NTT is mining a rich seam of US private networking deals

Japan’s NTT is proving to be a popular choice of private mobile network partner for US heavy industry.

The company this week won a deal to deploy private LTE/5G and Wi-Fi for Albermarle, a chemical manufacturing company based in Charlotte, North Carolina. NTT will start by rolling out a pilot network at Albemarle’s lithium mine in Kings Mountain, about 30 miles west of the company’s headquarters. This will inform future deployments at other sites.

Albermarle has operations all over the world, and it was this distributed workforce that fuelled its interest in private networking. Travel restrictions caused by Covid made it harder for the company’s engineers to visit sites abroad, impacting decision making and causing delays. With a private network, Albermarle can implement hybrid working processes that reduce the need for international travel. Important jobs like surveys and certain maintenance jobs can be conducted remotely.

“To enable collaboration and digital applications at our mining and processing sites, we require widespread, high-speed connectivity,” said Chuck Holley, global manager of IT network infrastructure at Albemarle, in a statement on Monday. “A private LTE/5G network is a great way we can do this cost-effectively, and NTT was our first choice to pilot a design, prove the technology and show the value.”

Besides hybrid working, Albermarle will look into new use cases that leverage private networking, including enabling greater used of IoT devices.

“A private LTE/5G network will continue to transform business outcomes in mission-critical environments for Albemarle, and this is just the start of their journey, “said Parm Sandhu, vice president of enterprise 5G products and services at NTT. “We look forward to working closely with the manufacturer as it continues to digitally transform its business for the future.”

The Albermarle contract comes just two months after NTT won a private 5G deal with Schneider Electric’s US arm, which suggests that the Japanese operator has an understanding of what industrial multinationals in that corner of the world are looking for from their technology partners, and has the product portfolio to satisfy their demands. In the case of Schneider, the company wants to improve the performance of its automated ground vehicles (AGVs) and try out new use cases like machine vision, which can keep tabs on the condition of factory equipment in real time. Just like with Albermarle, NTT is building a pilot network at a single facility and will then push on from there.

High-profile deals with major industrial players puts NTT in a strong position to capitalise on the growing global interest in private networking.

ABI Research is particularly bullish the market’s prospects. The analyst firm in March predicted that it will be worth a staggering $109 billion by 2030. That figure includes RAN, edge and core deployments, as well as professional services revenues, which it expects to account for 44 percent of the overall market.


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