The excitement around 5G from the enterprise community has exceeded that of any previous tech innovation. Beyond the incredibly high speeds, pairing 5G with low-cost spectrum, cloud and data analytics reveals a raft of operational efficiency and safety gains. Unsurprisingly, many enterprises have grasped this opportunity and are ready to take full advantage of private 5G.
We have already seen deployments of private wireless networks across a diverse range of situations including mines, airports, ports, factories and hospitals. One example is a facility in Finland that deployed robots to reduce the distances walked by staff by more than 10 kilometres per week. There has also been real-time logistics management in a hospital to monitor and track supplies and equipment efficiently.
A connected production environment, powered by 5G, provides multiple benefits for business by ‘unwiring’ – allowing real-time interfacing between multiple mobile assets and analytics software. Through our strategic partnership with Verizon, we are working with Associated British Ports to deploy private 5G at the Port of Southampton. This deployment addresses the problem of loss of onsite data communications as a result of poor WiFi connectivity, but also the advanced capabilities of 5G – its reliability, throughput, security and ultra-low latency – enable the use of new technologies such as real-time analytics, the Internet of Things (IoT) and machine learning. This will support the enablement of new service advances including asset tracking, autonomous guided vehicles, workflow management, predictive maintenance and safety monitoring in the near future.
But what is next? I’ve seen the market develop as follows:
Stimulation – multiple universities, research agencies, and industry-standard organisations have leapt in and driven early market adoption. In the UK, we have seen several programmes deliver incredible results for the increased understanding of technology, the development of business cases and new partnerships. Innovation hubs have been integrated into many projects, driving competition and innovation whilst also knitting together an eco-system of like-minded players.
Connectivity concepts – we see visionaries stepping forward and investing in the technology. Some customers dive in, knowing the connectivity will provide a general benefit, but, more typically, they enable simple connectivity use-cases that drive quick returns. We are seeing many of these proofs of concept fast-forward into production environments now.
Connectivity-plus – we are clearly in this space now. Businesses are putting significant thought, planning and investment into methods that will boost their private networks to make quantum leaps in their operations through multiple use-cases, applications, devices, data analysis and interoperability of systems
and data. They see their private networks as platforms, not connectivity media; connectivity just becomes another app. These organisations, typically in process environments, ultimately see the value of connecting their ‘things’. This is what Industry 4.0 is all about.
So how will the market develop?
- In equipment and with related software providers. This is Nokia’s territory, as we have over 300 private wireless deployments.
- Via communication service providers/mobile network operators, which can provide spectrum, expertise around network management, enablement of the apps eco-system, and of course scale and access to customers.
- Through the growing influence of neutral host networks, which make business cases fly.
- Via specialist systems integrators – critical to quantifying the operational and technical benefits.
- Through innovation hubs/accelerators/academic research – this sector is alive and well and will continue to drive innovation.
Whilst Enterprise 5G is certainly in development, it’s maturing rapidly. Be assured that the eco-system of interested parties is robust and here for the long-term.