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Connecting your own private cellular network? Keep it SIMple


Estimated reading time: 5 minutes


The mobile private network (MPN) market could deliver a huge $109 billion by 2030. But there’s a condition: it must be easy for those in charge of MPNs to order, provision and manage their eSIMs…

In 2021, the nuclear plant at Blayais in France successfully built its own cellular network, separate from public infrastructure. The project was run by the facility’s owner, EDF, which went on to roll out the solution to its other power plants over the next few years.

With this ambitious project, EDF became one of the first big organisations to capitalise on the mobile private network (MPN) opportunity. But since then, enterprises all over the world have woken up to the potential of the radical new concept. 

In fact, adoption seems to have reached a tipping point. According to Berg Insight there were 2,900 private LTE/5G networks deployed across the world at the end of 2023, including trial and pilot deployments. It estimates there could be 11,900 networks by 2028. 

What explains the explosion of interest? Well, first of all, mobile connectivity offers many advantages when compared to more traditional connectivity options such as wired Ethernet, TETRA or Wi-Fi. These channels are limited by short communication distance, latency issues and weak security. 

Then there is the growth of 5G. While it is possible for mobile network operators to carve up sections of their 3G and 4G networks and offer them to enterprises for private use, 5G really supercharges the process

5G infrastructure is different from previous cellular generations. While 3G and 4G were built on hardware-based network functions, Standalone 5G (5G SA) is ‘cloud-native’. In other words, all the network functions that would traditionally be delivered by hardware are run as software applications on remote servers. This boosts speed, reach and latency. In so doing it allows enterprises across all verticals to pursue their goals of digital transformation.

It means that, for an enterprise, an MPN unlocks powerful benefits such as:

#Accessibility. An MPN offers a high degree of network continuity, which makes it accessible to all users all the time (especially in a “hybrid” network when there is scope for connectivity to the public network).
#Reliability: Enterprises can guarantee a degree of network coverage, capacity and speed.
#Quality of service: An MPN runs in a dedicated environment, offering more control over throughput, latency, and rate of loss etc.
#Security: Companies can harness the properties of an MPN to protect critical assets using network isolation, data protection and user authentication.


It’s obvious why a sensitive facility such as nuclear power plant would be interested in a secure and discrete PMN. But the appeal of the concept goes much wider. It’s why, among those 2,900 enterprises mentioned above, there are car makers, hospitals, mining companies, logistics specialists and more. 

The accelerating rollout in 2024 shows how enterprises are changing their approach to internal communications and embracing the MPN idea. But setting up an MPN still presents major challenges for the companies involved in building the networks. These firms might comprise a range of stakeholders such as infrastructure providers, system integrators and so-called hyperscalers. 

The above organisations will, in most cases, have expertise in building the infrastructure of a 4G/5G mobile network. But they will probably know less about the provisioning and long-term management of individual SIM subscriptions. 

This aspect is made even more complex thanks to the ‘internet of things (IoT)’ element of many MPNs. Fast reliable 5G is making it possible for companies of all types to connect previously 'dumb' devices and make them smart. This 'Fourth Industrial Revolution' promises to deliver unprecedented improvements in productivity.

But how can ‘things’ support the use of traditional plastic SIM cards? Manually inserting and setting up SIMs into remote and inaccessible machines (wind turbines, shipping containers etc) is clearly costly and impractical. 

This is why the industry created an alternative form factor – the embedded SIM, which is soldered into place and set up over-the-air at a later date. eSIM lets the user change the subscription dynamically without inserting or changing the SIM. Also, it saves space in the device.

For MPN providers, these are welcome benefits. But adopting the eSIM also raise questions such as:

•    How can enterprises order small quantities of SIMs?
•    How can they obtain SIM or eSIM profiles to connect their devices to their network?
•    How can they keep SIMs connected when out of their private network coverage?
•    How can they ensure service continuity when they want to change the network configuration?
•    How can they stay connected when switching to a new connectivity provider?


Specialist MPN providers have been working hard to answer these questions. They have good incentive to do so. According to the telecoms trade body, GSMA, revenue from private network deployment could reach $109 billion by 2030.




One solution attracting attention now is ‘eSIM as a Service’. It comprises an online portal which lets users configure and order eSIM profiles and SIM cards in a few simple steps, then connect them seamlessly and securely to their private networks. The offer typically lets customers:

•    Order ready-to-use SIMs or eSIM profiles in any quantity via the web portal
•    Order blank SIM cards with no loaded profile
•    Define a single mobile network configuration based on pre-defined parameters
•    Generate QR codes to activate eSIMs
•    Use PCs to load profiles on SIM cards at time of deployment 
•    Use optional applets
•    Manage the SIMs (downloads, management and maintenance) over their lifecycles via an over the air cloud-based service

In fact, the first deployments of eSIM as a Service are already rolling out across multiple verticals.

In February 2024, Ericsson revealed how it had used the concept to connect its employees and their laptops to the MPN at its D-15 lab in Santa Clara. It worked with connectivity specialist Thales to connect eSIM-enabled laptops to the network in a smooth and secure manner, and order/configure new eSIMs in just a few clicks. 

Another use case featuring Thales eSIM as a Service offering comes from Ireland’s Druid Software. Druid has built a range of technology platforms to support the creation of MPNs. It has integrated eSIM as a Service with its Raemis 5G product so that its enterprise customers can easily manage the lifecycle of their subscriptions. 

Of course, eSIM as a Service is just the user-friendly front end of a complex technology process. It exists alongside multiple complementary technologies. These include the ability to inject a temporary ‘bootstrap’ into the eSIM-enabled device so that it can download the subscription/credentials of the private network out-of–the-box and tools to secure data exchanges between the devices and the cloud.

As we move into the 5G era, enterprises from across all verticals look set to abandon their wi-fi based company networks in favour of reliable, fast and secure private mobile connectivity. In fact, more than 1500 have already done so. 

The benefits are compelling. To unlock them, MPN providers must overcome the complexity of setting up and managing thousands of SIM and eSIM connections. 

With eSIM as a Service, specialist providers are removing this last hurdle. In so doing, they are helping enterprises to fast track their digital transformation projects – and moving the mobile industry as a whole towards more than $100 billion of new revenue.


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