With 5G private networks expected to increase tenfold by 2026, it’s clear that they are going to be a key battleground for telcos going forwards. Telcos are also facing threat from major cloud and technology players such as AWS, Microsoft, Intel and most recently Google Cloud, who are creating solutions for this segment of the 5G market.
Major players in the telecoms sector are responding, says Ed Chao, CEO at Polta. In the UK, BT announced a partnership with Ericsson to deliver commercial private 5G networks, which is the agreement of its kind in this country. Meanwhile, T Mobile launched its 5G Advanced Network Solutions, which is geared towards enhancing 5G performance for businesses.
With so many big names throwing their hats into the ring, a couple of things are inevitable. One is that ‘private networks’ will become the industry’s latest buzzword, generating considerable attention and driving interest in deeper exploration into what exactly private networks can offer enterprises. As well as this, as a result of major cloud and technology players entering the battleground, telcos will be considering how they can bring solutions to market that won’t get lost in the noise. They need to think outside the box and add value beyond the connectivity pipe in order to differentiate their offerings.
Rather than focusing solely on connectivity, telcos should consider other areas that can unlock value for enterprise users. One significant way of achieving this is with 5G Cloud Location over Cellular (C-LoC) technology. By integrating location technology as a central feature of the private network, telcos can enable enterprises to access data and analytics from their connected IoT devices. By monitoring the movement of these devices and analyzing data patterns, enterprises will be able to boost operational efficiency, increase the effectiveness of their assets, and respond quickly to changes. Offering these capabilities can enable operators to forge a role in the private network space. So, how does this technology work?
Augmenting private networks with cloud-based cellular location
C-LoC technology runs as software on a private or public cloud (such as AWS Wavelength), and can provide end-to-end visibility starting from sub-meter accuracy and therefore offers universal asset visibility in real-time.
An enterprise can benefit not only from enhanced security and reliability, but can also revolutionize the way it uses and monitors its assets. The benefits of this can be illustrated by reviewing its use case on a factory floor. It can be incredibly difficult to locate one particular asset such as a scanner or other IoT device in a vast, busy factory or warehouse. Existing types of location tracking technologies such as WiFi or GPS can provide some tracking capabilities, but without sub-metre accuracy they can only provide limited guidance, especially indoors where they typically lack coverage. However, if an enterprise’s IoT assets are connected to a private 5G network with cloud location tracking enabled, asset tracking quickly becomes a far easier and more accurate task.
This is a basic example that outlines the simplest advantages of integrating cloud-based cellular location technology onto a private network and it is only the start. Augmenting a private 5G network in this way can provide enterprises with brand new capabilities that will not only make asset tracking easier but can fundamentally improve business function across a range of use cases, including the following examples.
Private networks ensure worker safety
By providing real-time and up-to-date location tracking and analytics, private networks that have cloud-based cellular location capabilities built in will be able to significantly improve worker safety. Particularly when it comes to manufacturing environments, enterprises have long been considering the challenge of how to keep workers out of harm’s way when their environment exposes them to hazardous heavy machinery, for example. This is especially true amid the rise of Industry 4.0, which brings the added challenge of navigating factory floors alongside robots.
Sensors can be placed on these devices and connected to the private 5G network to allow increased worker safety by relieving the need for people to manually operate and monitor the machinery. The ultra-fast near instant response time of 5G can allow device sensors and emergency shut-down indicators to be as responsive as possible. This means incidents can be predicted and prevented based on the monitoring of asset movement, such as when a piece of heavy machinery is detected to be functioning in an abnormal way or placed in an unsafe location.
As well as this, valuable time can be saved by the use of edge computing within the private network. Processing and sending data on the edge of the network offers considerable security and time advantages in comparison to cloud computing. This can make a crucial difference in managing worker safety, alongside automation.
Predictive maintenance in healthcare
Away from manufacturing, knowing the location of assets in a healthcare setting can be the difference between life and death. Like a large warehouse, a hospital comes with its own unique challenges for asset tracking. Assets from wheelchairs to ECG machines can be moved around to any one of thousands of patient rooms, consulting rooms, store cupboards and more. This is a challenge that can be solved with cloud-based location tracking and geofencing, which can be enhanced when run on a private 5G network, but another issue to be solved is the maintenance of all of these assets.
Through the use of 5G connectivity, data analytics can be collected and shared to provide insights that can predict machinery failures and maintenance requirements. This leads to improved operational efficiency, which in the healthcare space can translate to reduced waiting times and better resourcing.
Where can we take private networks next?
It’s clear that the private 5G network provides a host of opportunities to be capitalized on and telcos need to add unique capabilities to stand out from the cloud and technology sectors that area already making strides in this space. It is through added innovation and business value that operators can provide a private network service that unlocks revolutionary new benefits in answer to long-existing challenges, rather than a narrow focus on better connectivity.
The author is Ed Chao, CEO at Polte.
About the author
The author is Ed Chao, CEO at Polte. Chao aims to position Polte as the premier provider of global, 4G/5G cellular location technology. He brings 26 years of leadership experience, serving as an executive for companies such as Bell Labs, MetroPCST-Mobile and with the US Digital Service at the white house. Chao holds a Master of Business Administration from Columbia Universitya Master of Science in electrical engineering from Georgia Tech, and a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from Rutgers University.