There are nearly 500 operators worldwide investing in 5G. At the same time, the number of private networks continues to rise at a staggering amount, with customer announcements growing at a CAGR of 101 percent from 2016 to 2021, with 140 more in the first half of 2022 alone (as per GSA). With the total addressable market for private networks forecast to grow from $3.7 billion in 2021 to more than $109 billion in 2030, a CAGR of 44 percent, it’s plain to see that 5G and private networks are a growth industry.
I spoke recently with Todd Krautkremer, Chief Marketing Officer at Cradlepoint. Krautkremer has more than 30 years of experience within startups, early-stage, and growth-stage companies focused on wired and wireless networking, security, and cloud technologies. Before Cradlepoint, he was CMO at Pertino, a software-defined cloud networking company.
Carpet, Tile, or Concrete?
Krautkremer has found that there is often a distinction that determines whether IT or OT is responsible for the private network within an enterprise. His analogy to clarify IT/OT responsibility is determined by the network’s location. Is the environment on carpet, tile, or concrete? IT typically owns the deployment and life cycle of private cellular on carpeted and tiled space, while you tend to find OT in control more in the concrete areas. For the former, IT is seeking a simple solution that is a Wi-Fi-like experience because they’ve built up teams and capabilities, know how to deploy Wi-Fi, and manage the infrastructure. That’s what they want and expect out of their cellular network. Enterprises also want to reduce the amount of new learning, capabilities, and management needed. There are companies out there that cater to this specific need – the IT buyer who wants private cellular to be that simple.
On concrete, such as manufacturing, OT takes the lead. The OT team specifies, acquires, and pays for the solution. Their main concern is to meet operational goals. The OT team gets judged on their ability to achieve the necessary productivity gains and accomplish the manufacturing line’s availability gains—reflecting their ability to drive lower manufacturing costs.
IT focuses on the experience due to their limited resources and the minimal amount of people they have to help manage things. OT focuses on operational elements such as latency, uptime, security, and densification.
Success for enterprises is rooted in the success of the use case versus measuring the technology independently.
Private Networks Have Come a Long Way
Krautkremer observed how far communications technology has come over the decades. Pointing to public safety, he noted how we’ve shifted from voice communications and LMR (Land Marine Radio) to the digital age, where a police officer, for example, has a computer screen in their car. It tells them everything they need to know about their next dispatch and who they will encounter, even incorporating license plate readers. It’s an excellent example of always-on connectivity.
Spectrum Across the World
Spectrum allocation around the world is handled differently for private networks. In places like Germany, France, parts of the U.K., and other parts of Europe, the carrier brings the spectrum to the table. The U.S. has used CBRS to democratize this whole environment and opened the doors to many new providers, including MSPs, system integrators, and newer types of cloud vendors, bringing a different dynamic to the table.
Who Will Go All-Wireless?
At the close of our conversation, we discussed whether any verticals or companies would soon go all-wireless. Krautkremer pointed out that, due to the pandemic, the education vertical forcibly had to go all-wireless sooner than expected. Because of the pandemic, schools went from teaching curricula in traditional classroom settings to educating students remotely, which many educational institutions were unprepared to do. Many schools, public safety, and city governments deployed private cellular networks to allow school-aged children to receive instruction and class material via Zoom or other mechanisms like Google and Microsoft 365—cloud-based apps.
A huge thanks to Todd Krautkremer, Chief Marketing Officer at Cradlepoint, for his time and conversation about private 5G and private networks.