle East and some parts of Europe. The report also states that “IHS expects further announcements during 2016 and 2017 that will allow an even faster migration to private LTE for public safety users”.

During a press conference to mark the release of the white paper, Lynch said, while talking about the transition from narrowband to broadband:” …in the UK, where they’re proposing to just flatly take out TETRA and put in ESN, I’m already hearing that... it won’t happen, it’s impossible. Actually I’d look across the water to the US, I think the US have been very savvy. I know there are problems with the deployment of FirstNet right now but they’ve clearly stated that it’s an overlay technology on top of P25 and they’re still granting government grants for P25 users with FirstNet being almost being built alongside.”

“So, do I believe that somewhere like the UK, or in the Netherlands or Germany in the future will just rip out their whole network and replace? No, so it becomes more OPEX orientated and [the costs will be] spread out over a period of time. The scalability through having this open collaborative environment, be it TCCA, be it through 3GPP, be it through the eLTE Industry Alliance, that will also reduce costs. We measure that each year and the costs are already coming down significantly.

"There about four million TETRA users, I’m sure the number of smartphone users is in the billions, so the scalability factor is already there… You may need to add in some additional functionality, some mission-critical specific [features] and that would depend on your end-user client, but ultimately I don’t know if cost will become the biggest barrier.”

The full text of the white paper can be downloaded here

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