Across the world, telecom networks are gradually moving to 5G. While the biggest driver for 4G networks has been video, the expectations out of 5G are still being assessed. But, one aspect that is emerging as the big driver for 5G networks in future is private networks. That is where you install a dedicated network in a factory or an enterprise, to unlock the capability needed to get coverage and capacity to work with whatever use cases they want. It has already started in the mining sector in some parts of the world. Basically, it provides efficiency and safety to workers. The 5G network helps run autonomous trucks within the mine ensuring that humans are not entering dangerous areas of the mine.
It is still early days on private networks. Private 5G networks could cover a building, an entire campus and connect employees' mobile devices to just the resources the company wants to make available - without including access to the public internet. According to research from Arthur D Little, the worldwide 5G private network opportunity could be worth as much as 60-70 billion euros by 2025.
"That's an interaction of robotics and really advanced video techniques coming together. The video relies on high speed capacity for high definition quality, so you can get that video recognition and the robot doesn't make mistakes," says Bradley Mead, Head of Network Managed Services, Ericsson. This is one of the things that Ericsson is working on. "There needs to be a dedicated network slice and 100 per cent availability. We are looking at developing machine algorithms that would work in that slice end to end. It could predict things based on well-defined service levels and not just availability, but latency and speed etc. So, if there is any deviation, we can predict things."
One of the most innovative aspects of 5G architecture is the reliance on 5G network slicing, which lets operators provide portions of their networks for specific customer uses cases. "Network slicing is the new dimension that we never had to contend with; it is different. And that difference is something where we have to redesign all our processes that we have grown up with, with automation and AI in mind. If you are sure everything that can be automated will be automated, and you have the ability to predict things to a certain degree before they happen, the operations become less reactive and more predictive," says Mead.
We have been talking about customer experience in the telecom industry for years. This slicing may bring that to life and gives one the capability to differentiate services that end consumers need. End consumers can be enterprises, industries or consumers. So the differentiation becomes real with 5G technology. It gives operator customers a real opportunity to drive differentiation by experience in the Indian market.
Considering that Ericsson introduced India to the era of managed services, will it remain as a strategic pillar? "We think it is important because with our scale and the work we do with our customers all over the world, it gives us the ability to have automation, on a scale that no single operator can have. Same holds true for AI. We can train machine learning algorithms based on much broader network and customer base than anywhere before. A lot of our customers are talking to us where they can see the value with what we are doing with automation today."
The more you automate, the more reliable networks actually become. So the less variation you have the whole experience becomes better and better, and more reliable.