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Why the Enterprise Needs Private 5G Networks

By Gopikrishnan "Gopi" Konnanath, Infosys SVP and global head of engineering and blockchain services

5G networking is on the cusp of widespread deployment throughout the globe, but even at this stage there is still confusion as to its full impact on the enterprise and the overall digital economy.

The fact is that 5G is a critical element in digital transformation - the transition from mostly manual to fully digital and automated processes - across numerous industry verticals including mining, manufacturing, retail and healthcare, as well as a wide range of critical applications. While speed is certainly a major factor in 5G networks, equally important are its flexibility, reliability and overall operability, all of which combine to give the enterprise a powerful new tool to improve productivity, lower costs, propel business models in new directions and capitalize on emerging opportunities.

But organizations must understand that all 5G is not the same. Just like in the wired world, and in previous generations of wireless technology, there is a clear distinction between public and private 5G networks, and this will be felt most directly by the services directed at enterprise operations as opposed to public-facing applications. In short, public 5G is geared toward consumer services, which will largely be tailored to the network aspects and capabilities made available by the provider, while private networks (some of which will still derive from service provider offerings) allow far greater customization to fulfill specific enterprise needs, whether those needs are for internal consumption, B2B or customer/client delivery.

Not for Sharing

Perhaps the key difference between public and private 5G lies in the fact that while public 5G services occupy a shared network, private 5G is deployed specifically for the enterprise, or at best a collection of enterprises all requiring the same operational footing. This, in turn, allows the network user or users to craft a wide range of unique capabilities ranging from operational features like speed and scalability to functions like security, governance and management. In other words, the private network is the enterprise's to operate and orchestrate, while public networks are charged with serving the widest user base under a common, interoperable format.

Looking at it from an application/service perspective, it becomes easy to see how public and private 5G will differ. Autonomous vehicles (AVs), for one, are widely expected to utilize public 5G, for the simple reason that a single AV must be able to communicate with a broad array of networked devices and platforms in order to provide safe, effective service. To avoid collisions, for example, a vehicle must be able to identify and communicate with other vehicles to gauge speed, position, direction and a wealth of other factors. At the same time, it must reach out to connected road signs, signal lights and the like so as to quickly and efficiently traverse complex routes. And then it must link up to municipal traffic management platforms, emergency services, news and information sources and countless other offerings so as to provide maximum safety, comfort and even entertainment to passengers.

Multiply this by millions of vehicles, including boats, aircraft, drones and who knows what else might become available soon, and it is clear that public 5G not only provides a more efficient, effective means of communication, but mobility as well.

How, then, do private 5G networks fit into all of this?

Imagine a large distribution center populated by hundreds, even thousands, of Automated Guided Vehicles (AVGs) running on the latest artificial intelligence. While it is certainly possible to interconnect them on a public network, private 5G offers a number of distinct advantages.

First, because it is privately owned and operated, the enterprise has much greater control over network speed, scale and range. This brings added security, since its connection to public services is tightly controlled and the enterprise has the leeway to select and customize the security platform that best suits its needs. As well, this network is highly resilient to disruption from non-security-related factors, such as signal interference, malfunction of shared network resources and incompatible systems, software and protocols. These same advantages can be brought to the factory floor, mining and agriculture operations, retail establishments and any other industry that requires connectivity of large numbers of fixed or mobile digital entities.

Rise of the Edge

Private 5G networks also lend themselves very nicely to another major advancement impacting the knowledge workforce: Multi-Access, Edge Computing (MEC). By moving workloads and applications to the edge, organizations are finding that they can not only deliver better service to the knowledge workforce, but do so at lower cost compared to traditional data center infrastructure.

Building MEC architectures on private 5G is both practical and operationally superior given the extra control it provides. With intelligent traffic management and advanced quality of service (QoS) tools, private networks offer critical support to the large, complex workloads that are needed to fulfill most business mandates, both internal and customer-facing. Organizations also benefit from the high bandwidth, low latency and high security that can be implemented more easily and effectively in a private setting.

One key application for this new enterprise edge infrastructure is immersive media - the ability to inhabit a digital world for both work and play. Using edge processing and mixed data sets, both supported by private 5G connectivity, the enterprise brings a new dimension to social media, teleconferencing, service delivery, product marketing and a vast array of other functions. Consumer applications abound as well, particularly at entertainment venues, retail establishments and community events.

Already, some organizations are developing remote worker assistance platforms based on augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR). On factory floors and elsewhere, these tools are helping to train workers on new equipment or streamline operations on traditional lines, with private 5G maintaining the critical connection between multiple user devices and remote servers. Equipment maintenance also benefits from this new paradigm, whether it is an internal system that goes down or something at the customer premises that needs an update or repair. Rather than send a tech specialist to the site, AR/VR can guide local staff through complex procedures quickly and easily.

On the Horizon

Indeed, the ways in which private 5G can revolutionize the enterprise have only just begun to emerge. Infosys is currently conducting trials on applications like safety scanning, in which workers in critical areas can be monitored for improved safety and security, as well as automated valet parking, which can be used at restaurants, hotels and even vehicle assembly plants and sales locations to improve efficiency, reduce damage and make better use of available space.

Drones are also becoming a vital asset in manufacturing, warehousing and other settings, and it is critical that they maintain communication with each other, as well as other devices, employees and remote data and processing resources. Whether it is for just a handful of drones or hundreds, private 5G offers the quickest and easiest route to connectivity and full support of critical applications like warehouse management, security/surveillance, confined space mapping and aerial photography.

Few organizations have the in-house knowledge and experience to effectively implement private 5G networks, of course. This is why partnering with an experienced systems specialist is crucial. There are many pitfalls both in the deployment of wireless networks and integrating them into legacy data environments, and there is no single right way to accomplish this for everyone. Aligning with someone with experience is the best way to streamline the process, largely by avoiding many of the mistakes that have been made elsewhere.

Experienced integration specialists can also craft the optimal mix of solutions and ensure they coordinate data and workflows in ways that enhance key processes, not impede them. And they usually can bring the entire project to fruition at a far lower price point that any single company can hope to do on its own.

Despite the many headlines touting the era of 5G and digital transformation, the fact is that both are in their nascent stages, with even the most cutting-edge enterprise still experimenting with fairly rudimentary deployments. This means it is not too late for the vast majority of enterprises to embark on bold, transformative strategies.

But this won't last forever. Companies that wait too long to implement private 5G and other technologies that support digital transformation will quickly find themselves at the mercy of leaner, more flexible firms capable of surviving and even thriving in an age of expanding markets and tighter margins.

To be on the winning side of the changing economy, enterprises need to start the process of transformation now.

For further information on how private 5G can transform your enterprise, contact Infosys at




Gopikrishnan (Gopi) Konnanath is the Senior Vice President and Global Head – Engineering Services and Blockchain at Infosys. Gopi has over 25 years of professional experience in the technology delivery space with an exceptional track record of incubating and scaling business units within Infosys. Throughout his many years at Infosys, Gopi has played a variety of leadership roles including client management, delivery management and practice management, while delivering business results to clients, through various technology and consulting interventions and leveraging the partner ecosystem.

Published Wednesday, January 11, 2023 7:38 AM by David Marshall
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