The shift to 5G: Adapting to achieve network success

By Darren Parkes, Kyndryl.

  • 1 year ago Posted in

A highly secured, reliable network is no longer a nice to have for enterprises of any size. Prioritising the rapid deployment of products and platforms in an agile manner must be the focus for all businesses, and that’s something traditional network infrastructure can no longer keep up with in today’s fast-moving market.

With operational costs on the up, along with a greater application pace, increasing data volumes and growing user requirements, more and more industries are looking to private wireless networks as an alternative option, to help them keep up with demand.

In fact, a recent report from global technology intelligence firm ABI Research showed that the overall market for private networks within enterprise industry segments, will reach $109 billion by 2030.

What is a private network?

As it sounds, it is a network built on spectrum frequencies reserved exclusively for a customer environment. That spectrum is different from the frequencies controlled by commercial mobile network operators and going alone gives companies the control they need to adapt their network for their individual uses.

While enterprise private wireless networks have traditionally used wi-fi technology, which has its limitations, recent regulatory changes have opened access to new spectrum frequencies, meaning private LTE and 5G is a possibility. This opens up much larger windows of opportunity.

Cellular technology, by design, is better at supporting IoT and artificial intelligence in strategic indoor and outdoor operations. It can be deployed in standalone or hybrid models and incorporate technologies like multi-access edge computing to support low-latency applications.

Regaining control

Reliability isn’t the only benefit. Private networks also allow businesses increased control thanks to an independence from traditional service providers — and there are a number of ways that this plays out.

Private networks provide businesses with total control over managing network throughput and bandwidth, determining what gets to connect to the network and how. Managers can even set the usage policies around what a device can access once it’s on the network and tap into optimised spectrum bands to access broad coverage across indoor and outdoor environments.

While wi-fi can have black spots in big spaces with high ceilings or outside, private 5G networks can virtually guarantee blanket coverage across the whole site without any dropouts, from only a handful of base station antennas.

Staying secure

Blanket coverage is vital for companies who rely on connectivity to keep their business running, both safely and effectively. Whether it’s ensuring a seamless performance for things like driverless vehicles in factories or warehouses, or the high bandwidth, low latency connectivity that’s needed for augmented reality and video analytics — private networks can help avoid unnecessary downtime that can have both cost implications for companies and impact the wellbeing of staff.

Private networks also allow companies to apply more advanced security measures, including SIM-based authentication, strong air interface ciphering, and security at equipment, user, data and network levels. This means you can allocate different security roles to devices, depending on the provided wireless identity, which makes it really easy to manage.

Not only this, but the total cost of ownership (TCO) compared to traditional Wi-Fi is considerably lower, giving companies the ability to prioritise operational costs after the initial outlay.

Approaching the edge

We’ve only just scratched the surface of the benefits that the wider adoption of private 5G networks will bring. As the technology transitions from niche to more general use, it unlocks the use of edge computing as a third landing zone for data, beyond on-prem or cloud — revolutionising how businesses think data can or should be worked with.

Edge is not new, but the increasing uptake of private 5G will propel its usage to new levels of adoption, in industries we haven’t yet seen it widely used. For example, in retail, edge could reduce the amount of data needing to be backhauled and processed, giving breathing space in the infrastructure for new, richer applications, or pared away to reduce costs. Financial institutions, meanwhile, will see a transformative effect on security postures thanks to edge, by reducing the need to move highly-sensitive data out of the systems which produced it.

While some of the benefits can be predicted, it is important to remember that the emergence of edge as the third landing zone is a significant new territory to explore, in which, all of the possibilities are not yet known. Still, the adoption of private networks will be a key enabler for this enhancement, and as businesses consider taking a step forward in their networking potential, they should also think proactively about the impact of edge and how they stand to benefit from it.

A complex process

While all the benefits of a private wireless network might sound hugely appealing to companies on paper, the nitty gritty of the deployment details can cause discouragement. To ensure the process goes smoothly, businesses need to understand the spectrum they are going to use and match it to the technology they’re going to deploy.

Once the spectrum has been acquired — which often comes with its own challenges —networks must be deployed to fit the specific use cases for that working environment. Every environment is unique, and there needs to be considerations for connecting to local area networks, wide area networks, and the public cloud so data can be transferred or analysed.

Whilst implementation might not be the most straightforward process, once the network is up and running, it can be nothing short of transformational— leaving a business wide open to the new opportunities that improved stability and greater agility will bring.

Embracing the amalgam can unlock your advanced wireless journey

Despite the transformational benefits of private networks, the reality is, it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. Just as demonstrated above, there are going to be challenges associated with any connectivity solution – Wi-Fi isn’t obsolete yet. For some customers, Wi-Fi networks are still the answer and will be their solution of choice for years to come. In fact, in future, we’re expecting to see huge developments in advanced wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi 6, and even customers adopting a hybrid 5G/wireless technology approach to connectivity. It really comes down to the unique needs and priorities of each customer. What is important is staying open to interweaving technologies and the consideration of embracing a hybrid approach to the wireless journey, to truly deliver on customer ambitions.

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