As we all start to put a tumultuous 2020 behind us, I see this year as a turning point for networking. The pandemic has crystallized the need for scalable and reliable connectivity as many people have switched to working from home. I expect the notion of hybrid work, working from campuses and telecommuting, to become the new normal. I also believe that the adoption of the 5G cellular private network will accelerate globally and serve as a catalyst for use-case-based digital transformation and vertical adoption of the industry.
What is the private cellular network?
By definition, a private network allows a discrete number of devices to communicate with each other. Historically, cellular telecommunications infrastructure has been deployed for public wireless wide area networks based on its high capital cost structure and licensed spectrum deployment requirements.
Today, cellular infrastructure is a viable choice for any private business looking to accelerate its digital transformation. Three emerging trends enabling private networking are the availability of low-cost, telco-grade, industry-standard hardware, software-defined networking (SDN) and virtualization tools, and recent access to spectrum under Licence.
What are the applications? 5G vs. Wi-Fi
The main vertical targets for private networking are what you would expect: energy, transportation, logistics, healthcare, mining, and manufacturing, among others. Use cases that require ultra-low latency and involve propagation over longer distances are the prime candidates. Wi-Fi 6 offers improved latency and supports more devices and faster throughput, but is ideally suited for indoor applications and requires a density of access points.
A significant advantage of the private network is the ability to tune overall network performance for specific application needs, such as lower latency for video. Additionally, support for remote and highly distributed work sites that may not have access to fixed wireless access (FWA) services provided by the fiber carrier. In my mind, 5G won’t kill Wi-Fi. Instead, the two wireless modalities will complement each other with 5G supporting traditionally unconnected manufacturing environments.
The role of consortia
In the United States, the CBRS Alliance (recently renamed the OnGo Alliance to expand its footprint globally) has done a phenomenal job in democratizing access to licensed spectrum and, in turn, igniting a cellular network fire. private. The consortium has more than 130 companies among its members, including technology mainstays AT&T, Cisco Systems, Ericsson, Intel, Nokia, Qualcomm, Samsung and others. Therefore, I believe the organization is fulfilling its stated mission of evangelizing 4G LTE and 5G use cases, fostering the development of critical technologies, facilitating advocacy with regulatory agencies, and supporting product certifications. To learn more, you can visit their website.
The impact potential of the 5G private network
I believe there is a “perfect storm” in the United States that marries access to licensed spectrum through the CBRS / OnGo wireless initiative with the availability of non-quality private network equipment. operator. Traditional infrastructure providers Ericsson and Nokia have dedicated teams developing private network solutions and they are enjoying success.
However, I also expect companies such as Cisco Systems, Dell EMC, and HPE to seek partnerships or engage in efforts to develop its hardware and software solutions. For example, the private network as a service start-up Celona recently partnered with HPE Aruba to offer its managed service to HPE customers. (I’m hosting a webinar on March 9 and if you’d like to learn more you can register for the event here.)
I think non-traditional players might have an advantage in deploying private network solutions, given a more direct path to existing relationships through the Wi-Fi side of enterprises. Ultimately, I’m personally excited to see how things play out in the private networking space, especially the transformative use cases that will result.