By Michael Entner
In part one of this two-part series, we looked at the challenges facing telcos as they build out 5G networks nationwide. In this second part, we investigate the potential of private 5G networks.
Two of the biggest topics of interest with telcos today are 5G and edge computing. When you put those two technologies together, it can be a game changer. Why? Not only are you pushing computing closer to where it happens, like factory floors, end user devices, and homes, you’re getting those 5G capabilities like very high-speed wireless access, super-fast response time, secure communications, and prioritized traffic. But there’s a catch. As we discussed in part one, consumers are not yet seeing the value-add for 5G so telcos can’t charge more for it (yet). The challenge for telcos is figuring out how to monetize and get a good return on investment (ROI) for all that 5G and edge infrastructure they’re building out right now.
There is, however, a way to leverage 5G at the edge and get a solid ROI. And that’s private 5G networks. Rather than build out expensive infrastructure across the board, telcos can focus on specific use cases and provide purpose-built networks that meet the business needs for a specific customer. Private 5G can be the immediate, money-making future of 5G technology for telcos and their business and technology partners and customers.
Exploring the advantages of private 5G
Private 5G networks have specific, measurable use cases that can be invested in now, from robotics to industrial IoT in factories and utilities, and “regular” IoT running on consumer-focused devices. Let’s take a look at a few use cases.
A factory switching to robotics could use a private 5G network to make decisions about the quality of parts, of welds, of anything you can capture on video, and then use AI to manage the robots on the assembly line dynamically. A building management company could install private 5G in each of their locations to control access by floor or by room, without the need for security guards on-site. Self-driving cars are another interesting use case. One car sees another car coming towards it and needs to have AI assess that situation very, very fast and decide to either slow down the car, or steer to the left or steer to the right to avoid a collision. And then there’s the potential for medical uses, such as long-distance robotic surgery or video diagnosis tools.
Private 5G networks can deliver the mission-critical reliability, predictable performance, hard-wired security, and better coverage and connectivity that all these use cases require. For telcos, private 5G allows them to extend their expertise from both a technology and a technology management perspective, because they understand how to manage radio networks. That's what they do.
So, what’s stopping a wholesale move into private 5G networks? First, there is still the overall cost of the 5G infrastructure. Second, there’s the bigger question of making a solid business case that really does provide solid ROI for the costs involved.
More than just technology
When it comes to private 5G networks, the entire use case, end to end, needs to be well understood from a business perspective and then the network designed and built to be cost-effective and easily maintained. To identify smart use cases for private 5G, you need people who have a combination of both business and technical skills. You want the business case to be solid, and then build the technology to meet that need.
Private 5G networks are complicated and challenging to design and build because they target specific use cases and situations. Building the right network for a specific use case means embracing the partner ecosystem, from service providers to software companies and hardware manufacturers in order to deliver a cost-effective, reliable, and easily maintainable package to end-users.
Partnering with Wind River
The Wind River Digital Technology Officers (DTOs), like me, are focused on helping our customers successfully enter the private 5G arena and make investments in the strategic areas that drive growth and confirm the cost investments are in the right place and financially make sense from a future growth and profit perspective. We’re talking with customers and running ongoing programs and workshops that help our customers dive into the investment analysis and figure out how to leverage technology in sustainable and cost-effective ways.
And, from a technology perspective, Wind River Studio, deployed at the network edge, can improve private 5G deployments through optimized network performance, enhanced security, and cloud capability at reduced OPEX as it eliminates the cost of bespoke equipment and latency resulting from moving traffic to a central processing location.
By providing both technology and consulting, Wind River bridges the gap between the business and technology aspects for telcos to explore their private 5G opportunities. We can work with you to not only understand the ROI for things like product, 5G, virtual RAN, and AI/ML but whether those are good investments for specific private 5G use cases that you are exploring.
To learn more about Wind River solutions, contact us.