Telstra-Ericsson’s private 5G: Industrial and utility uses promised

The system lets organisations deploy their own 4G and 5G cellular networks, replacing a hodgepodge of wired and wireless networks within large facilities.

whirlpool 5g
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Telstra and Ericsson have announced an “industrial grade” on-premises 4G/5G cellular system for organizations to use to deploy their own local, private 4G/5G cellular networks, such as in campuses, manufacturing plants, mines, harbors and airports, utility plants, and agricultural regions. The platform is a combination of hardware and software, but it is not related to SD-WAN. Today, organisations often use a combination of wired Ethernet and wireless Wi-Fi networks, which could be replaced by a singular cellular network.

Huawei announced similar private cellular networks several years ago, said independent telecom analyst Paul Budde, but Huawei did not respond to Computerworld Australia about whether those offerings are available in Australia. In 2019, the Australian government banned Huawei equipment from use in carriers’ 5G networks due to spying concerns. Budde also expects Nokia and Samsung, both major telecom suppliers, to offer similar private 5G networking systems.

Ericsson, which provides the hardware and software, said having both 4G and 5G can mean an easier transition from 4G to 5G when the need or availability arise. Telstra said that its enterprise customers can use their own spectrum or lease Telstra spectrum for their deployments within their operational environments.

Hugh Ujhazy, an IDC vice president for internet of things and telecommunications, said this type of private 5G network product is an area of increased interest from operators and enterprise customers alike. “Private 5G enterprise networks present a compelling technology solution delivering high speed, low latency, and greater capacity,” Ujhazy told Computerworld Australia.

“Today, private 5G cellular networks are best suited in key industry use cases across three main segments: mission-critical environments such as utilities and oil and gas; industrial environments such as mining, manufacturing, transportation, and logistics; and enterprise, which is an emerging opportunity where new use cases are being developed for retail, education, and other market segments,” Ujhazy said. Private 5G will be an innovation engine for enterprises and an enabler and accelerant for the internet of things and edge computing, he added.

In its announcement, Ericsson pointed to three vertical industries where the private 4G/5G system may have early impact, those being: mining, manufacturing, and warehousing.

In mining, Ericsson see enterprises using private cellular for critical connectivity to autonomous haulage systems, autonomous drills, teleremote diggers and dozers, and mission-critical wireless push-to-talk. The product can also support monitoring sensors such as for dust, vibration, and machine status. These would work along with IT-based workforce enablement applications, such as scheduling, managing pick-and-place work, and tracking staff for nearest availability and emergency evacuation.

In manufacturing, the product could support deployment of industrial sensors and connected machinery to get better visibility across the production floor. “Cellular-connected autonomous guided vehicles along with cobots [collaboration robots] are increasingly being seen as a path to increased productivity along with enabling flexibility in production,” the Ericsson spokesperson said.

Warehousing could benefit similarly to manufacturing with support to autonomous vehicles and for asset track and trace.

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