Private 5G networks – flexible, adaptable paths for operators, enterprises

ZTE envisions new 5G-enabled operator business models, revenue streams from vertical industries

Sponsored The concept of a private 5G network is gaining traction in many parts of the world. Existing wired networks, Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G and traditional private enterprise networks have not been able to adapt to the digital change in the era of Industry 4.0. Instead, accelerating industry digitalisation has driven up 5G and Internet of Things (IoT) adoption in industrial networks.

The advent of 5G has delivered high-bandwidth, low-latency and high-capacity connections. It supports cutting-edge technologies like network slicing, artificial intelligence (AI), big data, edge computing, and cloud computing platform that vertical industries need.

A new generation of private 5G networks is emerging to address vital wireless communication requirements. These private networks – physical or virtual cellular systems – are serving mission-critical or business-critical use cases in industries such as such as smart city, utilities, healthcare, agriculture and mining, transportation, and manufacturing.

5G network slicing using network function virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN) and end-to-end automatic orchestration technology allow operators to customize their private networks for thousands of enterprises by building on public network resources.

“Before 5G, dedicated mobile networks can only use dedicated mobile frequency and dedicated physical devices to build dedicated physical networks,” explains Mr Jason Tu, Principal Scientist of NFV/SDN at ZTE Corporation. “Not only is this extremely expensive, but also mobile frequency may not be accessible to small and middle enterprises (SMEs) in most countries.”

Laying a strategic foundation that operators can take advantage of today rather than wait for killer applications to emerge, 5G creates potential for new revenue opportunities to sell customised private network and edge cloud services to businesses.

Smart in the city

ZTE currently offers end-to-end 5G private network planning for precise industry empowerment with four private network models – 5G private line, 5G virtual private network, 5G hybrid private network, 5G physical private network – that can be flexibly adapted to application scenarios of different industries and specific customers.

This is important because thousands of private networks with completely different requirements require huge O&M manpower and experience. By introducing AI and big data tools, operators can precisely orchestrate and guarantee multiple service level agreements (SLAs) for different vertical applications in different private networks.

“For example, network slicing enables the creation of private 5G networks for different enterprises, from the core to the edge,” says Mr. Tu. “Some factories may require traffic to flow locally within the premises due to low latency and security requirements. The operator will manage ZTE solutions, such as the base station and core network transmission, located inside the factory. Operators are well positioned to deliver higher quality of service because of their resources, expertise and experience in maintaining network deployments.”

The service levels or KPIs of these customized networks include the number of users, reliability, bandwidth, security and latency. For SMEs seeking greater agility and efficiency, self-built data centres are being gradually replaced by public cloud services. In the same way, the private networks of enterprises will be gradually replaced by private network services provided by operators.

In smart city use cases such as the street lamp network, flexibility, security and cost are more critical considerations than latency. Due to their large numbers, the cost of connecting each street lamp has to be economical and secure. Each street lamp in the exclusive private network may have its own unique IP address and connects only to a central server, which is protected by firewall and robust high-level security. But cost and performance requirements may also vary depending on the number and sophistication of data-gathering devices that may be installed on the street lamp pole.

Another 5G use case is the smart water meter. The key requirements for a water meter network include low energy consumption to support battery life of more than ten years and good signal coverage to reach water meters that are often located in basements or outdoor at the driveway, garden or footpaths. 5G’s network slicing and unique radio frequencies will allow smart energy usage to be managed through a single private network.

These use cases drive adoption of IoT and demand for cloud and mobile edge computing (MEC). “We will see the 5G network as a bigger application running on the cloud,” says Mr. Tu. “The core network side and transmission side are already cloudified or software defined. Faced with disruptions caused by the current pandemic, this transformation can be applied to benefit all vertical industries.”

Operator and integrator

An operator with edge data centres close to vertical industry customers will be well positioned to be transformed from a communication service provider (CSP) to a digital service provider (DSP). After all, the private 5G network that connects the water meters and street lamps also complements edge cloud services as well as integration services.

“For example, a manufacturer needs 5G connectivity and a cloud-based system to control robots and AGVs, and they need a DSP to help them integrate the robots and AGVs with their production systems,” Mr Tu says.

ZTE has also collaborated with equipment manufacturing company Sany Group and Beijing Mobile Communications Co Ltd, a unit of China Mobile, to launch an integrated cloud-network solution for increased use of 5G technology in the manufacturing sector. The solution facilitates innovative integration of 5G and the industrial internet.

By using China Mobile's private network, the integrated cloud-network solution is designed to optimally match business scenarios in industrial parks and enable use of applications such as data acquisition, machine vision and digital twin, a virtual representation of a physical object or system across its life cycle.

Meanwhile, being a 5G industry innovator, ZTE has launched the All-in-One Private 5G Solution for Vertical Markets, providing 5G end-to-end products, such as access network, bearer network, core network (i5GC stands for industry 5G Core), and MEC, to bring on-demand IT cloud and telco network capabilities to vertical industry applications.

Other ZTE innovations that enable operators to differentiate their private 5G network services include NodeEngine, a base-station-built-in mobile edge solution with computing, storage and offload capabilities that deeply integrates edge computing and industry applications for industry park deployment. Further, Precise RAN Solution enables operators to provide private 5G networks that can be rapidly deployed, meet extreme service requirements, and gain cost competitiveness.

ZTE and its network operator partners have accumulated valuable experience in 5G business model innovation through implementing 5G applications across various industries. Together, ZTE and operators can replicate these expertise and experiences to drive digital transformation initiatives in vertical industries while monetising investments in 5G and enhancing ROI.

Sponsored by ZTE

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