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According to a recent PwC report, the roll out of 5G will bring value in many industries and not just by being faster than 4G or having a wider reach than Wi-Fi6 but because it will provide “bandwidth by at least a factor of 100, which will allow data created by smart vehicles (think Teslas, buses, trucks), municipal surveillance cameras, traffic signals and sensors, emergency vehicle communications, and hundreds of other data sources to reach the cloud”. When 5G is used in combination with other technologies such as AI or edge computing, “it will enable business and society to realise the full benefits of these other technological advances”.
An example of such a combination and the benefits it can deliver comes from a real-life case that saw our team partner with Vivacity Labs and Transport for Greater Manchester to build a private 5G network to help with the development of a connected infrastructure to help manage transport more efficiently.
If we consider this as a starting point, we can then eliminate options such as using wired connectivity to connect sensors to an Internet connection. A wired connection may work well but it’s also costly to build, it can’t be used for anything else and it limits the public sector’s capability to innovate and trial any other future solution.
A private 5G network would have the advantage of being flexible in fulfilling not just the present requirements but also connectivity for other future applications.
In addition, a smart city network like the one we are building should be:
- Strictly separated from the consumer traffic to make sure it’s available when the sensors need it.
- Affordable and easy to maintain, presenting similar deployment and maintenance costs as that of a WiFi network.
- Able to serve more than one application, with separation of services, allowing a commercial route for public sector owned infrastructure and creating a sustainable business model for local authorities investing in infrastructure.
So where does edge cloud come into play?
After assessing different possible connectivity scenarios, you can see that a strict set of requirements have to be included and then you can recognise that edge-cloud technology is the best option to help deliver the benefits you want: cost efficiency and flexibility.
A cloud-based network running on commercial off-the shelf computing hardware – which also allows for the running of 5G software out of one server, minimising hardware costs - is certainly
a cost-effective network. Adding to that the fact that it allows for more nodes to be added and be connected, allowing for the network to expand as needed. Deloitte estimates that by 2050 70% of the population will live in a city and with this growth, issues such as traffic congestion and air quality will become more prominent. Applying advanced technologies such as AI, data analytics, and edge computing is proving to be a successful solution to create a sustainable urban network. In fact, we have seen how, although the challenges may stay the same, the infrastructure can be 5G, WiFi, or any IoT technology.
Networks should be able to scale fast and be cheap to attend the needs of the applications bringing innovation constantly into the market.
A key principle applies here: to be able to integrate and aggregate infrastructure so that networks can be consumed easily and scale fast.