The time is now for private network adoption

Written by Sophie James on 23 May 2022 in Opinion
Opinion

New forms of infrastructure can help improve public services, according to Sophie James of techUK

Credit: Pete Linforth/Pixabay

Technology innovation continues to be a precious ally of the UK’s economy – artificial intelligence, machine learning, quantum, and many more innovations are instrumental to economic growth.

Amidst the wide range of technologies now available, one in particular is set to provide great benefits, not only to the UK economy, but to the businesses and public sector entities utilising it: advanced private networks.

But, first: what is a private network – how does it work, and why is it so instrumental to enterprise and public sector?

In simple terms, a private network is a communications infrastructure that is used exclusively for serving the needs of an end-user organisation. They are built from a combination of fixed technologies, based on copper and fibre connectivity, and wireless connectivity, provided by a variety of technologies, including 5G and WiFi.

The mobility benefits of dedicated private networks mean increased worker safety, especially in challenging or hazardous environments, including ports, mines, and offshore facilities.

In the tech industry, we are seeing private network adoption increasing at pace, bolstered by a healthy and vibrant ecosystem of operators, suppliers, system integrators, and security experts, and the technologies now being within reach from an economic perspective for both SMEs as well as bigger companies.

However, further and enhanced adoption would enable new and transformative technologies for enterprise, helping to unlock efficiencies and advanced intelligence, and strengthening the security of organisations.

In collaboration with industry, techUK therefore decided to write a user guide to empower prospective private network users as they begin their innovation journey, helping to increase their understanding the opportunities of the advanced communications services available today and outlining the four key benefits.

Unlocking intelligence
First of all, private networks increase productivity and efficiency by unlocking intelligence for enterprise through sensory networks. The use of private networks helps users capture data in real time, identify fixes to reduce downtime, and reduce costs.

Furthermore, linking an advanced private network with cloud-based infrastructure can enable a number of digital applications and services to be unlocked. These include wide-area mobility for autonomous and remote-controlled operations: from smart manufacturing, the use of drones and autonomous vehicles, AI, machine vision, edge computing and augmented reality – opening a new set of use cases for other sets of tech innovations.

On the topic of technology innovations, private networks adoption can support the deployment of a new ecosystem of connected Internet of Things devices across multiple industry sectors, not only enabling manufacturers to increase the number of sensors fitted to equipment, but also enabling them to collect more data and measure more important variables.

Last, but certainly not least, the mobility benefits of dedicated private networks mean increased worker safety, especially in challenging or hazardous environments, including ports, mines, and offshore facilities. Bespoke connectivity solutions designed to operate in hazardous locations ensure radio and phone communication, help control bandwidth for worker communication and can integrate safety and maintenance apps into operational systems.

The growth of private 4G and 5G networks – along with recent advances in both WiFi technology and satellite communications – have seen a raft of innovative testbeds and proof-of-concept exercises for enhanced private networks for enterprise and the public sector. This year presents a unique opportunity for accelerated adoption.

For public sector organisations this means that public services can be improved and adapted thanks to private networks. A local school, large university campus, or community care facility – all stand to benefit from advanced communications services. 

 

Private networks: a new user guide by techUK can be read here

 

About the author

Sophie James is head of telecoms and spectrum policy at techUK.

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