Neutral Host Networks: The Future of Mobile Connectivity

Neutral Host Networks The Future of Mobile Connectivity

Airport, mall, or even our home – we may get 24/7 strong signal and fast speed through neutral host networks (NHNs). These are shared wireless networks that a 3rd party company (neutral host) owns and operates. 

Multiple network operators (MNOs) can access via NHNs to offer their services to subscribers. It eliminates the need for each operator to build and maintain their networks. In short – one infrastructure, multiple users! 

What more?

Places with high demand for mobile connectivity may need neutral host network deployment. Also, it can provide network coverage in rural or hard-to-reach areas. 

In this discussion, you will learn everything regarding neutral host networks.

Table of Contents

What are the Neutral Host Networks?

Well, it’s a third-party cellular network. It allows other parties like enterprises, managed service providers, and mobile operators to leverage existing cellular networks to provide their services. That third party owns and maintains this network infrastructure. Again, any network operators looking to scale up their network capacities can rent or lease from them. 

NHN is a cost-effective architecture. It uses private 5G to extend public carrier cellular signals into locations or areas with poor signal strength. In terms of performance, neutral host networks are superb as they offer more flexibility without being dependent on the operator’s rollout plans.

Neutral Host Networks vs. Traditional Networks

Indeed, NHN is a relatively new concept to many of us. It allows multiple parties (private and public) to securely share the same private LTE or 5G wireless infrastructure and backhaul IP network infrastructure within an organization. 

Alternatively, a traditional network is opposite to NHNs. In this network, each operator needs to set up their infrastructure. But when they start using neutral host networks, they can save a lot. They do not require discrete fiber optic cables to connect each radio to a central hub and the hub development for each MNO.

Neutral host networks permit public LTE subscribers to connect and strengthen their signal from a private network cell. It increases network coverage in areas where commercial towers might be limited.

How Neutral Host Networks Work

A neutral host network typically consists of several small cells that are connected to a backhaul network. The small cells are deployed throughout the coverage area to provide seamless mobile connectivity.

The main components of a neutral host network include:

  • Small cells: Small cells are low-power wireless base stations that are used to provide coverage and capacity in specific areas.
  • Backhaul network: It connects the small cells to the core network of the MNOs.
  • Neutral host controller: It manages the network and ensures that all of the MNOs have fair access to the network resources.

Some key technologies involved in the deployment and operation of NHN are:

  • Small cell technology: Small cell technology is essential for providing coverage and capacity in dense urban areas and other high-traffic areas.
  • Network virtualization: It allows multiple MNOs to share the same physical network infrastructure.
  • Software-defined networking (SDN): SDN enables the neutral host controller to manage the network more efficiently and flexibly. 

Types of Neutral Host Networks

Indoor Neutral Host Networks

Indoor NHNs provide robust cellular coverage within buildings, malls, stadiums, and other indoor spaces. These networks are good for densely populated areas to meet the demand for data and voice services. Thus, they use small cells or distributed antenna systems (DAS) to ensure seamless connectivity within the premises.

Benefits of Indoor NHNs

  • Improved indoor coverage: They enhance cellular coverage quality within buildings. In this way, they overcome the limitations of outdoor networks that may not effectively penetrate buildings.
  • Scalability: Indoor NHNs are scalable. They can be expanded easily to accommodate growing connectivity demands.
  • Cost-effective: They eliminate the need for individual operators to install and manage their own infrastructure within buildings. So, it leads to significant cost savings.

Outdoor Neutral Host Networks

Outdoor NHNs provide connectivity in environments like parks, city centers, and rural areas. Hence, they combine small cells, macro cells, and DAS to ensure wide-area coverage.

Benefits of Outdoor NHNs

  • Enhanced outdoor coverage: These neutral host networks improve the quality of cellular coverage in outdoor areas, particularly in locations where it’s not feasible for each operator to build their infrastructure.
  • Greater reach: They extend the reach of cellular networks to rural and hard-to-reach areas. Through this, they facilitate connectivity in regions that individual operators may find challenging to cover.
  • Cost-effective: Outdoor NHNs save costs by allowing MNOs to share the same infrastructure.

What are the Benefits of Neutral Host Networks?

NHNs are a cost-effective alternative for network deployments. Beneficiaries can get better mobile performance and flexibility. Also, the cost-effective architecture extends public carrier cellular signals into areas with poor signal strength. After all, the market for neutral hosts is expected to grow significantly, reaching $8 Billion by 2023.

Benefits of Neutral Host Networks for Mobile Operators (MNOs)

Reduced Capital Expenditures

Setting up and maintaining network infrastructure is a notable cost for MNOs. With Neutral Host Networks, MNOs can reduce their capital expenditures as the cost of building and maintaining the network is shared among multiple parties.

Increased Network Capacity

Operators can increase their network capacity by using neutral host networks. They do not need significant investment in additional infrastructure. Certainly, it is beneficial in crowded places like shopping malls or public event venues. 

