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Logistics: Getting Smarter with CBRS

September 8, 2022 | Logistics is an often-discussed use case for 4G/5G and private cellular networks. The Internet of Things (IoT) as well as the two usual suspects, machine learning and artificial intelligence (ML/AI), are typically caught up in the dragnet of how “smart” logistics can expedite orders, shipping, improve efficiencies, reduce costs, etc. In a forthcoming report on logistics, we estimate that from 2021 to 2026, total logistics-related spending on private CBRS networks will amount to more than $6.38 billion. This includes spending on network build and operate, network/systems integration and applications. Not surprisingly, most of the spending occurs in warehouse and storage buildings.

Note that logistics is not an official industry sector per se. It is a business function that spans, and unites, multiple sectors which include, at a high level, transportation, retail, manufacturing, and storage. The term also refers to both supply chain management (loosely defined as getting raw materials to the manufacturer) and distribution, which basically involves getting finished products to the retail outlet or to the end customer – which requires the involvement of ships, planes, trains and automobiles, as well as the wide-area cellular, satellite and wired networks over which communications occur.

At the warehouse level, as an example, RFID is used for product/inventory tracking, higher accuracy in product picking, as well as enabling visibility into the flow of product from one place to another. Bluetooth- and Wi-Fi-based asset tracking systems are also regularly used in any of the logistics-related sectors, along with products and/or applications that operate over licensed cellular networks. These technologies, and others, combine to help make the logistics function as efficient, fast, and as accurate as possible.

In the U.S., the term “private cellular network” has come to be identified with a CBRS-based 4G/5G network. Mobile network operators (MNOs) can, of course, offer a private network service on their licensed cellular bands – they have been doing so for years, it was just called something different (private APN gateways).

In the U.S., CBRS is a big deal because it allows enterprises to deploy their own 4G/5G cellular network without involving an MNO. And that allows enterprises access to the established 3GPP ecosystem of standardization, devices, and network equipment that MNOs have been using since cellular began. 4G/5G allows enterprises to:

  • Support IoT over a bigger coverage area relative to other technologies
  • Provide an excellent combination of coverage and throughput
  • Provide a high degree of security both at the air interface level and because each device requires a SIM card
  • Potentially interconnect their inbuilding/campus private network with a mobile operator’s bigger network.

Each of our private CBRS network reports details the major trends and forecasts the spending opportunity for the various categories of commercial buildings – retail, hospitality, etc. – while the logistics report provides an overview of the opportunity in manufacturing, transportation, retail, and storage/warehouse buildings.

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