Private networks: A practical industry guide for manufacturing

Private Networks

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We outline key steps that manufacturers must take to drive holistic network transformation. We also highlight the benefits of using private networks, particularly 5G, to drive operational efficiency and enable new use cases.

Connectivity is a key enabler of industry 4.0

The manufacturing industry is experiencing a seismic shift on a global scale. Manufacturers and their IT teams are undertaking a transformative modernisation of applications and enabling technology. Networks of connected intelligent devices (e.g. smart sensors/cameras, intelligent shelves, drones etc.) have ushered in the fourth industrial revolution, Industry 4.0. The data that these Internet of Things (IoT) devices produce presents a significant opportunity for manufacturers to optimise existing operations and develop new capabilities and use cases.

Manufacturers face several constraints, including supply chain difficulties, rising costs and regulation. Alongside managing day to day considerations, manufacturers want to improve production efficiency and ensure that their networks are secure. As their network resources (i.e. applications and compute) become increasingly distributed, their attack surface and vulnerability to data breaches increases.

Navigating the myriad of challenges, tactical and strategic is time consuming and costly. However, if implemented correctly, operational and network technology (machinery, device sensors and the supporting connectivity) can be harnessed to drive production improvements, simplify operations, and secure physical and virtual assets.

To stream and process the quantum of data required by today’s applications and increasingly virtualised edge devices, while driving simplified compliance, IoT/smart devices must be connected by highly reliable, fast, and secure networks. This is leading many manufacturers to re-evaluate their connectivity solutions and the need for private mobile networks to support their needs.

Key considerations for Industry 4.0 and digital transformation

Source: STL Partners

In this paper, we will cover considerations relating to manufacturer application requirements and the underlying connectivity to enable them. Although connectivity is an important piece of the Industry 4.0 puzzle, it is not a silver bullet. To truly succeed and transform their operations and production outcomes, manufacturers must consider their deployment and migration strategy for edge applications and security services. We encourage manufacturers to assess their connectivity solutions at the same time as evaluating their edge application migration and new deployment strategy.

The main focus for this paper will be the LAN, specifically Private 5G. A key finding of our research is that there is still a lack of clarity on what true, dedicated Private 5G is. Only 20% of manufacturers who believe they are using a Private 5G service today are doing so in reality. In this paper we define Private 5G as a dedicated, on-premise cellular network that uses dedicated spectrum (owned or leased) and operating functions.

Table of contents

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
    • Manufacturing industry state of play
  • Evaluation approaches
    • 6 key steps in evaluating onsite connectivity options
    • Step 1: Gather strategic requirements
    • Step 2: Understand application performance targets
    • Step 3: Evaluate connectivity options
    • Step 4: Identify spectrum options
    • Step 5: Assess ecosystem and 5G enabled endpoint availability
    • Step 6: Evaluate vendors and deployment models
  • Conclusion

Related research

Technologies and industry terms referenced include: , , , ,