"5G Private Networks" as the theme of the 112th TechDay

24/03/2021     5G / TechDays

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The 112th TechDay promoted by Altice Labs took place on the 10th of  March, this time on the topic of 5G private networks.

Moderated by Isabel Borges, from the Technology and Innovation Strategy department of Altice Labs, this session, which was entirely online, had the participation of Luís Lamela, responsible for the GoLabs laboratory of Altice Portugal, Pedro Freitas, responsible for the coordination of the Data and Internet Communication Services Product Management team, in the Product and Pre-sales Department of Altice Portugal, Professor Rui Aguiar, from the University of Aveiro, and also Nelson Ferreira, responsible for the global Manufacturing Digitalization team and strategy of Bosch Thermotechnology. For 2 hours, the more than 170 participants had the opportunity to know a little more about the functional and business expectations associated with this technological scenario.

Isabel Borges began by giving an overview of the evolution of 5G, presenting some examples of verticals and sectors that may benefit from it. Next, supported on the reason why private networks are relevant, their main requirements and their main advantages, Isabel Borges talked about who will be able to fully benefit from them and what Altice Labs has to offer them within this line of research.

Luís Lamela, from the operator's perspective, and referring to some more technical aspects, highlighted the opportunities ahead and how they may effectively solve the problems of users of these networks. In his opinion, high availability, high reliability and performance, low latency and especially interoperability between solutions will be the differentiating factors that 5G will bring to its private networks, allowing multiple architectures and tools that will optimize the services to be supported by customers. For Luís Lamela, according to the application scenario and the required services, there will be several possibilities being crucial, first of all, to correctly define the problem to be addressed to ensure the most adequate response by the operator, which may include network slicing, edge computing, hybrid architecture, etc.

Nelson Ferreira, in turn, presented the Augmanity project (in which Altice Labs is a partner), the benefits that this brings to Bosch Thermotechnology, as well as the reasons why 5G was the chosen technology to explore in this project focused on Industry 4.0. Considering the services it enables, more specifically Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLL) and enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB), it was clear that the 5th generation technology for mobile networks is the one that best ensures robust communications, in real time and with the ability to support several different wireless protocols that are regularly used simultaneously in the factory floor. Thus, and considering the project’s use cases: a) sensing equipment and machines for data acquisition with high sampling rates; b) real-time video/AR/VR services; c) development of flexible production systems, where it is expected to transfer controllers from the equipment to the cloud, the consortium has already identified some challenges that any industry should consider before moving forward to the development of a 5G private network, such as the necessary skills, still scarce given the novelty of the subject, the associated business model, given the absence in Portugal of an active network spectrum in the context of 5G, and operational issues on the factory floor, such as indoor geolocation, the acceptable cost of the devices, the battery and the absence of 5G SDK.

Next, Professor Rui Aguiar started his intervention by posing a set of questions that aimed to clarify what differentiates 5G private networks from other existing private networks, moving towards the inevitable concern that any new technology, 5G being no exception, has to contribute to a sustainable development of societies as well as to the fulfilment of the European Commission's European Ecological Pact. Reinforcing that automation is an increasing demand from everyone, Rui Aguiar stressed that in order to obtain real value from 5G private networks it is necessary to clearly define the associated operational model, the way how resources will be optimized through private or public networks, the regulation of private networks, among other issues that remain open.

Finally, the last speaker of this session, Pedro Freitas, and summarizing everything that had been said, started by highlighting the beginning of 5G and the fact that, since its conception, its focus has been the end-user experience, stating that its characteristics, mainly those related to efficiency and latency, will allow the operator to design new business models, in some cases generating new revenue sources. In this aspect, the change from B2B to B2B2C business models is paradigmatic. In his opinion, 5G being a means to the digital transition process, it represents an opportunity for industries to modernize. To this end, operators should be seen as partners whose infrastructural and integration capacity and know-how will allow them, among others, to design and have access to a single network for different services that facilitates integration between equipment and robots, while allowing different and optimized plant floor layouts.

The session ended with the usual moment for Q&A, where participants could put their questions to the speakers.

If you didn't have the opportunity to watch it, check out the recording on Altice Labs' Youtube channel.

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