This article originally appeared in RCR Wireless.
If the White House’s $42.5B investment in Broadband, Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) signals anything, it’s this: While the 5G journey may — at the moment — appear to be slowing, our nation’s digital expansion is not.
Estimations of the global market potential remain robust: SNS Telecom & IT‘s latest research report indicates that global spending on private LTE and 5G network infrastructure for vertical industries will account for more than $6.4 billion by the end of 2026.
As recently published forecasts by global technology intelligence firm ABI Research highlight, the revenue opportunity for private cellular networks is forecasted to grow from almost $7 billion in 2023 to more than $96 billion by 2030.
5G is a critical part of our nation’s digital expansion and there is a commitment to it. Recent shifts in the market may cause apprehension, but they also reveal a landscape ripe with untapped potential and robust opportunities, most especially in community and municipal broadband.
Though an immediate recovery of the 5G market may or may not be on the horizon, with headwinds also come opportunities for innovative, affordable alternatives that are both supportive of 5G and ready to deploy today, like private wireless.
The long-term trend remains clear: The digitalization of our world continues apace, and the demand for high-speed, reliable networks will inevitably follow.
An overfocus on the traditional vendors can be misleading. You won’t want to miss where the real revolution and traction is happening: in the ecosystem, and with private wireless.
The next leap forward
Today, right now, private wireless solutions that bridge troublesome capacity, coverage, and connectivity gaps are solving for the problems that at one time only 5G was believed to be able to ameliorate.
The need for increasingly superior digital networks isn’t diminishing. Ongoing geopolitical considerations mean that the demand for secure, reliable and locally controlled infrastructure remains high. With these factors in play, the trajectory for private wireless, followed by 5G seems clear, irrespective of the market’s cyclical nature.
Indeed, the appetite for more powerful digital networks continues to grow. In a world that’s more connected than ever, we are witnessing an insatiable demand for faster speeds, reduced latency and higher capacity, all attributes integral to private wireless and ultimately 5G networks. From supporting high-resolution video streaming to enabling real-time data for autonomous vehicles, and from empowering Internet of Things (IoT) devices to revolutionizing healthcare with telemedicine — the applications are boundless.
Private, hybrid networks being leveraged by the Marine Corps are serving these IoT and IIoT requirements today, as I write this.
As we become more digitally intertwined, the need for secure and reliable network infrastructure has never been more critical. A strong, dependable digital network is not just a luxury but a necessity, a backbone supporting the data-driven economy. It’s not just about being able to stream the latest show without buffering; it’s about enabling a future where remote surgery, smart cities and fully autonomous vehicles become commonplace. Where schoolchildren can securely complete their homework at home, no matter where home is. Private wireless is instrumental in realizing these advancements.
Compounding technological necessities are geopolitical reasons that are driving the demand for better digital networks. There is acute global awareness of the strategic value of maintaining control over sovereign digital infrastructures, a factor that is promoting investment and development in 5G technologies.
This journey toward equitable, ubiquitous connectivity may have its bumps, but the destination—a world with extensive, secure and high-performing coverage — remains unchanged.
The role of private wireless: Hybrid and converged networks will reign
Private wireless is playing a crucial role in bridging the gap between 4G and 5G and enabling hybrid and converged networks, creating a smoother transition to the next generation of connectivity.
Private wireless networks provide secure, reliable and high-performance connectivity within a specified area like an industrial site, campus, or business park. Typically, private networks use 4G or 5G technologies to offer businesses control, security, flexibility and high speed they need to digitally transform their operations.
These networks allow for the hybridization and convergence of different network types and generations. Hybrid networks take advantage of both 4G and 5G infrastructure, ensuring reliable connectivity while also providing access to the higher bandwidths and lower latencies offered by 5G where available. As 5G coverage continues to expand, these networks can shift more heavily towards the newer technology.
Converged networks, on the other hand, combine different types of connectivity technologies — such as Wi-Fi, 4G and 5G — into a single, seamless network. This approach ensures robust coverage and reliability, providing the best available connection regardless of the user’s location or the specific task at hand.
This flexibility provided by private wireless networks in facilitating hybrid and converged networks is particularly valuable. Enterprises can start experiencing the benefits of 5G in a contained environment while maintaining the reliability of 4G connectivity. This approach also provides a testing ground for new 5G-enabled applications and devices, driving innovation and development in this space.
In this way, private wireless networks are not just bridging the technology gap but are also enabling organizations to prepare operationally and strategically for a 5G future. By adopting private networks, businesses and other entities can manage the transition at their own pace, ensuring they have the infrastructure and strategies in place to take full advantage of the benefits of 5G when the time comes.
It is also important to note that while private wireless networks are delivering on the promise described above, they also accommodate seamless transition to public networks through solutions like neutral host that provide the best of both worlds to the customer — a private network providing dedicated coverage and capacity for enterprise use cases, as well as a connection for their users to Public MNO networks for emergency services like e911.
The challenges facing 5G are being solved by private wireless networks. As the saying goes, there’s always calm before the storm. In this case, the storm is an exciting future powered by a robust and extensive 5G network, the groundwork of which is being laid today through the deployment of private wireless.
So let’s remember: the current pause isn’t a falter — it’s the deep breath before the next big leap.