Cost, Security, and Throughput: The IoT Dilemma When Choosing a Cellular or Non-Cellular Private Wireless Network

17 Apr 2024

IoT customers searching for a private wireless solution face a growing list of options as new spectrum initiatives and network standards enter the market. According to global technology intelligence firm ABI Research, most IoT customer choices in the private wireless market continue to hinge on customers’ throughput needs, security requirements, and a network’s overall cost.

“The options for IoT customers branch between cellular and non-cellular private network solutions,” says Lizzie Stokes, IoT Hardware and Devices and IoT Networks & Services Analyst at ABI Research. “Both options can provide a closed-loop networking system, but demand for each network type can notably diverge depending on the IoT application and customer.”

Industrial IoT (IIoT) verticals that feature mission-critical tasks and sensitive data, such as in the oil & gas, mining, and manufacturing markets, typically require a dedicated, low-latency solution to control network performance and keep sensitive data on-premises. Private LTE and 5G networks meet these requirements, offering advanced coverage and robust security through SIM-supported encryption. Large IIoT customers can typically afford such a network's steep infrastructure and maintenance costs.

Budget-conscious users and smaller IoT customers can also build private LTE and 5G networks using newer shared spectrum initiatives, such as the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) in the United States. CBRS was made available for commercial deployments recently in 2020 and democratized private networks by offering spectrum through licensed and free, unlicensed tiers. A CBRS network can still cater to strict throughput and security requirements while providing more affordable spectrum options to IoT customers. ABI Research anticipates that CBRS deployments will increase, particularly among utility and industrial manufacturing applications and in certain IT-oriented industries such as healthcare and education. 

However, despite private cellular’s relevance in prominent IoT applications, non-cellular private network options like Wi-Fi and LoRaWAN already have a unique foothold in many IoT markets. Despite its limited security functions, Wi-Fi is a popular option for IoT users who do not require extensive coverage or ultra-low latency. The technology’s low cost and easy deployment can be highly persuasive, particularly for small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) and customers in IT markets, such as retail and education. Wi-Fi remains the main competitor to private cellular networks, particularly as new iterations of the technology (such as Wi-Fi HaLow) expand its relevance in the IoT market.

IoT customers are also extremely familiar with LoRaWAN, a non-cellular Low Power, Wide Area (LPWA) connectivity technology that can be deployed as a private or public network. LoRaWAN’s LPWA specifications make the private networking technology ideal for IoT applications, many of which require extensive range and infrequent, low-throughput data transfers. Finally, the new non-cellular 5G standard, DECT-2020 NR, will impact the IoT industry once its first products are produced. As a self-healing mesh network, DECT-2020 NR cuts out the middleman required to manage a private network, significantly decreasing the cost and management burden typical of such solutions.

“The success of LoRaWAN and Wi-Fi in some IoT applications, and the success of private cellular in others, demonstrate that IoT customers have divergent use cases and Quality of Service (QoS) requirements,” concludes Stokes. “When choosing between cellular and non-cellular private network technologies, IoT customers should carefully assess their use case, coverage, and cost priorities. In doing so, they will be better equipped to navigate their options and can ultimately decide if cellular or non-cellular is the right fit.”

In the volatile private cellular network supplier market, prominent companies include Nokia, Ericsson, and Airspan. Other companies that supply non-cellular private networking technologies or support cellular deployments include Semtech, the OnGo Alliance, and Wirepas.

These findings are from ABI Research’s IoT Private Networks: Connectivity Options Market Overview report. This report is part of the company’s  IoT Networks and Services research services, which include research, data, and analyst insights.

About ABI Research

ABI Research is a global technology intelligence firm uniquely positioned at the intersection of technology solution providers and end-market companies. We serve as the bridge that seamlessly connects these two segments by providing exclusive research and expert guidance to drive successful technology implementations and deliver strategies proven to attract and retain customers.

ABI Research 是一家全球性的技术情报公司,拥有得天独厚的优势,充当终端市场公司和技术解决方案提供商之间的桥梁,通过提供独家研究和专业性指导,推动成功的技术实施和提供经证明可吸引和留住客户的战略,无缝连接这两大主体。

For more information about ABI Research’s services, contact us at +1.516.624.2500 in the Americas, +44.203.326.0140 in Europe, +65.6592.0290 in Asia-Pacific, or visit

Contact ABI Research

Media Contacts

Americas: +1.516.624.2542
Europe: +44.(0).203.326.0142
Asia: +65 6950.5670

Related Research

Related Service