The appeal of private 5G has companies exploring ways to improve the performance, scalability and flexibility of their mobile networks.
Enterprise adoption of the technology has been slow due to the pandemic and the immature device ecosystem, but that hasn’t stopped early adopters. To help them get started, they turn to service providers, which can include telecommunications companies, private wireless providers, hardware vendors, system integrators and large cloud players.
Here’s how three private 5G deployments have been rolled out.
Sports arena enhances visitor experience with private 5G
The Wells Fargo Center recently rolled out 5G, using Comcast Business to help set up the network. The Philadelphia Arena is home to the Philadelphia Flyers of the National Hockey League, the Philadelphia 76ers of the National Basketball Association, and the Philadelphia Wings of the National Lacrosse League.
The Wells Fargo Center deployment uses a combination of 600 MHz and CBRS spectrum, according to Brian Epstein, head of strategic wireless solutions at Comcast Business. The CBRS component included a combination of CBRS priority access licenses and unlicensed CBRS spectrum with general permitted access.
“The private 5G network was perfectly positioned to deploy small, less intrusive cameras when and where we needed them,” said Phil Laws, general manager at Wells Fargo Center. Previously, the arena used cable connections.
Cameras are used to focus on Gritty, the mascot of the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team, as well as Lou Nolan, the voice of the Flyers for 50 years.
“The 5G camera deployed at his position this season brought his famous ‘power play’ call directly to the videoboard in an organic way that we had never attempted before,” Laws said. “This deployment was seamless, with no need for wiring or any preparation at all. Very point and shoot.”
The network was also tested for use streaming data to LED screens located on the pavement outside the arena. “Traditionally, outdoor displays requiring regular updates were powered using cable networks that fixed them in position forever,” he says. “With this type of deployment, the displays are free to roam where the power can reach them. This will allow us to make adjustments to their use and position depending on the need for an event.”
The Wells Fargo Arena deployment also uses Nokia’s Digital Automation Cloud platform, an end-to-end private wireless network and peripheral computing platform that includes radio, baseband stations and software.
The 5G network is capable of supporting other bandwidth-intensive, low-latency applications, says Comcast’s Epstein. “For example, in streaming video, mobile phones are used to capture HD video that is distributed on dashboard screens,” he says.
A specialist builds a private 5G testbed
MxD built a private 5G network at its innovation manufacturing facility in Chicago with the help of wireless infrastructure company Betacom, which recently added 5G as a service to its suite of offerings. Betacom’s service may include network design and installation, as well as ongoing monitoring and management of security and operations.
MxD is the National Institute for Digital Manufacturing and the National Center for Manufacturing Cybersecurity, which partners with the Department of Defense and about 300 companies, including Boeing, Rolls Royce, Siemens and John Deere.
“We started looking at 5G three years ago,” says MxD technical associate Tony Del Sesto. The first project was using AT&T to create a 5mm wave 5G system. Then, a month ago they went live with a new private 5G network that uses medium-frequency 3.5GHz CBRS spectrum, according to Del Sesto,
The goal is to test both approaches to 5G and allow manufacturing companies to come in and experiment with them, which is important because different 5G frequencies can work differently in factory spaces depending on local physical factors. “It’s difficult for manufacturers to do testing in their own facilities,” says Del Sesto. “Especially when you’re running a business and you can’t shut down your operations.”
Using millimeter waves means working with a telecom, he says, but that doesn’t mean the data has to leave the facility. “Even though it’s on a public network, it can circulate locally in the factory.”
Millimeter waves can offer extremely high speeds and bandwidth. “Shorter wavelengths don’t travel very far through walls,” says Del Sesto. This means that facilities using these shorter wavelengths need more antennas to provide the same coverage.
On the other hand, with CBRS, medium frequency spectrum, the manufacturer doesn’t have to work with a telco, he says, and can manage the system itself. “I’m not going to say one system is better or worse,” he says.
With both options, the factory can replace Ethernet cables with wireless connections, making it easier to move factory lines and enable self-driving vehicles.
The biggest problem for enterprises today, Del Sesto says, is that the tablets, sensors and other IoT devices that factories use aren’t yet 5G ready. It will come, he says. Until then, factories may want to experiment with 5G gateways that collect data from IoT devices via wired connections but transmit to data centers via 5G.
“Putting the sensors on a gateway usually saves you a bunch of money on installation,” he says. “And there is flexibility. If you need to move a factory line, it’s much easier to move the gateway than to reroute the entire Ethernet cable.”
The Australian Football League uses System Integrator
Marvel Stadium, an arena owned by the Australian Football League, has chosen to work with systems integrator Accenture for its private 5G network. Accenture is partnering with Google Cloud and Australian telco Telstra for the rollout, which is set to begin in March 2023.
The private 5G network will allow fans to navigate the stadium using smartphones. They will also be able to raise their phone’s cameras to get information about their environment or access content such as player stats and soccer league advertisements. Other applications include augmented reality (AR) multiplayer games and AR pre-game shows
“Technologies such as 5G, AR and cloud have rich potential to create new and innovative experiences,” said Beren Schultz, Accenture’s director of design and innovation in Australia and New Zealand.
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