A growing trend across intelligent industries
Private 5G networks are beginning to take off. According to one study, three fourths of the manufacturing organizations in Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States aim to adopt private 5G networks by 2024. Another study found that among companies that are investing in private mobile networks, 44% are already using 5G and another 8% are using a combination of 5G with 4G LTE. Private 5G networks are emerging as the connectivity technology of choice for driving next-generation enterprise transformation in a growing list of industries such as manufacturing, automotive, utilities, and mining. Having spent over two decades in the Telco sphere, I believe that what we’re witnessing are the first stages of exponential growth. Let’s see what’s behind it.
What are the benefits of private 5G networks?
Private 5G networks enable enterprises to dedicate bandwidth for ultra-reliable low-latency use cases such as industrial IoT and robotics, with complete control over data, security, and networks. Unlike general-purpose public networks, private 5G networks are designed with a specific purpose, enabling enterprises to be in control of their destiny in terms of partners, features and connectivity. Based on core cellular technology used in public networks, private 5G networks provide complete indoor and outdoor coverage with a high degree of security, making them a good choice for factories, campuses, and other large places where security and low-latency connectivity are paramount.
Private 5G networks fall into two deployment models: large-scale deployments with vertically-integrated dedicated hardware, and cloud-native with lightweight deployments using hyperscaler products. One is CAPEX heavy, and is often chosen by large organizations with enough capital to support the initial investment, as well as the IT resources to support its maintenance. With an estimated lifespan of ten years, companies that can afford to go the hardware route can look forward to an impressive ROI. In contrast, cloud-native systems have very low up-front costs, with users paying for them as-a-service. This model is becoming increasingly popular, due to the ease of getting started and the ongoing support. The cloud-native architecture of private networks also goes along well with the cloud-native architecture of microservices and other IT applications for a wider range of use cases.
Good partners make good networks and better outcomes
There are currently a number of Telecom providers that offer exemplary service backed by decades of networking expertise. In the US for example, Verizon’s commercially available private 5G solution is proving popular on campuses, industrial and manufacturing facilities, warehouses, and other premises. But for many organizations, selecting a Telecom provider is just the first half of the equation. Communications service providers (CSPs) tend to know their subject inside and out, having spent decades developing and perfecting their technologies. I am consistently impressed by CSP representatives I work with. Now here’s the role that I play as a tech-integration partner. We bring direct knowledge about the particular industry in which a network is deployed, and help adopt new technologies such as 5G to an end client’s precise vision. A deeper understanding of industry domains is key to enabling new user experiences on top of private connectivity. Partnering with an organization with deep domain expertise in industry verticals means you’re not just getting a new layer of tech for your employees to learn from scratch – new features are integrated into your current system. Integrators also help by incubating vertical industry use cases in a lab setting, bringing together solutions from multiple hardware and software vendors and creating a network that’s usable and fit for purpose.
3 ways tech integrators accelerate deployment of 5G private networks
Let’s dive into some specifics. Deploying a 5G private network smoothly and efficiently depends on three factors:
- the ability to experiment and iterate, quickly and at low cost
- the availability of corollary assets and experience
- data expertise
A good tech integration partner will bring skills in industry verticals, deep network engineering and multi-access edge computing (MEC). But the advantages of a strong partnership go beyond skill sharing. An experienced tech integrator will grant access to tangible assets, such as:
- 5G labs, where you can test out various use cases for client and partner ecosystem engagements. Labs like these enable operators to focus on replicable 5G use cases for industry sectors with private 5G networks, as well as to integrate the wider partner ecosystem options, developing open, multi-vendor e2e disaggregated private networks and edge solutions for CSPs and NEPs.
- ‘Service Enablement’ factories, which provide a full range repository of replicable industry 5G use case developed as cloud-native microservices (AGV, connected camera, remote worker, immersive experiences applications, IoT etc),
- ‘Data extraction’ platform capabilities, which enable 5G use cases to use data adapted to the needs of the industry use case, such as low-latency mission-critical applications, c-V2x, AR/XR, machine-to-machine communications, etc
Assets such as these profoundly impact the ultimate usability and efficiency of new private 5G installments. I believe that one reason why private 5G networks are gaining so much traction is due to the value that experience partners bring to the table.
We’re at a pivotal point when private 5G networks are graduating from the trial stage to full scale deployments. The US Department of Defence is investing nothing short of $100 million in a private 5G network at their global logistics center in Albany, Georgia – a critical part of a wider plan to raise logistics efficiency by 40%. Kittilä, the largest gold mine in Europe, is joining forces with the Swedish Telecommunications company Telia to implement a private 5G network both above ground and underground. By deploying this network, Kittilä is aiming to improve the occupational safety and reliability of its mining operations at tunnel depths of up to 1 KM. Telecom operators provide private network experience by dedicating a network slice of their public network and guaranteeing the enterprise customer a specific quality of service for their use cases.
Private 5G networks also have a role to play in bridging the digital divide. As these networks cover a small area and don’t cost as much to build as a public network, priority can be given to underserved communities. Terranet Communications recently partnered with Las Vegas to deploy a private municipal network that will help roughly 30,000 children who did not have internet access during the pandemic and had trouble keeping up with school.
A foundation for growth and limitless use cases
With private 5G networks, enterprises can now benefit from new connected technologies, secure additional revenue streams and maximize efficiencies – today and well into the future. Learn more about how to build the ideal ecosystem for private network deployment, and the value that committed partners can bring.
#TelcoInsights is a series of posts about the latest trends and opportunities in the telecommunications industry – powered by a community of global industry experts and thought leaders.
Fotis Karonis, Executive Vice President, Group leader 5G and Edge computing