Q&A on Private Wireless Networks with Iain Gillott, iGR

Iain GillottiGR Takes Aim at the Private Wireless Networks Opportunity

Iain Gillott, founder and president of iGR, has been watching the “Private Wireless Networks” market for more than a dozen years. PR Vibes recently spoke with him about how his firm is uniquely positioned in the private wireless networks market, the critical role that vertical markets play, the interrelationship between IoT and private networks, and the comprehensive Private Wireless Networks Ecosystem Directory iGR has developed. He addresses why the Ecosystem Directory is needed, who it benefits, and how it is helping drive new relationships between vendors, systems integrators and enterprises, municipalities and other organizations.

PR Vibes: How do you define a private wireless network?

Gillott: The definition iGR uses is that a private wireless network is a network that uses wireless technologies to provide connectivity for an enterprise/organization AND where the enterprise/organization controls access to and policy for that private network. Some people call it Private 5G. Others call it private cellular networks, private mobile networks/mobile private networks, Private LTE and other similar names.

The key differentiator between public and private wireless networks is that the enterprise /organization controls who can use the network and the policies they enforce. Ownership of the physical network is not required – an enterprise may lease network equipment, for example, from a third party or use a managed service provider.

PR Vibes: Can you tell us what you’re doing in the private wireless networks market and how that makes iGR different from other analyst firms in its coverage and consulting?

Gillott: We started looking at small cells and researching the market for indoor wireless networks 10 years ago – our first published report was back in fourth quarter 2012. The verticals haven’t changed and the buildings haven’t really changed, but the technology has matured considerably. In 2018, we started to forecast the market for CBRS in the U.S. The enterprise connectivity market was not a new market that we jumped into – our enterprise connectivity research predates that of small cell, in-building wireless, DAS, etc. That’s a big differentiator.

The second differentiator is we look at the market holistically. So, in the U.S., we don’t just look at CBRS. We also look at the DAS market, indoor small cells, and so on. The applications, all of the things around that constitutes private wireless networks, doesn’t have to just be CBRS.

Thirdly, we also look at this market by vertical. This year, we’ve stepped up the number of vertical markets in private wireless networks that we cover to 12.

This last point is important as the traditional DAS market is being leveraged into CBRS – some of the new CBRS architectures can reuse part of the DAS architecture.

PR Vibes: CBRS is only in the U.S. Are you also incorporating international technologies within your reports?

Gillott: We’ve done work in Europe on a custom consulting basis, but we have not published anything yet. In Europe, it’s all through the carriers and licensed spectrum. Now they are starting to review some type of unlicensed model. The biggest opportunity right now is in the U.S., but we will be looking at the international markets in 2023.

PR Vibes: Tell us about some of the projects you’ve been working on to showcase your expertise in private wireless networks.

Gillott: For projects, there are a few more things that differentiate us. The first project we did for our own experience was build our own private wireless network, using CBRS. We recorded the implementation to determine how difficult this is to do because everyone is saying it’s so easy. You know what? On a small scale, they’re right. I built it in my office in less than 20 minutes and then took the devices and walked to the other side of the house. And I went walking up the street to the neighbor’s house and the signal I got was great. It was very easy to do. I think it’s important to have the experience of building one – it’s more than just numbers, it’s understanding how all of the pieces and parts come together, the technical support that is needed, and the pesky details.

I think building this makes us unique amongst the analyst community.

Another project we have done is the Private Wireless Networks Ecosystem Directory. The Directory breaks down the categories and industry served by private networks. The Directory currently has more than 300 companies’ case studies right now. Clients can go in and search for any partner they need, including systems integrators, RAN vendors, core vendors, etc. That includes the companies who have implemented private wireless or are in the process of doing so. We have close to 110 case studies so far and they are all very compelling.

The Directory also filters by different industries and different geographies. For example, you can look up “I want a systems integrator who serves the energy, oil & gas market” – and find we have 36 of them in the Directory. And then you can pare that down and say I want one that is going to do Wi-Fi 6 for me. And there are 13 of those.

