Amazon-Enabled Federated Wireless Private LTE Initiative Should Serve as a Shot Across the Bow for Public Operators

John Byrne – Service Director, Global Technology Telecom and Software

Summary Bullets:

  • Federated Wireless announced a consortium designed to stake out a growth position in the emerging private LTE/CBRS market.
  • The consortium as comprised is incomplete; however, the announcement should serve as a wakeup call to public network operators that have thus far not taken a strong position in private LTE.

Amid the flurry of announcements emerging from this week’s AWS re:Invent in Las Vegas, which is quickly becoming one of the most important networking events of the year, was the announcement of a private LTE network consortium that relies on a number of partners to enable fast deployment of industrial IoT applications. Specifically, the consortium, led by Federated, includes:

  • Federated Wireless – using its cloud-based Spectrum Controller to enable secure access to the 3.5 GHz band;
  • Ruckus – providing what it bills as the “industry’s first” indoor LTE access points to use the 3.5 GHz CBRS spectrum;
  • Athonet – which sells a cloud mobile core product specifically designed for private networks;
  • Amazon Web Services (AWS) – specifically, the AWS cloud IoT platform to connect, manage, and monitor IoT devices at scale (Athonet’s BubbleCloud resides on the AWS cloud).

The consortium is initially setting its sights on a limited number of use cases centered on some ‘low-hanging fruit’ IoT applications such as worker safety monitoring, smart metering, and real-time surveillance. However, Federated Wireless clearly has larger aspirations for CBRS and is in the process of rolling out CBRS service commercially to nearly 16,000 sites across the U.S beginning in early 2019. It is becoming clear that Federated plans to get by with a little (lot of) help from its friends (partners) in embracing the CBRS opportunity. But, Federated is also taking a leap of faith in going the furthest out on the ledge in embracing CBRS, and there are many questions that remain unanswered about both the Federated launch and the CBRS opportunity in general, including:

  • Ecosystem Approach 2.0 Required: Beyond the relatively limited scope of the Federated consortium, who will drive the private LTE opportunity more deeply into the enterprise space – for example, to tap more verticals and build more use cases?
  • Missing Puzzle Pieces: Who else will be joining the consortium? Granted, the ink has just dried on the initial consortium announcement, but it would appear that systems integrators and VARs could play an important role here in helping Federated mine this opportunity more extensively than it will have the wherewithal to do on its own.
  • Delivering Developers: Similarly, how can developers be brought to help enterprises take advantage of the private LTE opportunity for IoT use cases. At AWS re:Invent, the Federated consortium held a workshop in which 100 developers were able to register Amazon’s DeepLens video cameras onto the AWS IoT platform to drive IoT use cases that rely on video camera feeds. However, in the grand scheme of IoT and private LTE, this is just a starting point in fostering a robust community of developers.
  • Private LTE as WiFi Exit Strategy: Is private LTE on the verge of becoming the new WiFi? With Ruckus and others rolling out 3.5 GHz LTE access points offering greater range and stronger security credentials than WiFi, many enterprises are likely to begin considering fundamental changes in their WAN that could usher in a wholesale change in how enterprises connect over the next five to seven years.
  • Network Operators’ Role in Private LTE Unclear: Perhaps most intriguingly, how will traditional network operators respond to the Federated consortium? A number of traditional network operators have given lip service to private LTE and CBRS thus far; however, initiatives such as this raise the real possibility that the private LTE opportunity could bypass traditional operators. Equipment vendors seem to understand this notion and are increasingly taking the private LTE story more directly to enterprises. Public operators need to better carve out their role as trusted partners for enterprises in order avoid what is likely to be a long-term growth story.

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