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Private mobile networks – Rethinking service assurance

“The spending on private and shared enterprise networks will surpass spending on public cellular networks”. This is ABI Research’s astonishing prediction concerning the private networking market as detailed during their online 5G Technology Summit.

Even though this upheaval might take 15 years, the ramp up of the private mobile network market has definitely begun in earnest with significant changes happening in the manufacturing industry followed by the transport and logistic sectors (e.g., airports).

This new gold mine will initially be powered by generally-available LTE technology, with private LTE networks emerging as a market opportunity estimated by ABI Research to be worth US$16.3B by 20251. At the same time, public operators are working on 5G-based network slicing to enable premium enterprise-level, non-public network (NPN) services.

Why enterprises are looking for private mobile networks

The primary reason for deploying a private network is to achieve a trusted network with a committed performance far above what public mobile networks can offer (i.e., QoS, QoE, security).

The expectations and requirements for NPN networks are brought together in a multidimensional SLA: optimized radio coverage, guaranteed network performance, security and reliability of network and applications to support mission-critical use cases.

Mobile operators’ perspective

Obviously, mobile network operators (MNOs) want a big share of this promising market. According to a recent report from GSMA Research2, 82% of mobile operators see the enterprise market as key to their 5G strategy, and 70% plan to deploy standalone 5G within three years, largely targeting the enterprise segment.

Although some enterprises may consider deploying such NPN networks on their own, telcos remain very relevant when it comes to the know-how needed to deploy and operate such networks, or to assure a continuity of service between the islands of private networks.

A true paradigm shift for telcos

Certainly, for their public mobile networks, MNOs have done their best to maximize coverage, QoE and therefore minimize churn rates of their most valuable customers. But the public mobile network remains a best-effort network, at least from the customer’s perspective.

When that customer is an enterprise, with mission critical applications or processes, NPN network performance is not just a “wish”. There will be a strict SLA contract between enterprise customer and telco, possibly including penalty clauses. Where a simple service degradation is as harmful as a network outage, a very different approach to managing network performance is required, one where operations and network service performance are closely tied—namely SLA-based network operations.

Service assurance is mission critical to deliver on SLAs

The requirements for SLA-based operations are three-fold:

  1. Assure the lifecycle, from instantiation to operation, with zero-touch automation.
  2. Anticipate service degradations in real time, and before they become impactful.
  3. Prioritize network actions and changes according to customer impact.

For the management of private networks or slices that require tight SLAs, service assurance becomes a mission-critical component of network architecture. The end-to-end service assurance system must weigh problems, rank them based on customer impact and prioritize corrective actions on the most critical network domains.

To meet the expectations of mobile operators in delivering NPN services to the industry and other verticals, EXFO combined several of the strengths of its service assurance portfolio into a new approach called Nova Adaptive Service Assurance (AǀSA).

Nova A|SA combines state of the art, agile (i.e., on-demand) probing with the tracking of fast-changing network topologies, and AI/ML for the early detection and prediction of impacting events.

To learn more about private mobile networks and their assurance, read the EXFO whitepaper entitled "Rethinking service assurance for private mobile networks".

1 ABI Research, Carrier Strategies for Private LTE, Q1 2019
2 GSMA Commercial Insight, no°396