Improved Network Coverage

By leveraging NHNs, mobile operators can improve their network coverage in challenging areas to build their own infrastructure.

Simplified Network Management

NHNs simplify network management for MNOs. They can continue their business without the need to manage multiple networks in different locations.

Benefits of Neutral Host Networks for Enterprises

Access to Multiple Mobile Networks

Enterprises can access multiple mobile networks through a single Neutral Host Network. It provides greater flexibility and functionality, especially in places with weak network coverage.

Improved Network Reliability

NHNs improve network reliability by providing consistent network coverage across different locations. If you run a business like a logistics firm or transportation network or require consistent and better mobile connectivity, they can be more helpful.

Enhanced Security

Neutral Host Networks offer enhanced security features, including flexible authentication methods and encryption. These features are critical for enterprises dealing with sensitive data. It is essential for sectors like healthcare or finance, where data security is paramount.

Reduced Costs

Enterprises can reduce the costs of building and maintaining their own network infrastructure. It is an affordable and attractive option for small and medium-sized businesses. If you are a startup company with zero resources to build networks, you can use neutral host networks.

Benefits of Neutral Host Networks for Consumers/End Users

Multiple Mobile Network Providers

NHNs give consumers more choice of mobile network providers. So they can switch to get lower prices and better service.

Better Network Coverage

NHNs improve network coverage and performance in areas that are typically underserved by traditional mobile networks.

Access to Innovative New Services

MNOs can avail of new and innovative services, like mobile edge computing and network-as-a-service.

What are the Benefits of Neutral Host Networks?

NHNs are a cost-effective alternative for network deployments. Beneficiaries can get better mobile performance and flexibility. Also, the cost-effective architecture extends public carrier cellular signals into areas with poor signal strength. After all, the market for neutral hosts is expected to grow significantly, reaching $8 Billion by 2023.

5G technology is the fifth generation of wireless communication standards. It can deliver faster speeds, lower latency, and the ability to connect more devices at once. In the near future, it will revolutionize our lifestyle by enabling new applications and use cases.

How Neutral Host Networks Support 5G Deployment

Or, you may ask, “What is a 5G neutral host?”

5G and concepts like network slicing, the popularity of SDN, and network virtualization put a new role for neutral hosts. These hosts provide network management and operational capabilities in a managed service approach, particularly to enterprises. 

Network slicing is the key enabler in the transition to 5G. It allows infrastructure and service providers to logically split a shared physical network into multiple isolated and customized networks. Through this, they can address the specific demands of those tenant slices flexibly.

Impact of NHNs on 5G Performance

Neutral Host Networks enable increased network capacity, improved network coverage, and reduced latency. And you know, these are crucial for the delivery of 5G services.

Better 5G Network Capacity

NHN can increase the capacity of 5G networks by allowing multiple operators to share the single and same infrastructure. For sure, it is specifically more important for situations when 5G networks need to handle large amounts of data.

Better Coverage

Neutral Host Networks can also improve 5G network coverage. In rural and hard-to-reach areas, NHNs can provide extended 5G service without any restrictions.

Reduced Network Latency

NHNs can reduce network latency by enabling a more suitable allocation of remote servers closer to the end-user. Of course, it is a key performance requirement for many 5G applications.

Main Components of a Neutral Host Network

Neutral Host Provider

It can be a company, a building owner, a venue operator, or an enterprise. It sets up, runs, and manages the network equipment and services.

Mobile Network Operators (MNOs)

MNOs can use neutral host mobile networks to boost their signal and speed in areas where they are weak or don’t exist.

Other Service Providers

They are private mobile network operators (PMNOs), internet service providers (ISPs), cable operators, or over-the-top (OTT) providers.

End Users

They are people or organizations who use phones, tablets, laptops, or IoT sensors to connect to the neutral host mobile network.

Network Infrastructure

The network infrastructure forms the backbone of a Neutral Host Network. It includes the physical equipment, like small cells, radio access networks (RAN), and base stations. Some other equipment are edge devices, access points, antennas, and the software that controls and manages the network.

Network Equipment

Equipment can range from small cells, radio access networks (RAN), and core networks to orchestration, automation, and security solutions.

Billing Mechanism

The billing mechanism for Neutral Host Networks can vary depending on the size and scale of the network. Large-scale networks typically bill based on the amount of network resources used.

Expert Support

The operation of the NHN requires a team of qualified engineers, installers, and operators for the rapidly changing nature of cellular technology.

Deployment Models for Neutral Host Networks

Wholly-owned Networks

In this model, a single entity, like a mobile network operator (MNO) or a large enterprise, owns and operates the Neutral Host Network. This model is typically used when the entity has sufficient resources to build and manage the network.

  • Example: A large corporation providing connectivity services to its employees, vendors, and visitors.

Public-private Partnerships

In a public-private partnership model, a governmental body partners with a private entity to build and operate the Neutral Host Network. This model is often used to provide connectivity services in public places like parks, city centers, or rural areas.

  • Example: A city government partnering with telecom to supply connectivity services to residents and visitors in the city center.

