Recent Ericsson and Nokia Announcements Underline the Need to Unlock New Enterprise Cellular Revenue Streams—with Automated RF Planning and Network Design Capabilities

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By Leo Gergs | 4Q 2023 | IN-7109

The recent results of Ericsson and Nokia illustrated once again the profound revenue crisis of the telco industry when it comes to the consumer market. The need to unlock enterprise revenue streams is, therefore, more important than ever before. This ABI Insight explores the role of private network management platforms and their necessary capabilities for network planning and Radio Frequency (RF) design to really drive enterprise private cellular adoption and help the telecoms industry out of this current crisis.

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Recent Results from Ericsson and Nokia Underline the Need to Unlock New Revenue Streams


The traditional telecoms industry is in a revenue crisis when it comes to monetizing cellular macro networks, as recent announcements from both Ericsson and Nokia have underlined. In its most recent financial statement of 3Q 2023, Ericsson reported a decline of net organic sales by 10% Year-over-Year (YoY). At the same time, the Swedish infrastructure vendor acknowledges the enterprise verticals domain as one of the few business areas with consistent growth for two consecutive quarters. In a similar fashion, Nokia reported a decline in net sales by 20% YoY for 3Q 2023 and announced a substantial cost-cutting plan in response. Therefore, the pressure to unlock new revenue streams, especially within enterprise verticals, is particularly high.

Enterprises are looking for easily deployable and manageable connectivity solutions, rather than building up traditional telco knowledge themselves. In addition, enterprises require one company as their central interface to introduce connectivity solutions. Especially with regard to hybrid—public network integrated, non-public network—deployments, this means that a supplier of private 5G solutions to enterprises requires extensive technology skills in translating enterprise use cases and requirements into the most efficient deployment model and in how to design dedicated enterprise infrastructure (e.g., edge or private cloud assets) that can be integrated into public network assets (e.g., macro core network or telco/public cloud assets). Successfully bringing cellular connectivity to enterprises requires a much larger technology skillset than pure cellular connectivity expertise.

Different Approaches to Private Network Management Platforms


To deliver this, a range of telco infrastructure and Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) have adopted different approaches to providing such a portal, the scope of their offering, and the monetizing model around it.

Amdocs, for example, offers its Intelligent Networking Suite and its Single Pane of Glass solution to ease deployments of telco networks for enterprise use cases. The platform includes three different layers, spanning individual technologies to enterprise-grade applications. Because Amdocs focuses on going to market through Communication Service Providers (CSPs), its applications are very telco-specific and not directly geared toward enterprises directly. Others like Betacom (with Maestro), Celona (with Orchestrator), and Nokia (with Nokia Digital Automation Cloud (NDAC)), for example, offer their respective network management and operation platforms to enterprises as add-ons to drive sales of their full End-to-End (E2E) private cellular solutions and provide easy-to-use interfaces for enterprises. Their focus does not primarily lie in monetizing the platform as such. Consequently, this will challenge the monetization potential for other software vendors trying to offer such a solution as a standalone product.

At the same time, new approaches from ISVs are emerging that combine the device and network management aspects with additional capabilities to assist during the design, planning, and deployment phase of the cellular network. They do so by employing Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms and Radio Frequency (RF) sensing technology, which can be integrated into existing cellular connectivity infrastructure.

What Role Will These Portals Play in Private Network Deployments?


Network management and monitoring platforms will continue to be an important enabler to unlock enterprise revenue, as enterprises will require a lot of handholding to make optimal use of the benefits that private cellular networks can bring to them. Therefore, platforms that only focus on device management and ease network monitoring will most likely continue to be offered as a free add-on to drive private cellular infrastructure sales. At the same time, it is becoming clear that enterprises are primarily interested in applications and not just the connectivity element alone—making it hard for traditional telco vendors to really penetrate the enterprise market. A private network management software/portal would provide an important platform for enterprise-grade applications and, therefore, work as an important interject between the traditional telecoms industry and the application developer world.

For a management platform/portal to be monetizable as a standalone product, it needs to provide tangible value beyond these management and operation capabilities and extend to include network planning and design elements as well. Particularly for enterprise verticals with adverse conditions for RF communication, network design is: 1) time-consuming and expensive, and 2) important to ensure constant coverage levels. The latter is particularly important for enterprises with highly critical use cases, such as industrial manufacturing, oil & gas, logistics, or military and defense, where sudden loss of connectivity could have devastating consequences.

To provide a real push for private cellular network deployments, infrastructure and software vendors should look at opportunities to integrate network design and planning capabilities into their solutions. To do so, private networks suppliers should look at different strategies to include these capabilities:

  • All suppliers of private networking solutions will need to develop a profound understanding of the respective networking requirements for specific verticals. Apart from the well-known networking Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) this should also include requirements around network density and deployment redundancies.
  • Focus on Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to seamlessly communicate with the RF planning software. These APIs should facilitate data exchange and control between the two systems.
  • Implement features that enable the collection of RF data, such as signal strength, coverage, and interference, and integrate these data with the RF planning solution.
  • Implement automation features that allow the automatic creation or adjustment of network plans based on RF planning data. This could include optimizing cell site locations or adjusting frequency assignments.
  • Include interference management capabilities that help identify and mitigate sources of interference in the network, improving overall signal quality.
  • Look at ISVs as potential partners to include their Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS) and RF sensing, and planning capabilities into a larger private network infrastructure portfolio.


Companies Mentioned