Wireless networks are no longer just operational technology. Today, these networks have the ability to accelerate digital transformation, pushing organisations beyond traditional connectivity and into the next generation.
Many forward-thinking enterprises are exploring how private 5G wireless networks can create more value for their organisation. These networks offer real-time data analytics, greater control and independence from telecom providers, enhanced security, boosted worker safety and productivity, as well as acting as a conduit for data that enables AI, ML and other technological innovations.
Private 5G networks also eliminate concerns over bandwidth and network coverage, as their network isn’t shared with tens of thousands of other subscribers. And usage is growing rapidly, with the global private cellular network market predicted to expand from $1.83 billion in 2021 to $6.32 billion by 2026.
The power of 5G for Industry 4.0 and retail
As it stands today, mission-critical sectors like the manufacturing, petrol, gas and energy industries have been the most successful in deploying private 5G networks. The manufacturing sector accounts for around a third of all 5G and private network deployments.
In these industrial spaces, highly secure and private networks enable connected and automated operations, which enhances process efficiencies and cost savings. Private networks also help eliminate connectivity black spots, providing a strong and stable signal within sites that are difficult to reach with traditional networking infrastructure.
While the manufacturing industry has been leading the pack so far, 2023 will see private 5G networks tested and used across a number of other industries, with the retail sector taking the lead. After the Covid-19 pandemic forced the retail industry to digitally transform and meet evolving consumer needs, private wireless and edge will be the key to unlocking the next generation of shopping.
By utilising these private 5G networks, retailers will have access to quality real-time data, enabling them to quickly respond to shifts in customer behaviour, adjust to competitive challenges, carry out predictive maintenance and optimise the supply chain. All these advancements ultimately lead to a richer and more personalised experience for customers, as well as a streamlined employee experience.
Looking beyond retail
Other industries are also now positioned to adopt private wireless and edge networks, including transportation, logistics, finance and healthcare – all sectors which, despite traditionally being late technology adopters, have a keen focus on increasing productivity and cutting business costs.
One such example in the transportation industry is Dallas Love Field Airport, which kicked off a test base for a 5G private network in 2021. Acting as its own ‘smart city’, the test base has since expanded to encompass the entire airport, with the technology department considering additional 5G implementations within cameras, lighting, smart vehicles, and IoT devices.
Facing mounting budgetary pressures, healthcare services in the UK are also looking for ways to efficiently transfer data across departments in real-time. Bethlem Royal Hospital in Beckenham became the first hospital in the UK to trial the use of a private 5G network in 2022, aiming to improve the monitoring of pharmaceuticals and the speed of staff communications. A private 5G network provides superior connectivity over legacy Wi-Fi networks, which will lead to quicker response times and test result transmissions.
In addition, private 5G networks allow for the safer transfer of confidential patient information between staff, helping healthcare providers to meet compliance requirements like HIPAA in the US and GDPR in the UK.
Private wireless network adoption
Despite the benefits that private networks provide, business leaders can be reluctant when it comes to adoption, with many believing that it requires a complete digital infrastructure overhaul. To navigate this network integration process, as well as the protection of company and customer data, enterprises need to be open to interweaving technologies to ensure that their unique needs and priorities are met.
When it comes to connectivity, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, so it’s essential to select a partner with unparalleled expertise that can fill any knowledge gaps and help build the most beneficial and personalised solution.
To fully capture the capabilities of connectivity, such as Industrial IoT (IIoT), machine learning, and AI, cloud networking is often implemented alongside private wireless networks. With a great deal of companies now virtualising network infrastructure and providing it as a service to enterprises, the need for a solid direct-to-enterprise channel is becoming more prevalent. Demand to integrate the connectivity with managed services is therefore set to increase over the next 12 months, and enterprises will need the right assistance to manage these multi-networks efficiently.
We’re only just beginning to see the benefits that private 5G networks will enable across all industries – lower total cost of ownership, advanced security and authentication methods, robotics, connected cameras, automation, and, perhaps most crucially, a lower carbon footprint. And while private 5G networks may be just a building block of the future of connectivity, 2023 will see countless enterprises and industries take this vital first step.