Managed Services

In the managed services model, a third-party service provider builds and operates the Neutral Host Network on behalf of the network owner. This model is applicable when the network owner does not have the resources. Also, it is important when there is no expertise to build and manage the network.

  • Example: A small business hiring a telecommunications service provider to provide connectivity services to its customers.

Challenges and Their Solutions in Implementing NHNs

Challenges

Solutions

Spectrum Sharing: Managing spectrum’s use among multiple operators fairly and efficiently can be complex.

Regulatory members should set clear guidelines for spectrum sharing. Advanced technologies like dynamic spectrum management can also ensure the efficient use of spectrum.

Network Integration: Incorporating the infrastructure of multiple operators into a single NHN is a complex task. It requires careful planning and coordination among all the involved parties.

Using standard protocols and interfaces can ease the integration process. Additionally, employing network virtualization technologies can simplify the management of integrated networks.

Business Model: NHN’s business model can be complex. It involves multiple stakeholders, each with their own interests and requirements. It makes NHNs setting up and operational processes challenging.

Creating a clear and fair business model that addresses the needs and expectations of all stakeholders is crucial. It may involve setting up transparent pricing models and service-level agreements.

Technical Challenges: These include ensuring network performance, security, and reliability. These challenges can be worsened by the inherent complexity of managing a shared network.

Employing advanced network management tools and technologies that can solve these challenges. Regular network audits and performance monitoring can also help in maintaining network performance and reliability.

Regulatory Burdens: These hurdles include spectrum usage, data privacy, and competition regulations.

Engaging with regulatory bodies and policymakers can help in navigating these issues. It’s also important to ensure that the Neutral Host Network complies with all relevant laws and regulations.

Densification of 5G networks: The need for densification in 5G networks requires the installation of large amounts of small cells in dense urban environments.

5G networks by reducing costs, accelerating deployment, and improving coverage and performance.

What Are the Use Cases for Neutral Host Networks?

NHNs can be deployed in the below applications:
Smart Cities and IoT Integration

Smart Cities

Neutral Host Networks can connect various IoT devices and sensors spread across the city. These networks help manage traffic, improve waste management, enhance public safety, and provide better public services. Also, the shared network infrastructure can significantly reduce the cost and complexity of deploying smart city solutions.

Enterprise Campuses

Enterprise campuses often have a high demand for connectivity due to the large number of devices and applications in use. By deploying NHNs, enterprises can ensure reliable and high-speed connectivity throughout the campus and manage the needs of different departments and teams within the campus.
Public Venues

Public Venues

Public venues like stadiums, malls, and airports require robust network coverage to handle the high traffic and connectivity demands. NHNs can provide the necessary network capacity and coverage in these venues. It will ensure seamless connectivity for all users.
Private Networks

Private Networks

NHNs can be used to create private networks for specific use cases. For example, mining and energy extraction enterprises can use these networks to connect mission-critical equipment, even in remote or underground areas. Similarly, in the manufacturing sector, NHNs can connect various machines and sensors to enable real-time monitoring and control.
Emerging 5G Use Cases

Emerging 5G Use Cases

Neutral host networks can also support emerging 5G use cases like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). It can enhance the guest experience in the hospitality sector

What Are the Trends and Developments in the Neutral Host Network Market?

Indeed, the neutral host network market is growing rapidly. The increasing demand for mobile connectivity drives it.

Key Trends & Developments

  • The deployment of 5G: 5G networks requires a dense network of small cells, which makes neutral host networks a good fit for 5G deployments.
  • The rise of private mobile networks: Enterprises are increasingly deploying private mobile networks to meet their specific needs. Neutral host providers can play a role in helping enterprises to deploy and manage their private mobile networks.

Additional Notes

  • Neutral host networks are still a relatively new technology. But they are rapidly gaining traction around the world.
  • NHNs offer some advantages over traditional mobile networks. It makes them an attractive option for MNOs, enterprises, and consumers alike.
  • The future of neutral host networks is bright. They are expected to play an increasingly important role in providing seamless mobile coverage and performance.

NybSys - Your Neutral Host Networks (NHNs)  Partner

So, you have read the long discussion, and thanks a lot for this. Now, you may plan to set up NHNs or anything relevant to it. Do not haste to other places, as NybSys is always ready to manage all your networking and communication needs.

We offer our neutral host network products and services to provide you with faster networking and take your business to an advanced level with our infrastructure. Contact us for any suggestions or queries!

Frequently Asked Questions

NHN is owned and operated by a third party, not by a mobile network operator (MNO). It lets multiple MNOs and service providers share the same network infrastructure and spectrum, such as cell towers and fiber-optic cables.
Implementing neutral host infrastructures involves MNOs, who provide wireless service to their subscribers; building owners and venue operators, who own or manage the locations where the network equipment is installed; and neutral host providers, who invest in, build, and operate the network infrastructure and equipment.
Yes, some regulatory considerations assign frequencies for wireless communication and compliance with local regulations and standards set by local authorities for wireless communication.

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