MNOs and Private Networks

Originally appearing as an article on Total Telecom, read the synopsis of our assessment of the private mobile network opportunity for Mobile Network Operators (MNOs).

We explore the scenarios and propositions for MNOs and where they will face increased competition from Neutral Hosts and Systems Integrators.

Read the full article

Should MNOs offer a Private Network service?

Right now, despite significant success in delivering mobile coverage and services to the mass market, MNOs are currently playing a limited role in the Private Network space – and it’s more complex than a simple Private versus Public story.

Mapping out the Private Mobile Network proposition landscape

For those seeking a Private Mobile Network option, we see two driving forces:

  1. What is the location and the required coverage?
  2. What ‘Special features’ are needed? These can include guaranteed capacity, low latency, security, numbering or addressing schemes, access controls, and ultra-precise location services.

Mentor's Private Mobile Network proposition landscape

Scenarios 1, 3 and 5 are not private networks since the features provided come as standard from an MNO. In scenarios 3 and 5, the MNOs may provide the service but may not own the Neutral Host network.

Scenario 2 provides special private network features in existing MNO coverage footprints. And Scenario 4 does this with the enhanced coverage provided by a Neutral Host.  These features allow businesses to achieve levels of automation and efficiency previously unseen and currently not available or affordable on public networks.

Meanwhile, scenario 6 is a fully Private Mobile Network.

The Private Network opportunity for MNOs

MNOs have natural providence over Scenarios 1, 3, and 5.  Yet, if in scenarios 3 and 5 MNOs cannot provide sufficient coverage, then the space owner may be motivated to commission a fully private network (Scenario 6).

MNOs are also uniquely positioned for Scenarios 2 and 4, as 5G network slicing further improves the special services that MNOs can provide.

Each slice can have different features and functions that meet specific business needs.  It’s fair to say the scope of features will be smaller than a fully private network but if a company has a clear purpose and are prepared to pay, then the Operator could sell them an appropriately configured network slice.

This does pose a number of questions for an MNO to consider:

  1. What are the compelling services that customers will purchase?
  2. How can a mass-market focussed MNO avoid being drawn into creating and managing 100s of bespoke slices for their business customers?
  3. Does the MNO have the internal organisation and skills required to address this market?
  4. Do the necessary management tools exist?

Managing the sheer complexity and variety of this proposition is a significant shift in their market proposition away from their core mass market capabilities.  But, the opportunity is here is for MNOs to partner with relevant third parties in order to deliver a viable and profitable private service on the public network.

Fully Private Networks will be dominated by Global Systems Integrators

In scenario 6 – a fully Private Network – a business will have decided they want their facility to have a wireless network with special features allowing them to achieve levels of automation and efficiency previously unseen.

Fully Private 4G/5G Networks are typically heavily customised and highly integrated with other systems and equipment to address the needs of different industry vertical sectors.  Examples of these vertical sectors are manufacturing, warehousing and distribution, air and seaports, mining, and oil and gas production.

For this reason, it is difficult to see MNOs playing a lead role.  Instead, the lead will probably be taken by a Global Systems Integrator who specialises in the relevant industry vertical sector.

What’s the next step for MNOs?

MNOs will compete well in certain situations, enabled by 5G network slicing, especially when providing special private network features in existing MNO coverage footprints.

But they will face challenges and increased competition from new entrants like neutral hosts and systems integrators. Businesses seeking fully private networks will be far more likely to approach global systems integrators who specialise in their relevant vertical markets.

Operators have some tough choices to make.  The heart of it is, whether to get close to the likes of business and industry and work with them to develop solutions or stand back and watch the Private Mobile Network gameplay out.

Other content you might like:

Are you ready for 5G in the UK? Watch now

How mobile-centric fibre networks will make the UK a 5G leader – Download here

Deep mobile access – find out more