DIY communications networks to trend in 2020, says major telco

An across-the-board shift to privatizing communications networks is underway.

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Communications networks without a centralized infrastructure will become more popular this year as folks become increasingly aware of data collection from governments and tech companies, says telecommunications provider Telenor Group.

The company refers to fully encrypted mesh and peer-to-peer apps as the technology that will enable these consumer-level “off-the-grid, build-it-yourself” links. Mesh apps will also be useful in disasters where traditional networks fail.

“Communicating without a central coordinating network is appealing to people for many reasons, and in 2020, we expect to see more go that route, especially in conflict situations, to mobilize for protests, and simply to stay below the radar,” the company says on its website.

Telenor Group is a mobile, broadband and TV-services company with 183 million customers in the Nordics and Asia.

It isn’t just individuals who want to create their own communications channels. Control over security is prompting large industrials, too, to build-out private wireless networks. Keeping sensitive intellectual property private is a driver for enterprises adopting 5G networks that I wrote about in 2018. One impetus is that they can deploy their own security instead of relying on what is provided by mobile network operators (MNO).

Decreasing congestion, better traffic management, and lower costs are also behind it, according to private LTE equipment vendor Cradlepoint, which says private LTE can be better than Wi-Fi.

IoT

Much of its reasoning is related to IoT and its need for reliable wireless connectivity. Industrial IoT can be adversely affected by “the fluctuating data usage of businesses and homes in the surrounding area,” says Cradlepoint on its website. It says that within robotics implementations, for example, one needs powerful information security along with extremely high bandwidth. Being on a private network rather than a public one helps because then, "Robotic devices don’t have to compete for coverage,” the company says. Quality of service can be customized for individual devices as well.

The increasing use of networked security cameras plays a role, too. “Wi-Fi lacks the stability and performance” needed for masses of warehouse cameras, making another industrial use case for private LTE, Cradlepoint says.

Wireless spectrum for these uses can come from three sources, according to Cradlepoint:

  • MNOs can supply licensed spectrum either on a contract basis or through a service agreement with the enterprise.
  • “Lightly licensed” Citizen Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) can be used. (I’ve written about tiered license CBRS and how that still-developing licensing is supposed to function.)
  • Enterprises and MNOs can operate in unlicensed spectrum.

“Industrial digitization is driving demand for private mobile networks,” says competing vendor Ericsson on its website. It says critical applications are served best by private 5G, which can provide “increased reliability, lower latency and improved security, meeting the requirements of business- and mission-critical applications.”

Now both enterprise and individuals are demanding self-managed, private networks. “Private citizens and organizations are developing the ability to run their own communication networks,” Telenor Group says.

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