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5G spectrum licenses for enterprise private networks still stalling

Bnamericas Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018
5G spectrum licenses for enterprise private networks still stalling

Despite growing interest, the number of 5G private network spectrum licenses issued by Brazilian telecoms regulator Anatel remains relatively low.

At present, Anatel has issued permits for six companies, from the electric power and the mining segments, for use of spectrum in the 2.3GHz band, Sidney Nince, from Anatel’s licenses and resources department, told the 5x5 Tec Summit online event.

This band is used mostly for 5G, but can also serve 4G. 

Licenses for further 1,082 companies have been issued in the 225-270MHz range, which has more limited capacity transmission, although longer coverage reach. These are mainly used for machine-to-machine communications.

Application details for other spectrum bands for private usage were not provided.

According to Nince, the ecosystem is still evolving. SIM cards and network architectures are still being developed for more advanced network applications.

“We already have more than 90% of the population served with mobile networks. Now technologies are coming for new applications and new ways of usage, especially IoT,” he said. 

Issues related to awareness of the productive sector, especially medium and small companies, on how to operate a private network and to apply for licenses would also help explain the relatively low permit numbers. “Excluding, perhaps large corporate groups, they still don't have much telecom knowledge.”

Anatel provides bands for private networks in the 225-270MHz, 703-708MHz/758-763MHz, 1.48-1.51GHz, 2.39-2.48GHz/2.48-2.49GHz, 3.7-3.8GHz and 27.5-27.9GHz ranges.

The agency is also in the final phase to approve bands in the 410-415MHz and the 42-425MHz ranges.

In addition, a public consultation to collect input for the improvement of private licenses will be open until December 12. 

PRIVATE LICENSING

Enterprises that wish to install their own networks, without the participation of operators holding the spectrum, need two types of authorization.

The first is a license for the use of radiofrequency in the limited private service (SLP) model. In addition to spectrum, any radio base station (antenna) that will transmit the signal also requires a permit.

Anatel will monitor operations to avoid interference and ensure that all antennas are operating in the specific bands for which they were authorized.

MODELS

Overall, there are four possible models of private networks. 

In the first one, the enterprise is responsible for the full operation. It acquires equipment, installs, operates – with its own licensed spectrum (the SLP license) – an independent and segregated network.

In a second model, the access network is shared, with the enterprises’ devices connecting to the operator's public spectrum and antennas shared with the public cellular service. Network functions, however, are segregated and data traffic control is up to the enterprise.

A third model involves some network control functions being carried out by the telecom operator through network slicing. Industry or enterprise data does not flow over the public network.

And under a fully contracted (outsourced) network model, a telecom operator provides spectrum, devices, access network and core network functions.

Both unlicensed spectrum, such as LoRa and Sigfox technologies, and licensed spectrum, for example using NB-IoT technology, are made available.

“There is no single solution, no single format. It depends on each company proposal. Often we see the same company having different models running in parallel, depending on the applications,” said Nince.

Brazil’s WEG is operating this way. It implemented two different private network models in a pilot format. One of its own, with an SLP license obtained from Anatel in the 3.7GHz range, and one with operator Claro in the 3.5GHz band.

IoT applications and industrial automation over 5G will boost demand for private networks over time, Nince said. “We envision a revolution in the production chains of various segments, with impressive possibilities in industrial automation, logistics, ports, mining and even in the retail area.”

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