A panel discussion on Private Networks, at the 5G Conference

Private Networks – How Strong, How Soon?

Reaping ROI from Private Networks Investments – a panel discussion at CyberMedia 5G Conference finds out how.

So much is happening on all fronts due to the global pandemic, disruptive changes due to technology, economic challenges and the way telecom applications have been growing – we have seen so much in the last two to three years. With 5G said to be the real game-changer across all sorts of industries and applications, we need to look ahead and see what’s coming.

Ibrahim Ahmad, Consulting Editor, CyberMedia made sure that this ‘looking ahead’ was done from all directions and perspectives.

In this panel that was galvanized at the conference ‘5G for Delivering Transformation’ by CyberMedia and Voice&Data, what came out was a practical view about the private network aspect of 5G’s impact.

Sandeep Sehgal, Head of Enterprise Business, India Market, Nokia pointed out that internationally there are more than 350 deployments which Nokia has been involved in, and multiple sectors like mining, ports etc. where Nokia has seen a lot of excitement. With the industry moving towards 4.0 there have been challenges because using traditional approach to networks is not working very well.

“If there is a moving train, how can you measure its parameters, it’s not easy. That’s where private LTE becomes a game-changer. We do not put a large infrastructure but a small core one that connects and transforms everything. Our own plant in Chennai is where we have ripped off many kilometers of wires that were connecting hotspots. Today all our devices and instrumentation are completely connected on private LTE. It is a reality and a great showcase of how it can be done – in terms of deployment.” Sehgal added that in India many customers have understood the potential. “They have seen these examples and POCs so we are very sure that it is going to happen.”

Capital-intensive systems in areas like mining, shipping and Railways is where private LTE makes sense, seconded CK Prasad, Regional GM & Head IT, RailTel.

“But converging multiple services into this infrastructure is important. Payloads, operational costs, data communication, autonomous systems, breakdown-savvy strategy etc. are important factors to consider. Open RAN system deployment and hardware choices do bring down costs. Interoperability and easy hand-over will help the scenario more. In mining areas, there is a lot of dust and temperature so the systems should be able to work seamlessly in tough environments too. A solid business case has to be built around that. ”

The ruggedness and compatibility of these systems with existing environments were discussed deeply and industry’s readiness was explored. “There are two aspects to communication system – core and RAN. Using the existing infrastructure after studying its dark spots is something we pay attention to. We also have capex-heavy and opex-heavy systems.” Sehgal explained.

As to the expectations of an enterprise and some on-ground concerns, Deepak Kalambkar, AVP Infrastructure & CSO, SafexPay iterated the cost aspect. “Installation costs would be high and will get reduced as we scale. We have already implemented Private LTE in one of our environments.” Getting good value from the infrastructure investment will define a lot of the monetization and business-case aspects, Prasad suggested.

ROI and TCO is key to success of private LTE, Sehgal also chimed in. “A large manufacturing organisation in India started with only two use-cases. Today, we are at a stage where the customer has, himself, got eight use-cases after understanding the possibility and outcomes. Getting data and to act upon it to use it for improving production cycles and output – that has proven to be a big advantage.”

N K Goyal, Chairman Emeritus, TEMA, CMAI underlined some more issues and outcomes of the private LTE model. “There are two fundamental things. Technology goes on changing. From 3G, to 4G to 5G. So far, we never talked of how we will use 4G. But only with 5G we have started hearing about use-cases. Is there a need to market a use-case? Though 5G is being implemented there is 6G ahead also.” What is also important is to confront security from a preventive stance; and to properly start talking about health and environmental aspects.

The G seems to be endless. Where will this end, we don’t know. But the pots are not at the end of the rainbow but on it. In this colorful path of 4G, 5G, and 6G; Private LTE is a reality and not a fantasy. That’s what Private LTE is morphing into. More so with the low-latency, high experience and holistic impact that it is capable of. If business compatibility, ruggedness, costs, security etc. can be mastered well, that would lead to a good path ahead.

Time to make the most of this turning point.

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