5G is finally going mainstream for industries
Truth is you will find a lot of studies describing the huge potential of 5G to positively impact our society over the next 10 years. It is hard to grasp this in the present, but I am convinced this vision will soon materialize. 5G is an exponential technology and we are just at the start of the curve, which means it is hard to see where it can actually bring us.
But, let’s stick to the facts. 5G is expected to provide 10x the bandwidth, 10x less latency and 100x the device density vs. LTE and at a fraction of the cost. Multiply this, and you will understand that the jump is in fact truly exponential.
Technology cycles in the telecom industry are long, because of the complexity of the value chain, existing oligopolies, changing standards and the hardware requirements needed to deploy these massive countrywide telco networks. But, with the latest advancements in virtualization technology, cloud/edge computing and AI/ML, the telco industry is also being disrupted, barriers to new entrants are dropping, and new approaches allow to dramatically reduce capex and opex. The convergence of these technologies has allowed a significant reduction of the form factor of a network and smaller networks are becoming cost-effective.
Smaller form factors of 5G networks and the need of industries for more automation and to increase resiliency in the VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) environment we live in, have accelerated the trend of private cellular networks worldwide. A private network considers, in very simple terms, bringing a full cellular network on.-premise, typically composed of a core network, a transport network and a radio access network (or RAN). This segment is experiencing growth rates of 70% a year and is expected to become a $200bn market in 2025. If you don’t believe me, see what the Nokia president just posted 2 weeks ago.
Why private 5G Networks
But why is this trend happening? Let’s dive a bit deeper into why private cellular networks are getting so much traction.
The first driver is that Wi-Fi has not been able to cater to the higher requirements of more advanced use cases introduced by the 4th industrial revolution, also dubbed Industry 4.0. Companies willing to implement new low latency and high bandwidth technologies like autonomous robots, AR/VR, massive IoT and advanced AI/ML can’t really rely on Wi-Fi for these mission-critical applications. There are 2 main reasons why this is the case.
First, Wi-Fi runs on unlicensed frequency bands, which means everyone can deploy it anywhere. Just consider, you can even create a network from your smartphone anywhere using the hotspot feature. Because of this open-access feature it is more prone to interference.
Second, because of its architecture (more details in future blog articles) Wi-Fi is not good with handover between antennas. It is easy to imagine how this can become a real safety issue when you have hundreds of autonomous robots moving devices inside a factory.
Cellular technologies like LTE and 5G solve these two issues, but it has been traditionally only in the hands of the mobile network operators (MNOs). Industries don’t want to depend on third parties in such a critical aspect of their operational continuity and that’s exactly why private deployments are growing exponentially. This trend has also been propelled by deep regulatory shifts in countries like US, Japan, Germany and UK, allowing private companies to purchase their own 5G licensed frequencies, eliminating the need of an MNO.
There are three main challenges for companies interested in deploying a private cellular network:
- Dealing with higher costs of cellular technologies and vendor lock-in. This is particularly the case with 5G as we are at the beginning of the cycle with low economies of scale in devices and chipsets. Apart from that a low number of players targeting vendor lock-in can significantly increase costs in the near future
- Getting to the business case that allows management to be convinced about future-proofing their wireless networks
- Managing the higher complexity of cellular networks as compared to Wi-Fi
Our mission at Neutroon is to tackle these challenges to help more companies deploy private cellular networks and equip them with a smart connectivity layer to securely deploy the apps of the future.
What is Neutroon
Neutroon’s is an end-to-end management and orchestration software serving communication service providers (CSPs) and their customers (the IT team inside the factory) to easily set up and manage on-premise private networks supporting LTE, 5G, and WiFi. In simpler words, we allow any company to become its own MNO and be in full control of their private networks.
We are looking to solve the challenges exposed above and democratize private networks:
- Neutroon is a truly vendor-agnostic solution, supporting multiple HW/SW vendors in both the core network and the RAN
- Being able to support LTE and Wi-Fi in the same platform allows Neutroon to complement private 5G deployments with these lower cost options, reducing the cost of redundancies and optimizing TCO
- Neutroon leverages the latest open-source initiatives and state of the art technologies (like kubernetes) to reduce the opex of its own cloud/edge infrastructure
- By including automation and a user interface to the end customer (the IT team in the factory) we also help CSPs be much more competitive in opex and accelerate their go-to-market by offering a lower price entry point for an end-to-end solution, while keeping margins
- One of the coolest things of Neutroon is that it brings together the connectivity layer and the application layer into the same platform. Our customers can simply pick from a marketplace of applications (e.g. video analytics, AI/ML, asset tracking) and deploy these applications at the edge in the network slice they want. Bringing value-added apps and more use cases to the customer is critical to amortize the investment in a private network, generating faster ROIs with more apps running on top of the same smart connectivity
- Cellular networks are more complex and harder to maintain compared to Wi-Fi. This is mostly because it is not a technology that has been created for Enterprise IT, but for national networks. Our goal is to reduce this complexity by abstracting it as much as possible through an intuitive and modern UX and of course powerful automation. For example, slicing a private network with Neutroon (not only in 5G, but also in LTE and Wi-Fi) requires just a few clicks from our customers. More about our unique approach to slicing in this post
Neutroon is the result of more than 5 years of R&D by the i2CAT Foundation in Barcelona, Spain, who has taken a leading role in various European R&D projects leveraging the next generation of 5G technologies that have made Neutroon possible. i2CAT decided to create a spin-off out of the various assets developed over this time period and that is how Neutroon was born.
Bringing Neutroon to what it is today would not have been possible without the hard work of a few dozen engineers working over these past 5 years within i2CAT, and of course their leadership team that decided to bring this technology to the market. Our first investor 5G Ventures led by Alberto Villalobos, Fernando Molina and Jaime Bustillo, has also been instrumental to find our way into the market. And last but not least our current team. Thanks for the hard work and passion for what we are doing at Neutroon!