Private LTE/5G: Steps to Choosing the Right Partner & Path
For over a couple of decades now, we have had the opportunity to sit down with a wide range of customers at critical points of their respective wireless journeys. The purpose of each meeting was to help identify and close gaps with either people or technology. Some were fortunate to be well-versed in the fields they were investing in (i.e., carriers, integrators, or original equipment manufacturers). Some, however, called for a trusted advisor to help them figure out what they needed. While the end goal may have been clear, the path forward was not. Such conversations took longer out of necessity and required we gradually establish comfort and trust before making any suggestions or changes to their network architecture.
With the new, exciting availability and endless possibilities Private LTE/5G networks promise, many schools, cities, hospitals, hotels, etc., are faced with the question, ‘who can I trust?’ This is a significant and expensive business-transformational decision that should not be made quickly or lightly. Conversely, the likelihood of a school, hospital, city, hotel, etc., having an experienced cellular/Radio Frequency expert in-house is very low.
Therefore, to help any customer kick off their journey with confidence, we captured the following five steps to ensure success:
1. Map out your vision
You don’t have to be an expert in radio frequency for this step. Begin with the end in mind. Focus on what problems you want technology to solve within your environment. Pull in the key stakeholders whose organizations would be made better by an infrastructure investment and create the big picture together.
That picture will serve as the map for any wireless solutions company to follow.
2. Get ready for a lot of ‘first dates’
This part can be exhaustive, but it is the most critical step as the partner you select should be by your side from idea to operate and beyond. If you want a Private LTE or 5G solution, a WiFi expert won’t do. Set your sights on firms that have in-house RF expertise. Ask the question directly, “do you have in-house RF expertise?” If the answer is anything other than “yes,” move on. (WiFi and RF are not the same. There is common ground with WiFi 6, but one is not equal to the other. We will save that comparison for another time.)
The expert should speak your business language versus you struggling to understand their technical jargon. No matter how many acronyms you may hear, what matters is if they are the right person for your job.
3. Don’t get seduced by a logo.
The biggest, oldest, or most well-marketed company isn’t always the best choice. Regardless of the awards and accolades that may frame their marketing collateral, ask probing questions about what you can expect regarding communication, process, and outcomes.
Agreed upon outcomes will become SLAs with deadlines and consequences to protect you. Don’t be afraid to ask them how they will approach your solution, as every company in this space cannot do it alone. Every solution will require carefully selected partners as it takes a village to get this done correctly. That is the reality of RF technology. Encouraging transparency will create a partnership built on open communication.
4. Check references
No matter who you select as your primary partner, check their references. There are a lot of new, disruptive, and innovative players in this space (like us) who should still be able to give a list of industry references who can vouch for their know-how and bodies of work. If they are brand new to cellular (i.e., Radio Frequency-based technologies), then RUN.
Secondly, if they tell you they have been deploying these networks for ages, ask for references from customers whom they had deployments with a year or more ago. Understand if what was promised at the start is still true today.
5. Identify the long-term partner.
Grab your fellow stakeholders, weigh each firm's pros and cons, and decide. Hopefully, if you have taken your time through steps 1 through 4, the decision will likely be apparent. If it isn’t, regroup, rinse and repeat with your top contenders.
Although the steps seem simple enough, we often encounter scenarios where buyers have either skipped key steps or lacked the confidence to question the experts. You and your organization will have to live with the outcome. In the advisory and planning stages, take the necessary time to ensure your vision is achieved.
By: Ruby Caggiano-Cooper, President & Co-Founder, Vergibility, LLC
Vergibility believes in demystifying cellular technology for customers of any genre, allowing each to leverage and optimize the equipment and shared spectrum now commercially available to advance their environments. Customers have the freedom to focus on ‘what’ the technology needs to address while Vergibility handles the ‘how.’