Tony Stoddard
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The 5G Dilemma: Public or Private?

March 3, 2020
As manufacturers explore embracing 5G, they need to consider what model makes the most sense for their organizational needs.

The private versus public debate has been an ongoing discussion within the IT space for many years as organizations have steadily moved their applications and data into cloud environments.  A similar discussion is now surfacing as manufacturers look to reap the rewards of leveraging 5G wireless technology.

It’s important to understand the driving force behind the growing push to pursue the private network route, explains Qualcomm Sr. Director, Product Management Patrik Lundqvist. Simply put, control is often the biggest motivation.

“When OT industries deploy anything in their facilities, they want to have full control over the whole process. With this big trend towards machine learning and AI, there is a goal to collect as much data as possible, while also applying machine learning to improve efficiencies and profitability,” he says. “But that also means that the collected data is an asset for them. As such, they want to make sure that data doesn't leave their control. The idea that private networks create an environment where you can actually keep the data on the premises is an important concept.”

Limiting the potential for performance issues is often a secondary motivation, especially as 5G networks grow in acceptance. Manufacturers understandably do not want to be in a situation where they are depending on continued changes to an operators’ public network.

What’s the right private model?

“There are numerous models, and it's going to be very excited to see which of these will be the most prevalent,” says Lundqvist. As a technology provider, a chipset provider, as well as small cell provider, Qualcomm is in a position to support them all.

One deployment model is that the operator, who is an expert in acquiring, operating and deploying wireless networks, could offer the private networks on an as-a-service basis. It would mean they operate as an independent network, but it's managed by the operator. In this case the operator has the spectrum. The question here is which provider offers the best options.

There are also models including unlicensed spectrum, creating an opportunity for anybody to deploy a private network. Some regions also have dedicated spectrum where businesses can apply for a local spectrum to power their industrial IoT applications.

“The upcoming release of 5G also provides architectural support for different combinations of private and public network where manufacturers can elect to share different core network aspects and combine that with network slicing and virtualization,” he says.

Cost differences will undoubtedly play a key role in deciding which model.

Understanding the next release

While the deployment model is a crucial question for manufacturers, 5G's continued development intensifies its value within the smart factory environment. The next release for 5G expands support to new verticals including the industrial sector. Specifically, new capabilities focus on industrial IoT including enhanced output, reliable low latency communication and time sensitive networking – crucial components when supporting industrial automation.

Today’s manufacturers depend on a very high-performance communication link that controls every device from A to Z. As IoT grows, the ability to support mission critical applications with ultra-reliable, low latency communication is a necessity.

“That's the link that has been the most difficult to make wireless, and that's what we are doing in the next release of 5G. What's exciting is that the requirements are not coming from the wireless industry, it's actually the OT industry that has defined the requirements what is needed for different applications within the manufacturing industrial automation space.,” says Lundqvist. “It includes reliability up to 99.9999%, which is one packet out of the million with maybe one millisecond latency. Those are extreme requirements that have not been previously possible with wireless. 5G also adds native support for the IEEE protocol focused on creating a very tightly tied synchronized system needed for industrial automation.” 

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