Industrial 5G Private Networks: A Golden Opportunity for System Integrators

ASOCS is disrupting the industrial network connectivity market with an open and virtualized software solution that delivers 5G private mobile network solutions in a single software stack.After a few false starts, Industry 4.0 is finally moving from theory to reality. The manufacturing industry is on the cusp of another revolution, one that is expected to deliver never-before seen levels of agility and efficiency. The key driver of this change is the increasing maturity of several  technologies including Artificial Intelligence (AI) and 5G (more on how 5G is an Industry 4.0 enabler here).

Along with its many benefits to industrial manufacturing, one of characteristics of 5G Private Networks is that a network operator’sinvolvement is not mandatory in its deployment. 5G has the potential to fundamentally change the network supply chain and delivery model.This reshuffling of power offers system integrators aunique opportunity to significantly increase their share of the wireless connectivity pie.

The billion-dollar question about Open RAN – who’s going to put things back together again?

One of the much-anticipated aspects of 5G is that it is software based and cloud-native,creating a separation of hardware from software. In addition, interfaces between the different network components have been standardized. The last and most difficult part of the network to open upwas the Radio Access Network (RAN).

This openness creates an unprecedented ability to disaggregate cellular networks,resulting in the fact that different hardware and software components in the network can be delivered by different vendors.

Another trend that is changing the network delivery model is private-shared spectrum. More and more countries are allocating spectrum exclusively for industrial use. Industrial manufacturers can now license spectrum directly and build their own networks using best-of-breed components.

With so many hardware and software components thrown into the mix, someone needs to build the end-to-end network, manage it and make sure that everything works together smoothly and securely. Yet industrial manufacturing enterprises don’t necessarily have the expertise (or desire) to do so.

In many of the Industrial private 5G-network PoCs and deployments that we’ve seen to date, network operators have displayed that they don’t necessarily have the specific expertise to outfit private 5G networks for industry. One such example is Air France’s experience deploying private 5G networks:

“They did not know the enterprise environment very well,” said Christian Regnier, Air France’s enterprise technical architect for critical wireless, “They” being the network vendors who worked on the Paris airport private network. “There is a need for combining business expertise with radio expertise.”

The opportunity for system integrators with specific industry and enterprise expertise to lead private 5G network deployment is waiting for those with the knowledge and initiative to grab it.

With Open RAN and 5G, system integrators can deliver entire private networks composed of equipment from a myriad of different vendors. These private networks will be best of breed, and optimized for specific industrial manufacturing use cases. System integrators can deliver not just equipment, but also plan the system architecture and radio while developing a management interface to administrate, orchestrate and secure it all.

A Bigger Role Equals a Bigger Share of the Pie

Specialized system integrators are well-positioned to generate significant profits with private 5G networks for industrial manufacturers.

According to Grandview Research, the 5G system integration market is expected to reach over $31B in 2027, with 5G for Industry being the fastest growing sector.

System integrators already working with industrial manufacturing enterprises have the subject matter expertise required to maximize the potential of Industry 4.0. They understand the particular needs of their customers as well as the machines, production lines, and the other industry 4.0 technologies.

Forward-looking system integrators that are quick to realize the opportunity of 5G can deepen and expand relationships with existing clients and generate new revenue streams. This new revenue will come from building and operating fully functional best-of-breed 5G private networks using equipment from multiple vendors. The integration and ongoing maintenance of the tailormade network will be completely transparent to the customer. A further revenue stream will be consulting services that help industrial manufacturers realize the full potential of 5G and Industry 4.0.

Tips for System Integrators Delivering 5G Private Networks

ASOCS has already gained significant experience deploying 5G networks for industrial manufacturers. Drawing on this experience, we’ve put together a few guidelines for system integrators to help create value with 5G private networks for industry.

  • Understand your value.Your greatest value is your understanding of industrial processes, technological and business settings. Your value isn’t just connecting hardware and software and making it work, but rather making sure that 5G is used to maximize the operation.
  • Take a gradual, measured approach. Many of the projects in the first wave of 5G failed or didn’tmeet their goals because they attempted to replace the entire network. Instead of fully replacing an existing network, system integrators should initially provide value with an SA 5G network serving a single use case. This will give customers time to understand the benefits and realize the new possibilities enabled by 5G.
  • Target low hanging fruit. Later, as the technology improves and clients begin to trust the new technology, the entire local network can be replaced. Target a simple self-contained 5G powered use cases to promote to customers.
    The ASOCS team recently deployed a private 5G network to connect an electriccard inspecting machine to a new machine learning visual inspection layer. This enabled the machine to find defects it was previously unable to detect. In the past, the factory needed to replace the entire machine to gain these capabilities; with 5G they simply added a new layer of technology, achieving the same outcome faster, with lower risks and at a fraction of the price.
    In our experience, use cases that are great for rapid 5G value include:
    • Holistic equipment location.
    • AI based visual inspections
    • Automated guided vehicles (AGVs)
  • Know your competitors – address the strengths of incumbent vendors. The most significant competition will come from incumbent vendors with closed systems that spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) about open systems. Your solution will be compared against built in and pre-tested SLAs and security benchmarks. Be prepared to give answers that display your solution’s ability to meet these critical KPIs.
  • Counterattack with business value.Remember that your strength lies in understanding your customers’ business. Move the conversation to use cases and business KPIs. One way to do just that is to leverage flexible business models that allow for scaling as 5G matures. 5G is still evolving and new capabilities and products will arrive. During this period, a powerful differentiator vis-à-vis incumbent vendors would be leveraging a SaaS revenue model. Offer clients a product roadmap that provides a baseline system with options to integrate new, breakthrough capabilities that are sure to come in the next few years. Such a business model is much more suitable than one that sells a monolithic system of hardware equipment with maintenance fees on top.

Seize the Opportunity

The advent of 5G is accelerating Industry 4.0 realization. Traditional network operators are challenged to provide the pinpoint expertise required to maximize the benefits of 5G in industrial manufacturing use cases. Luckily for us, network disaggregation and the fact that countries are allocating specific frequencies for industrial use means that system integrators have a unique opportunity to deploy the private 5G networks that will power Industry 4.0

To help you get started, ASOCS has created an 5G private network Evaluation Kit – a full-fledged 5G NR standalone network, complete with devices that can fit on a desk. All you have to do is plug it in and turn it on.

For more details on the 5G Evaluation Kit, click here

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