5G has seen one of the fastest adoption trends of any technology. In 2022, 5G adoption will hit 1 billion subscriptions1 and grow from $1.6 billion in 2021 to $65 billion by 20302.
The promise of ultra-reliable low latency connectivity (URLLC) and enhanced mobile broadband (EMBB) with speeds nearing 4Gb/sec3 has enormous potential for enterprises, especially for Industry 4.0. A survey showed that 40% of manufacturers plan to roll out 5G at scale within the next 2 years. Due to data ownership and security concerns, two-thirds of these manufacturers indicated a preference to own and operate private networks4 . These capabilities come at the cost of significant demands from the network and a major shift from best-effort services to guaranteed quality of service (QoS) across all key performance metrics (KPIs).
In addition, enterprises that adopt private wireless 5G networks must acquire sufficient knowledge and proficiency in the underlying technologies, deployment options, features, and operational needs.
Organizing for Successful 5G Private Networks
5G ACIA has defined several 5G use cases for industrial applications that have the potential to transform multiple industries, as depicted in Figure 2 below.
Implementation of any of these use cases will require extensive planning. Private networks allow for a much more bespoke design for industry and its needs, followed by meticulous deployment and operations. However, this presents challenges for industry verticals where connectivity, mobility, and cloud are not core competencies. In addition, each rollout phase presents unique challenges for the enterprise. Accordingly, it is paramount to use the right processes and tools.
Organizing for Successful 5G Private Networks
Figure 3 below depicts some of the typical functions required for the deployment of non-public networks (NPN). For simplicity, this paper will not differentiate between the different NPN scenarios (isolated deployment, shared RAN, shared RAN and control plane, and public network hosting) as we focus on the enterprise's role in realizing their NPN.
With security and data ownership as a primary drivers for NPNs, observability of the network is essential. While many of the 5G private network lifecycle functions may be outsourced to specialized vendor partners, the ability to continuously test, validate, and monitor the network end-to-end, from device, to edge, to core will remain a primary responsibility of the enterprise network owner because only the owner is incentivized to understand what is happening in their network. Instrumentation and automation are essential to achieving network observability.
Network Instrumentation & Observability
Many of the functions that were typically owned by the connectivity provider must now be owned by the enterprise in an environment that will prove to be particularly volatile for the following reasons:
IoT is an open device market subject to potentially thousands of standards, providers, and technologies
Industry 4.0 spectrum clearance and RFI management within a high noise environment requires extensive testing during the design stages and continuous optimization after rollout
5G is in the early stages where innovation is at its most rapid pace, resulting in near-constant technological evolution, device and network updates, enhancements, and changes. Capitalizing on these will require high agility and the ability to accelerate technology adoption lifecycles
Device integration, performance, quality testing, and continuous assurance will require oversight and ownership by the enterprise. Therefore, instrumenting the network and installing the right test and visibility tools that produce the comprehensive data needed to achieve proactive and real-time device and service management is crucial. However, data generation and curation are only a piece of the puzzle; extracting valuable information, translating information into insights, and executing remediation actions are where in-depth knowledge of the standards, protocols, KPIs, SLAs, and their impact is required. Unfortunately, this expertise is in short supply, even for core connectivity providers. As a result, standing up a dedicated network operations team can come at a high cost, especially when required without compromising security, data locality, and network access. The only way to achieve these goals is through extensive automation.
Automation by Design
The telecom space has made huge strides in automation over the past decade, many aimed at reducing human interference in operations. These innovations are ripe for capitalization by enterprises, especially in green field deployments, as they allow for automation to be incorporated at every stage, from design & planning to deployment & operations. Figure 4 below summarizes the automation functions currently employed in telecom networks that will prove invaluable for the enterprise in their 5G private network management.
Much of the focus in automation for Industry 4.0 will be on change control and network innovation management that will be associated with a rapidly evolving ecosystem within 5G. Moreover, Industry 4.0 transformation will occur because of the implementation of URLLC connectivity, which entails disruptive change and ongoing process improvement that must be carefully monitored, measured, assessed, and iterated upon. Having automation-by-design built into every phase of development and operations will dramatically increase the chances of success and reduce the time to return on investment (ROI).
5G brought immense benefits and promise to enterprises in general, and Industry 4.0 in particular. Private networks endow 5G with unprecedented levels of control and security. The technology and automation exist to put the control, oversight, and ownership of these networks into the hands of each individual enterprise without the immense costs associated with standing up dedicated connectivity organizations whether in-house or outsourced.
1. Ericsson Mobility Report, June 2022, Ericsson
2. Cavazos, Jessy, What are the Key 5G Features Enabling 5G Private Networks for Industry 4.0
3. November 2022, Keysight 3 Ericsson, Telia Norway test 5G at 26 GHz for enterprise, May 2022, Fierce Wireless
4. Accelerating the 5G Industrial Revolution: State of 5G and edge in industrial operations, June 2022, Capgemini Research Institute
5. Accelerating the 5G Industrial Revolution: State of 5G and edge in industrial operations, June 2022, Capgemini Research Institute