In the Directory, you can drill down to what you want and then on each profile, we tell you who they are and what they do, what industries they serve, what networks they support, who their partner affiliations are. We use publicly available information, just giving private wireless network users a way to find new partners, vendors or distribution channels – globally. We have been updating the Directory as new things happen, not once a year or once a quarter, but in as near-real-time as possible.

PR Vibes: What are the primary verticals you cover for private wireless networks?

Gillott: It’s all the commercial vertical markets. We don’t do Department of Defense or government. We work on education, utilities, agriculture, energy, oil & gas, mining, manufacturing, healthcare, retail, commercial office space, transportation, warehouse & storage, hospitality, and stadiums and arenas.

Another thing we break out in the research is investments. So, we’ve looked at what it costs to build out a private wireless network and operate it. We also examine the network and systems integration work, which is the design, testing and integration with other enterprise and IT systems. In 2022, we studied the spending on different vertical applications for private wireless networks as well. We’re not just looking at it from a “how many radios it is” – we’re looking at the complete picture. I don’t know that anybody else is doing that.

PR Vibes: Who is making the decisions about when and where a private wireless network is needed?

Gillott: This is very much top down; we do hear a lot that the CEO reads in The Wall Street Journal about private wireless networks and how it’s going to take over the world. And then they get into the office, call the CIO and say, “Hey, what are we doing with this private 5G / private wireless network thing?” And the CIO says “Oh, we have it in hand.” And the CIO calls the IT networking folks and says, “Hey, we need a plan for private wireless networks. We better work out what we’re going to do because I’m getting questions.”

PR Vibes: Who is finding success in building private wireless networks?

Gillott: It’s all different size companies – and we’re seeing it everywhere, across all verticals. It’s very industry focused. The top two searches we have in the Directory are category and industry. We are starting to see some companies cross verticals, for example, they’ve found success in healthcare and then an opportunity presents itself in education. But for the most part, they are in one or maybe two verticals.

So going back to the Ecosystem Directory, in the wireless network system integrator category, there are two that actually go after the agriculture market, but if I change that to education, there are 13 companies going after education. If I change that to energy, oil & gas, there are three. If I change that to healthcare, there are 14. If I look at manufacturing, there are eight.

We have also realized that while we have nearly 110 case studies, all of which are from public information, there are many more private wireless network implementations out there that have not been disclosed. Many enterprises simply will not give permission to the vendors to make the deployment public, usually for competitive reasons.

PR Vibes: Let’s talk for a minute about private wireless networks and IoT. How do they interconnect?

Gillott: IoT is just an application. IoT will always be application-driven. The vendors I’ve spoken to say you really have to start with the applications the customer wants and then you have to ask them what they’re going to do with it in the future. So, you start with one application on the network, which may be very simple, but you stack on future applications to make private use of the same network.

For example, I could have a private wireless network on a farm that is there to connect soil sensors and rainfall sensors and whatever else needs to be measured around the farm. That is a great application for IoT and it’s already happening. I could also have autonomous vehicles running around that farm, and that already happens as well. But I also could provide critical communications such as walkie-talkies and push-to-talk between the farmers and farm workers. And that’s not IoT, but we will see all these applications utilize the same private wireless network.

At the end of the day, from our perspective, IoT is an application that could be in a smart building, smart factory, or smart office, and link to security systems, access systems, or HVAC – all of those are within the IoT umbrella. Underneath it all is a connectivity network that has to support it, and of course that network can do other things.

PR Vibes: Any final thoughts?

Gillott: Private wireless network research is a big part of what iGR is doing, but not the only focus.  We continue to research all the wireless infrastructure markets and technologies, including Open RAN, Cloud RAN, small cells, fronthaul and backhaul and the core.

We are finding that right now there is a lot of interest in our private wireless networks research and that vendors are putting business plans together for 2023 and beyond – many need market data for this. So we are offering a couple of packages of research to give companies the data they need as they move forward with this opportunity – details are on our website here.

To learn more about iGR’s Private Wireless Networks Ecosystem Directory for clients, check it out on the iGR website.

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