Telcos start deploying private 5G networks to boost revenues

NEW DELHI : Telecom operators are starting to deploy private 5G networks for enterprise customers about three months after the commercial launch of 5G services.

Such networks are dedicated to a particular company that runs it on its own or in partnership with a telecom operator or equipment provider.

They operate separately from public networks, which frees enterprises from concerns such as low bandwidth availability that can impact operations.

With the deployment of 5G networks, private 5G networks are expected to become a key source of revenue for telcos. According to a March 2022 report by market researcher International Data Corporation (IDC), global revenue from private 5G wireless infrastructure is expected to jump to $8.3 billion by 2026 from $1.7 billion in 2021.

Deployments in India will be part of this overall market.

For instance, last month, Apollo Hospitals announced carrying out an artificial intelligence (AI)-guided colonoscopy procedure with the required image processing carried out in real time using the hospital’s private 5G network, deployed by telecom firm Bharti Airtel.

This was one of the first use cases of private 5G networks in India. Separately, Airtel, in collaboration with IT firm Tech Mahindra, deployed a private 5G network for Mahindra & Mahindra’s automobile plant in Chakan, Pune.

“We are currently engaged with a number of big corporations in industries spanning manufacturing, mining, automotive, healthcare, and oil and gas,» Ganesh Lakshminarayanan, chief executive of Airtel Enterprise Business,told Mint.

Meanwhile, Swedish telecom gear maker Ericsson has created a new unit called Business Area Enterprise Wireless Solutions to handle private network solutions for B2B and B2B2C customers.

Ericsson acquired enterprise US 4G and 5G solutions provider Cradlepoint in 2020, and is using the company’s services to provide private 5G solutions to enterprises.

Nitin Bansal, managing director, India and head of networks, Southeast Asia, Oceania, and India at Ericsson, said the services extend to all markets, including India.

A feature of 5G networks called network slicing is used for providing such solutions. This allows firms to create dedicated virtual networks on demand for temporary ultra-low latency use cases. A private 5G network is also more secure than a public 5G network as it is closed, one of the reasons for them being preferred by companies for secure deployments in factories, etc.

Bansal said the initial use case of a private 5G network will focus on gaining operational flexibility, efficiencies, and reliability. “For instance, the manufacturing sector may look at 5G for introducing solutions like smart manufacturing, massive Internet of Things (IoT), and robotic process automation (RPA) to achieve greater efficiencies, flexibilities, and quality,» he said, adding manufacturing, healthcare, education, media and entertainment, and energy and utilities sectors are actively leveraging 5G technology.

To be sure, private 5G networks in India will be deployed through millimeter wave frequency bands, which were auctioned at the 5G auctions last year.

India auctioned spectrum in the 24 to 100GHz bands, which provide greater bandwidth and frequency, allowing faster data transfer rates.

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