As consumers of technology, we are all familiar with those times when a new product or service does not deliver the anticipated benefits. Maybe it was that 4K high-definition TV, or kitchen appliance, or computer that disappointed us. In almost every case, the underlying cause of dismay was probably not the product itself, but rather the way it was installed—or worse—the way it was used.
Experiences with private cellular technology can easily fall into the same trap if proper planning and implementation does not take place. These networks can provide wonderous benefits to an enterprise by expanding network coverage that drives productivity, lowers operating costs, and maximizes efficiencies. But none of these results can be achieved if the proper attention isn’t given at the beginning of the purchasing cycle to needs assessment, system design, flexible expansion, integration with legacy enterprise services and user experience. With a little planning, every private cellular network installation should be on time, on budget, and deliver the results businesses demand.
The Outcome-Based Approach
The best way to achieve a great result is to have an equally great start. To set the foundation for a successful private cellular network deployment, it is imperative to begin with a clear understanding of the desired outcomes and objectives, while also observing the enterprise’s existing systems and infrastructure. Engaging all stakeholders, including customers, partners, and suppliers, in this early stage is critical for identifying the specific challenges the network is meant to address and to understand exactly why the private cellular network is needed, what is expected from it, where it should integrate with other devices and services, and how it should be used. These essential pieces of information are crucial for allowing the technology providers to pursue an outcome-based approach that aligns all the parties in developing a plan for installing the network, as well as for properly training staff to maintain, adjust, and troubleshoot any issues that may arise.
During the discovery phase, the cellular service provider will ask a series of exacting questions that will provide the foundation for the implementation. These questions are essential. For example, we are aware of deployments that were disrupted because customers assumed that tablets they bought specifically for warehouse use would immediately work in the cellular network’s CBRS band 48, which was not the case at all. It resulted in extensive workarounds that caused delays. A comprehensive discovery session mitigates these instances. The discussion should also cover emerging solutions the customer foresees using in the coming months, or even years. Business requirements evolve over time, and incorporating a flexible and scalable plan that accommodates elements like facilities expansion, the integration of new capabilities and services, and updating security protocols ensure that the network remains dynamic and relevant to the business.
Customization and Scalability for Integration
Each enterprise has unique technology requirements and pre-existing systems, making customization and scalability critical in private cellular network deployment. A one-size-fits-all solution may not seamlessly integrate with diverse enterprise systems.
Technology providers should work closely with the enterprise to design a network architecture that aligns with existing systems while accommodating future expansion and evolving technology needs. Customization may involve tailored APIs, data integration, and application compatibility to ensure a smooth integration process.
Scalability is equally important, as enterprises’ technology landscapes evolve over time. The private cellular network should be designed to scale with the growth of the organization, enabling effortless integration of additional applications and services as needs change.
The backbone of ensuring proper integration is confirming that appropriate bandwidth is maintained to support the next-generation of AI-driven applications and services that are entering the market on a constant basis. By reaffirming network availability, businesses should have the scaffold they need to ensure that future uses are properly supported.
Elevate the Post-Installation Experience
Once the implementation is completed, there is still important work that needs to be accomplished. The transfer of knowledge is a crucial component of the process, and customers should spend considerable time with the vendor to understand the nuances of the system, how to add or change antennas, access points, or other hardware, adjust downlink and uplink speeds, and troubleshooting techniques. Customers should use this time to ask as many questions as they can think of.
The use of a private cellular network is a strategic asset for an enterprise, and businesses should make sure they are completely comfortable with managing the system to get the performance and benefits they expect. It is a simple system, but if not properly understood and managed, even simple systems will not perform as expected.
Private cellular networks offer enterprises substantial gains in productivity and operational efficiencies. They have the potential to transform an enterprise, but technology alone is not the answer. A system that is not appropriately conceived and managed is destined to disappoint. Customers need to participate in all aspects of the deployment process—from planning to implementation to post-installation support—to ensure they receive what they pay for. Defining what the outcomes should be, and then using that as the road map to design, build, install, and manage the network will ensure that vendors, partners, and customers remain coordinated and focused on success.