How Does Private LTE (CBRS) Affect the WAN Business?
It is by no means clear how the availability of private (enterprise) 4G Long Term Evolution will affect the broader mobile market.
The ability to create indoor or campus LTE networks essentially complicates some elements of enterprise premises communications strategy. Where the typical network has been a cabled local area network, now supplemented with Wi-Fi and mobile access, the future might also include Wi-Gig as well.
On one hand, enterprise indoor 4G, based on use of small cells, could help provide better mobile coverage indoors, with less capital investment than might otherwise be required. In other cases there might be some incremental increase in operating costs, especially when mobile operator access to the indoor networks is a lease arrangement with the private LTE operator.
On the other hand, the indoor LTE network could well, over time, build beyond support for mobile phones and include internet of things sensors. That could affect mobile business revenues in a variety of ways, from displacement to sharing to augmentation.
The private LTE operator could be a buyer of access and transport; a competitor for IoT services; a partner for providing better indoor coverage or platforms, possibly all at once.
In other words, private LTE might simply be another form of indoor local area network that aggregates local traffic for transmission over wide area networks, as local area networks (Wi-Fi, for example) do. In this scenario, private LTE is simply a way of supporting employee, partner and customer use of existing services and networks.
To some extent, especially in smaller venues, private LTE might be a service sold to building managers or tenants, much as airport or hotel Wi-Fi service is a business for some suppliers.
In all cases, private LTE could establish a new role for LTE networks in the role of local area network, as Wi-Fi now is used. If you think about how Wi-Fi affects the WAN service providers, there are stimulative effects, creating additional demand for internet access services.
Private LTE should also help solve indoor signal strength issues, as has been true for mobile internet access functions inside buildings.
If you think about private LTE networks supported by new spectrum such as Citizens Broadband Radio Service as a new form of local area network platform, akin to Wi-Fi, you can figure out how it might be used, and what the implications might be.
But it always is fair to remember the fundamental distinction between local and wide area networks. WAN services are fundamental for service provider business models. LANs such as Wi-Fi have become more important functional parts of the WAN business, though, allowing service providers to provide better service (data offload and signal strength).
Private LTE will probably have much the same effect, even as some incremental new business opportunities could be created for suppliers of indoor communications services.