BICS builds bridges into private networking for MNOs - Mobile World Live

BICS builds bridges into private networking for MNOs

01 MAR 2023

PARTNER FEATURE: The concept of Private Mobile Networks (PMNs) is not new, so why the recent industry-wide interest in PMNs and how can the mobile network operators (MNOs) best serve this growing market? Mikael Schachne, VP Telco Market, BICS, explains.

During the second half of 2022, the number of organisations that were deploying LTE or 5G PMNs worldwide rose from 794 in June to 995 in December reported the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA). These are relatively low numbers in the grand scheme of the telco world, but they’re on the rise, and they’re set to accelerate. The number of PMNs globally will skyrocket 1,900% to greater than 20,000 by 2026 with enterprise spend on those networks reaching $5 billion that year according to analyst house Analysys Mason.

Demand for PMNs is increasing because they’re getting easier and more affordable to deploy, they provide greater security and control for enterprise users, as well as targeted high-capacity coverage. Furthermore, PMNs can deliver access to massive amounts of data that can be analysed, enabling processes to be optimised, efficiencies realised, and waste reduced. Demand has, arguably, always been there – lying dormant, but it looks like the enabling technology and scale has finally caught up.

The emergence of hyper-connected organisations, in a movement dubbed by some as Industry 4.0, has seen massive deployments of IoT devices across all industries. Research by GSMA Intelligence identified an incremental IoT revenue opportunity of $1.1 trillion will exist by 2025 for MNOs that can look beyond connectivity in the space with the provision of innovative new services.

For a connected enterprise to be effective, it requires constant worldwide connectivity and the ability to move assets safely and seamlessly. Take the recent COVID vaccine and its deployment to healthcare providers. Two of the vaccines need to maintain a constant temperature during transportation. Complicating matters Pfizer’s vaccine needs to be kept at -70℃ and Moderna’s vaccine needs to be kept at -20℃. The drug’s successful distribution was helped in large part by IoT-connected devices able to monitor temperatures at all times en route.

DIY PMN: threat or opportunity?
While the rise in a reliance on IoT by industry is pushing the demand for PMNs, there are some technical hurdles to overcome before the demands can be met. With every passing year and the advent of every new communications service developed to add value and make our world more user friendly, convenient and efficient, we add a new layer of complexity for those organisations whose responsibility and bottom line rely on the successful delivery of that service.

In theory though, given access to spectrum, anyone can get set up a PMN. However, creating a PMN with roaming and handover capabilities, and in the current communications technology landscape of 2G-5G, WiFi, LoRa, MVNOs, not to mention regulatory differences that exist from country to country looks like a challenge best suited to the global MNO community. Furthermore, access to spectrum is heavily regulated, of course, and in most countries is sewn up by the MNOs.

That said, there are ongoing discussions around the world about the allocation of 5G spectrum and whether certain frequencies should be reserved for specific industries, such as manufacturers seeking bandwidth for PMNs. This raises the challenge of balancing the need to accommodate industry demands with the requirement of allocating spectrum to operators for consumer 5G services.

But we are seeing some developments in this field. For example, in Germany, the regulatory body, BNetzA, has designated 5G spectrum for private companies, with firms such as Bosch, BMW, Siemens, and Volkswagen already acquiring licences. While in the US, the FCC has granted licenses for a portion of the Citizen Broadband Radio Service band to businesses at a lower cost compared to the usual fees charged by operators for other wireless spectrum bands. Other countries will likely follow suit in one way or another making a mix a spectrum available.

Then there are the hyperscalers who have been developing virtualised network equipment, it’s all in the cloud, so there’s a lot less heavy lifting required to get a PMN up and running.

It is more than possible for an organisation or a third party nontraditional MNOs to create a PMN at a specific location. The real challenge though, as mentioned above, is handover. If an asset leaves the specific location to travel the world, it will need to connect and roam on public networks. Again, technology today makes this possible.

BICS offers a unique SIM solution for IoT, providing single-SIM access to both private and PMNs, both nationally and internationally. BICS has 20+ years of experience enabling global roaming for more than 500 MNOs with solution such as Signalling, IPX, Instant and Open Connectivity Roaming Hubbing which would be perfect to bridge Public & Private Mobile Networks. With seamless roaming across 500 destinations, BICS’ solutions ensures that assets, such as those in a manufacturing plant, are always connected, even as they are transported globally. Our extensive and secure global network provides businesses with the ability to establish and maintain a connected presence worldwide, seamlessly integrating with their own PMN.

MNOs hold all the aces
Enterprises or third-parties could get a foothold in the growing PMN market, but in reality MNOs are in such a strong position they would have to turn their collective back on the businesses in order to fail.

For starters, while it looks like there could be some spectrum available, there is a still a great deal of uncertainty about how and when that will play out from market to market. Large scale enterprise customers do not like uncertainty. There has been far too much of that over the past two years. MNOs already own spectrum, in all the right bands. It is completely possible to allocate frequency for select customers. It already happens, albeit not quite at a scale it might.

As for virtualised networks offered by hyperscalers, developments like the Open RAN initiative will facilitate the availability of cloud-based cellular network elements that will further simplify network operations and drive down costs for the MNOs. It’s possible that the MNOs may well become the hyperscalers biggest partners.

Finally, MNOs have the people and the relationships, they have an army of network engineers with years of experience, they have trusted relationships with network equipment providers, they have the customers and strong partnership with device makers, and they have the infrastructure at scale.

The only pieces they’re missing are the time and resources to form a bridge into the enterprise space, which is where BICS comes in. We provide a comprehensive suite of services that enable MNOs to offer PMNs to their enterprise customers, and we are already one of the largest international voice and messaging players in the world, with tried and tested handover, roaming and signalling services.



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