Public vs Private IoT Networks: 5 Tips for Your Next Digital Project
If you’re planning to undertake an IoT project, chances are at some point you’ll wonder if you should go for a public or private IoT network. Public connectivity services are provided and managed by a mobile carrier or any third-party operator, while a private network is set up and controlled locally for dedicated data communications on your premises.
No matter which side you’re taking, the decision should be tied to your IoT use case requirements. Both public and private IoT networks have pros and cons when it comes to different network criteria. To help you make the best decision, we will deep dive into the top five factors to consider when comparing the two options.
1. Global vs Campus Coverage
A key selling point of many IoT network operators is their proclaimed global and nationwide footprint, alongside cross-region roaming ability. However, there’s indeed a big difference between “absolute” and “relative” footprint, with the latter resonating more with the reality. While the promise of ubiquitous connectivity might hold true in urban, densely inhabited areas, public coverage still remains inconsistent or absent altogether in many remote industrial areas. As soon as a node gets close to a network’s edge, its reliability is not guaranteed. Depending on your use cases, indoor and underground coverage might also be in question. In direct comparison, a private IoT network can’t offer trans-region connectivity for applications like commercial fleet telematics. But, it surely gives you the best chance to tailor network coverage to your specific needs, especially in a campus-style deployment.
2. Data Privacy and Ownership
Data ownership is among the leading concerns plaguing IoT implementations in industrial contexts. In a recent webcast from Deloitte, the “lack of ownership/ governance to drive security and privacy” landed second place as the top 10 IIoT cyber and privacy risks. The problem with a public network is that no matter what your IoT architecture looks like, your data must be routed through the operator’s backend before reaching the end server or application platform. If retaining data on-premises is at the top of your list, you’re probably better off with a private solution.
3. Infrastructure Requirements
A clear advantage of public IoT networks over private ones is that you can save on upfront infrastructure costs. Depending on the chosen communications technology, investment in gateways, antennas, and repeaters, etc. can be expensive. Besides hardware expenses, labor hours spent setting up and managing the network also quickly ramp up with an increase in the required infrastructure. In this context, going for long-range, scalable connectivity is the best way to minimize infrastructure overheads in private solutions.
4. Network Longevity
Industrial sensors and devices are often designed for long-term use. Once installed, they typically remain there for years, or even decades without the need to be replaced. To ensure a future-proof IoT architecture, it is important to align the network lifecycle with the device lifecycle. Public cellular technologies come and go every decade or so, leaving a big gap in backward compatibility. 2G and 3G networks sunsets are well underway amid increasing LTE prevalence and 5G roll-outs. And, who knows when LTE or the first generation of NB-IoT will phase out? If public cellular connectivity is in your best interest, make sure you’re aware of what’s coming a few years down the road.
5. Network Uptime
Mission-critical IoT applications call for a highly reliable communications infrastructure, even in times of crisis. For undisrupted operations, many industries strive for nearly 100% network uptime, which is often unrealistic for commercial carriers and other public operators. Every year, natural disasters cause massive outages across public connectivity services. This makes the business case for private networks for critical infrastructure clear. With a private deployment, you retain full control over network availability in times of emergency.
The wireless battleground is heating up with a growth in IoT implementation. Public IoT networks surely have their place in a multitude of consumer and smart city applications. Nevertheless, the undeniable appeals of maximum data authority and architecture control are driving the adoption of privately managed connectivity across industrial verticals. Even mobile carriers are now in the race for private LTE offerings to secure their competitive advantage. At the end of the day, you’ll want to pair the evaluation of public vs private solutions with other critical factors like cost, scalability, power efficiency and bandwidth requirements, in your wireless decision.