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The low latency and fast speeds of 5G promise to deliver greater adoption of Smart Systems projects like smart buildings and smart cities. However, truly ubiquitous connectivity demands more than 5G. The high-performance networks of the future will be hybrids of private wireless networks, satellite, fixed wireless and partner ecosystems.



We’ve been speaking professionally about pervasive computing, the Internet of Things and Smart Systems since the late 1990s when most people in business had no idea what we were talking about. Now the Internet of Things is everywhere, and many companies are trying to take part in it, but giving the world a “digital nervous system” has turned out to be remarkably difficult.

If corporate IP battles and geopolitics don’t bring you to your knees, the most basic technical issues will—for example, achieving secure, reliable, customizable, affordable wireless connectivity for devices. Just ask anyone caught between the performance failures of WiFi and the onerous per-bit cellular rates of the major carriers.

But the great virtue of technology problems is that sooner or later they all come out in the wash. Today, connecting things to other things and having them work as planned, and not going broke in the process, is almost solved at last. For true connectivity, many use cases will require hybrid networks, which act as a bridge to link existing networks and optimize the way data moves between and among systems, regardless or connectivity, device or network.

Current vs. Future Networks

Current vs future networks

source: Harbor Research


The tools we are working with today to put sensors and smart devices on networks were not designed to handle the diversity of devices becoming networked, the scope of new capabilities, the need to carefully manage power requirements, and the massive volume of data-points generated from device interactions. These challenges are diluting the ability of technical organizations to efficiently and effectively manage systems development.

Capabilities such as network slicing and network determinism are opening up new doors for machine learning and analytics players to optimize network performance for diverse applications. These Smart Systems applications span industries, from healthcare to mining, consumer to industrial. Whether a smartphone business application that must perform during a user’s commute, whether via car, train or plane, or a machine on a remote oil rig, Smart Systems app have one thing in common: the need for high performance networks to deliver constant connectivity.

The opportunity for smart systems and connected devices is massive but requires new higher performance wireless networking

Opportunity for connected devices is massive

source: Harbor Research



It is hard to overstate the amount of evolution wireless technologies have enabled. Perhaps you’re old enough to remember dial-up, when your computer had to be wired to power and connect through the internet via wired telephone lines. Imagine deploying sensors that required wires for both power and communication to a computer. The advent of Wi-Fi and Cellular have allowed for a proliferation of sensors and connected devices. But if the Internet of Things has been evolving in frustrating fits and stops, we largely still have the limitations of connectivity to blame.

Wireless networking has been around for decades and has generally implied the notion of universal connectivity, but you wouldn’t know that in today’s industrial and mission critical domains like manufacturing, supply chain, transportation systems and energy. Instead, we see a fragmented landscape full of proprietary device networks, conservative users and buyers, and broken promises about the potential of wireless technologies.


The advent of 4G LTE (Fourth Generation Long-Term Evolution) offered significantly lower latency and higher capacity than the cellular technologies of the past, and with it came a larger proliferation of IoT sensors. It finally offered the bandwidth to stream machine data in real-time with relative consistency.

5G, or the fifth generation of digital cellular technology, is delivering on the latency and capacity promises of 4G. Multi-gigabyte-per-second data speeds, ultra-low latency, greater reliability and increased overall network capacity, among other improvements, uniquely position 5G to support the data and connectivity requirements of many thousands of connected systems. This is especially relevant to mission critical industries, where the trend of Industry 4.0 creates new opportunities—and new vulnerabilities.

5G is Driving a Confluence of Technology Innovation to Enable IoT Value

5G is Driving a Confluence of Technology Innovation to Enable IoT Value

source: Harbor Research


Within the fast-paced 5G evolution, a new generation of wireless communications—known as Private LTE and 5G networks—has been developed specifically for challenging mission- and business-critical environments. This evolution of cellular networking technology allows enterprises to deploy dedicated networks that can cater to the most specific business and IoT connectivity needs. It also introduces an added layer of network security to bolster existing security management around mission critical assets.

Private LTE, which means a private cellular network delivered on shared spectrum (as opposed to the licensed cellular spectrum that carriers use), are configurable for everything from simple sensor data to high-performance video. Private LTE networks enable greater coverage, flexibility and management to support evolving needs of all types of enterprises and institutions from industrial manufacturing, mining, and oil and gas, to warehouses, ports and smart cities.

Private IoT tam is expected to reach $208B by 2025

Private IoT TAM is expected to reach $208B by 2025

source: Harbor Research

The combination of Private LTE and 5G cellular networks have new key features that translate into direct benefits for the digital enterprise:

  • Quality of service and predictable latency, configurable in software
  • Seamless mobility to support service continuity between small cells and other networks
  • The ability to roam between private and public networks
  • Efficient co-existence with other spectrum users such as Wi-Fi
  • Higher performance in terms of capacity and throughput, yielding superior payloads than Wi-Fi
  • Fewer required nodes while supporting enhanced interference management capabilities, thereby reducing costs with a greater network footprint per access point
  • Low cost of deployment and integration because spectrum license and operator contracts are not required
  • The simplicity of deployment, analogous to Wi-Fi, in unlicensed spectrum allows support of any device without an operator or, in some cases, without a SIM card


Today, orbiting satellites are a critical component of global communications not only in emerging markets but everywhere that users need continuous connectivity. The networks they help create play a huge role in the value created by Smart Systems and connected equipment. Many of the use cases that Harbor Research monitors—such as mining, railways, oil and gas—involve remote situations that are off the normal cellular grid and yet still require reliable communication. In fact, network services for mission critical markets and applications will probably eclipse $100 billion by 2025.

Remote operations often require satellite connectivity

Remote operations often require satellite connectivity

source: Harbor Research

Although it may not seem obvious, there is a fairly natural complement between terrestrial and satellite networks. There are many hybrid solutions where satellites and terrestrial technologies like 5G can work together and enable each other.

Satellite operators already provide backhaul from remote base stations and hotspots in many remote parts of the world, and they expect that use to continue indefinitely. But there is also the role that satellites play as a failover for vehicles going through dark spots in cellular networks. Even in North American and Europe, where cellular has become pervasive, major gaps in coverage still exist along major roadways, as anyone who has taken a road trip outside a major U.S. city knows all too well.

In more remote operations, such as a mine site, private LTE (as opposed to commercial cellular) is deployed within the operation’s perimeter. But here too satellites are used to connect moving assets—like trucks, buses and trains—that transport people and resources between the site and larger towns and seaports, often hundreds of miles away, and are not connected by cellular or private LTE networks. And there are new space technologies capable of operating a 5G network and connecting people on the ground directly to that network from satellites in low orbit.



Smart connected devices are a global and economic phenomenon of unprecedented scale, one that already encompasses billions, and before long trillions, of nodes. Soon, any device that is not networked will rapidly decrease in value, creating even greater pressure to be online. Devices will blend into every venue, and vast opportunities will arise for companies delivering, managing and responding to the rich media and data being generated.

Private Network Services* TAM by Network Type ($ USD Millions)

Private Network Services* TAM by Network Type ($ USD Millions)

source: Harbor Research

Given the proliferation of devices, it is sad to see so many major players in the industrial IoT landscape lagging so far behind—if not being completely out of touch with—the evolving realities. Network-as-a-Service players can help industrial players and others make IoT a reality. ◆

Fill out the form below to download Harbor’s market insight, “The Advent of Private LTE and 5G Networks.” 

Contact us for the full Private LTE and 5G Networks report, as well as custom information on the markets, technologies and players in the Smart Systems ecosystem.

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