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On the same wavelength? Why spectrum matters with mobile private networks

26 Oct 2020
Marc Sauter

Marc Sauter

Head of Mobile Private Networks,
Vodafone Business

Buying a television today means much more than buying a device to watch videos. Televisions are no longer tools, they are platforms that open up a pool of options.

The content they offer goes way beyond the channels accessed by pressing numbers on a remote. We now see and expect televisions to have seamless access to YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime and more to cater to the needs of different members of our household.

TV’s today can replace or enhance a multitude of devices, from individual tablets to watch on-demand content, through to voice enabled help from Alexa or Google assistant. They are almost unrecognisable from their predecessors.

The new networks

A similar process of diversification is happening to networks. Thanks to developments in technology, the multitude of capabilities networks can now offer have become much more than just a tool to connect two people or things to each other.

Many businesses, especially in manufacturing, logistics, energy and mining are looking to take advantage of this evolution. They view this development as an opportunity to improve, automate and digitalise their operations in a more efficient way.

Mobile Private Networks (MPNs) are an important component of this journey, providing reliable and secure, dedicated network that enable the solutions a business needs to achieve its varied objectives.

I have mentioned MPNs several times now, highlighting the benefits for our customers and the ways they can use them to achieve what wouldn’t otherwise be possible. However, one thing I have never focused on is what is powering this technology.

I am not talking about equipment or sensors, I’m talking about spectrum.

Spectrum, the great enabler

The GSMA defines spectrum as the total number of the radio frequencies allocated to telecommunications companies and other sectors for signals over the airwaves.

In some respects, these different radio frequencies are like the channels on a smart TV. And as an operator we purchase access to as many of those as possible so we can give our customers the widest range of applications.

If a business needs to have a sensor underground that is only triggered in case of an issue, we can offer them a low-frequency transmission like NB-IoT.

If that same business also requires the instantaneous transmission of data without latency for their robotics lab, the likely choice is a high-frequency transmission like 5G.

Technology communications companies are spectrum experts. As new frequencies are released, they are tested and added to a portfolio of capabilities in the mission to deliver ever better, more targeted services to their customers.

The possibilities of Mobile Private Networks

Variety matters, especially when it comes to MPNs. One key advantage of this technology is the fact that it can provide the underlying platform for businesses to develop new applications, increase efficiency, safety and address their pain-points. It’s something an organisation can invest in now to be future-ready tomorrow.

When the right range of channels (aka frequencies) is available a business can use a mixture of low-power, wide area solutions to gather occasional, but crucial, data for underground cabling, 4G to connect the workforce on the factory floor and ultra-fast 5G for robotics when milliseconds matter.

Bring your own – network?

With such huge potential, in some countries organisations have jumped at the opportunity to buy their own 5G spectrum. It’s an understandable decision, driven by the belief that it will help them be more independent and have more control in-house.

The issue with this however, is that the slice of the pie (spectrum) they purchase, which translates into specific frequencies, will only allow them to get exactly what they pay for. That is, connect a limited range of devices with a limited range of technologies. This ultimately constrains the range of solutions they can deliver.

Another aspect to consider is trust.

Deciding to invest in an MPN with an expert means a change of business model – it means putting connectivity at the centre of what your organisation does.

And being able to rely on a partner with many years of network management experience as you embark on this journey is a significant benefit. It means that while they manage your private network (and spectrum requirements) you can focus on your strategy and business priorities, knowing where you stand in terms of cost, security and efficiency.

License to work

Finally, when talking about spectrum it’s crucial to understand whether we are talking about licensed or unlicensed. The difference is in the use.

Most of the spectrum is licensed to mobile operators like us. This means our customers can be sure no-one else is using it when needed.  Wi-Fi on the other hand, often referred to as possible alternative to an MPN, is unlicensed, and therefore shared.

So, it’s clear that spectrum matters. And I believe licensed spectrum is the true enabler of digital readiness for a business. A digital readiness that is true today and will be true tomorrow.

To find out more about mobile private networks, visit our dedicated page

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