Promising: One of the hottest topics in technology today is the concept of private 5G networks. The idea behind this is to bring the high bandwidth and low latency capabilities of 5G to private businesses, enabling them to create new applications that have the speed and reliability of wired networks, as well as the flexibility and security inherent in cellular networks. , wireless connections.
Pretty much every major tech company seems to have talked about how they can help enable private 5G through chips, hardware, or some element of the many types of software required to implement such a solution. However, during the re: Invent presentation last week, Amazon AWS was able to assemble all the necessary elements in an amazing and potentially revolutionary new offering called AWS Private 5G…
The new AWS service leverages the huge cloud computing resources of the company and its pay-as-you-go business in the form of a solution that allows companies to turn on a new 5G network in days, rather than the months that would normally be required.
Amazon supplies antennas and other RAN (radio access network) equipment and SIM cards used to connect devices to the network, and then uses its Open RAN software and Outpost on-premises computing hardware to provide businesses with everything they need to get started. Reasonable, since all cellular networks require the use of radio frequency radio frequency spectrum, Amazon has decided to use the freely available portion of the CBRS (Civil Broadband Radio Service) GAA (Public Access) as a means of delivering wireless signals to the network.
While several important details remain to be determined and some important questions remain unanswered, at first glance, this combination seems like a very solid proposition that makes launching a private 5G network much easier.
Until now, one of the main stopping points for private cellular networks of any type has been the cost and complexity of building them. The cost of gaining access to only licensed RF spectrum has been devastating for most organizations that have considered the concept. Using the relatively new and freely available CBRS bands (which range from 3.5 to 3.7 GHz in the US, very close to the much coveted C-Band spectrum, also known as mid-range, which the major US carriers are about to launch), Amazon and companies that decided to try this service completely avoid these costs.
Another major challenge for companies looking to use private 5G (or 4G) networks is the complexity of the hardware and software required to manage the network. Unlike corporate Wi-Fi networks, which have developed simple network management tools, managing cellular networks is a special skill that few people outside of the major carriers have. This is partly why most organizations with private 5G networks (or aspirations) start their conversations with carriers or other organizations with extensive experience with carriers. It’s just not something that most businesses want (or know how) to deal with.
At the same time, one of the things that differentiates 5G from 4G is the ability to do more computing on the network itself. For example, many edge applications are essentially artificial intelligence applications that run on the “edge” of the wireless network. As a result, since major carriers have less experience in this area, most have started partnering with cloud providers (e.g. Verizon with AWS, AT&T with Microsoft Azure, etc.) to help bring the 5G wireless and cloud worlds together. calculations.
Private 5G networks are expected to be one of the biggest revenue opportunities for telecom operators. Some even called it the first “killer app” for 5G.
This is why this new AWS Private 5G offering is so intriguing. AWS started with its cloud-based legacy, built the software tools needed to run telecom-centric workloads, and then combined it all together with one piece it didn’t originally have – antennas and RAN hardware – to create a complete solution.
To be clear, AWS is partnering with RAN hardware vendors rather than building their own hardware as part of their offering. However, the company has yet to reveal who these partner companies are. This is the opposite of the traditional concept of operators offering wireless services and then getting the computing partners they need, which they have clearly begun to do. Intel, Nvidia, Qualcomm, Dell, HPE, Cisco and many more. all started with carriers.
It also reflects the speed at which cloud providers can build solutions and possibly get rid of carrier partners altogether. In many ways, Amazon’s pay-as-you-go model is more attractive for something like a private 5G network than its compute model, due to the large upfront capital costs that private networks typically require.
As cloud providers have ramped up their telecommunications-related efforts over the past few years (primarily in terms of network operations), a proposal like AWS Private 5G has been a long-term target for a few large cloud players, but first, it did happen (although I certainly expect other major cloud providers to follow suit). Amazon has indeed stated that it will be able to connect to the public networks of the major carriers and therefore partner with them, so I really expect an intersection to occur. However, this should be a wake-up call for telecom operators.
As wonderful as AWS Private 5G may seem, a few uncertainties remain. First, while potential interference and network congestion is not an issue right now because there is still very little use of the GAA portion of CBRS, as with Wi-Fi and other unlicensed spectrum, if enough companies decide to use it, these problems may arise. Of course, cellular communication extends over much longer distances than Wi-Fi, so the problems are not identical. However, they are worth considering.
Second, while Amazon’s having SIMs for connected devices seems beneficial, it raises questions about how to use devices that already have SIMs on those networks, just like any active smartphone in the world. In some situations, private cellular networks require devices to have multiple SIM cards so that they can be used on both private and existing public cellular networks. The eSIM capabilities of modern phones can be used to overcome some of these problems, but questions still remain about how to provision and manage these existing devices with SIM cards.
Finally, important questions still remain about which types of applications require private 5G and which other types might also work well (and are easier to manage) on something like the new WiFi 6E network. There are many industries, including manufacturing, healthcare, and others, for which the security or latency benefits of cellular versus Wi-Fi are clear, but more needs to be done in others.
Probably the most interesting result of the AWS Private 5G announcement is that it will accelerate discussion and early deployment of the technology. There seem to be many interesting potential applications, but we won’t know for sure until more companies start rolling out their own private 5G networks.
Bob O’Donnell – Founder and Principal Analyst TECHnalysis Research, OOO a technology consulting company that provides strategic consulting and market research services to the high-tech industry and the professional financial community. You can follow him on Twitter @bobodtech…