By Brendan O'Reilly Group Chief Technology Officer, BAI Communications

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This article was first published on The Fast Mode 

For decades, innovation in cellular technology and the demand for its deployment has largely been driven by the needs of individuals.

However, 5G’s capacity and, moreover, its capability to layer advanced technologies such as IoT, data analytics, and AI will be one of the greatest enablers and transformation levers for public and private enterprise we’ve ever seen.

The many potential technology combinations of 5G-powered enterprise applications present an unmissable opportunity for organisations to gain efficiencies, improve security, provide better safeguards for health and safety, and deliver a much better customer experience than ever before.

5G private networks are ideal for enterprises needing to regulate all aspects of their wireless network (e.g., data flow and security), such as operators of venues, campuses, and critical infrastructure. Many of these operators are attaching a data analytics function capable of leveraging 5G infrastructure to provide them with the ability to identify valuable customer and operational insights.

Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the importance of pervasive connectivity and communication technologies for industry as much as it has for individuals, especially for mission-critical sectors such as utilities and where public safety is at risk.

As businesses adjust operating models to account for their new operating environment and the economic fallout of COVID-19, they are addressing existing networking challenges and creating opportunities to revolutionise their operations.

As the 5G roll-out continues and more enterprises capitalise on the next wave of cellular technology, private wireless networks are gaining traction as the preferred infrastructure to meet the increased demand for robust connectivity systems. In fact, a recent forecast from IDC has predicted the private LTE/5G network Infrastructure Market is set to reach US$ 5.7 billion by 2024.

Driving digital transformation and operational efficiency  

There are many industries already benefiting from 5G-enabled private networks, delivering better business performance on several fronts, including reduced costs, increased revenue, improved processes and greater efficiency. Manufacturing and logistics, utilities, mining, and transportation, are some of the early adopters experiencing the operational realities of low latency and high data rates combined with existing digital solutions like advanced analytics, automation, and machine learning.

The most distinct advantage, however, is in network slicing. With 5G, a single private network can operate multiple virtual networks for different applications that can, in turn, be customised with edge computing that makes the other benefits even more effective by processing data near the source. The customisation also supports variance in resourcing needs, fault identification/recovery, and scaling. Applications conducive to slicing include Internet of Things, video surveillance, augmented/virtual reality, automation, energy systems, automated equipment, analytics, phones, and drones.

The security, reliability, speed, mobility, flexibility, efficiency, and coverage i.e., overall higher performance that 5G offers compared to wired ethernet or Wi-Fi makes it a far more attractive option for large-scale enterprises such as operators of large venues and critical infrastructure. It has already begun shaping the future for early adopters of the opportunities that 5G private networks present.

For example, the real-time visibility necessary for airports to prevent delays and ensure operational efficiency makes them perfect candidates for the secure ubiquitous coverage provided by 5G private networks, as they should be leveraging these applications. The technology enables real-time tracking of cargo, luggage, catering, and passenger flows and movements.

Furthermore, the increased digitisation and the sheer volume of data required to keep planes flying and operations on the ground running smoothly requires reliable and secure communications systems to support real-time decision making and management.

This system also provides connectivity services for the venue’s stakeholders, such as airlines and ships, and suppliers. Importantly, on the consumer side it provides fast and secure coverage for citizens as they move around the venue, removing security risks associated with public Wi-Fi networks.

Increased security and public safety

In an age where cyber criminals are more active and deliberate in their actions than ever, having a secure network is one of the highest priorities for enterprises. Increased digitisation and automation, a higher volume of information and operational technology and the greater number of IoT devices connected to a network at any one time, creates a larger potential attack surface.

5G private networks offer strict security and privacy controls. Sector-wide changes including the shift towards renewables has created demand for new communications infrastructure as companies move towards modernising power grids and automating systems. This is where the intrinsic security and reliability of private networks is especially advantageous.

These networks also have an important place in public safety, with robust networks able to detect and protect against threats, authenticate or block devices connecting to the network and support applications like smart CCTV in public spaces like airports, stations, stadiums, and open campuses. Advanced data platforms and analytics capabilities supported by these networks can also help transit authorities in areas such as venue crowd flow and capacity management.

From a service perspective, 5G private networks can also support data to inform real-time and predictive vehicle or equipment monitoring, identifying and even predicting issues such as faults and failures as well as potential efficiency gains through the analytics working the collective anonymised data.

Insights and innovation

Capacity to store enormous amounts of data combined with advanced analytics capability is invaluable for enhancing customer experience. Understanding customer preferences and behaviours in an age of such choice has become a crucial business asset and is only a competitive advantage if you can work the data better than others.

With a strong data analytics function behind the applications supported by 5G private networks, organisations can obtain rich insights into customer behavior that go a long way in helping them to foster stickier relationships, improved customer retention rates and long-term benefits.

In the case of transit operators, that could be interacting with billions of riders a year, knowing and understanding their customers’ behaviour helps them adjust their services to meet their customers’ needs more accurately. For example, knowing where they want to travel and how, where they want to get their coffee in the morning and when they download news or contact people. Thus, sophisticated analytics platforms help operators enhance customer experience.

In short, there’s value in it for everybody if infrastructure and venue operators build these relationships using next-level analytics facilitated by activity from 5G-powered solutions on 5G-enabled networks.

Connectivity underpins almost all functions of an enterprise, no matter to which vertical or industry sector they belong. Transforming the promises of Industry 4.0 into operational reality requires a deliberate shift to prioritise 5G connectivity and access the digital solutions that complement this great technology.

5G powered private networks offer an opportunity for large-scale enterprises to fundamentally change their business operations and ultimately change how we live and work for the better.

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