Tackling 5 of the big myths surrounding 5G private networks

Tackling 5 of the big myths surrounding 5G private networks

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May 17, 2023
Nick Applegarth

Private Networks article

One of the definitions of the word myth is summed up in the line: ‘a widely held but false belief or idea’. Applying this description to the world of 5G network connectivity, there are certainly a number misconceptions that need to be addressed. Which is why we’ve picked 5 of the more common fallacies, and placed them under the proverbial ‘microscope of truth’. So, let's get started:

Myth #1: 5G networks are the best option for EVERYTHING

Not always. The sweet spots for 5G are around latency, speed, and mobility – which are ideal for a wide range of use cases:

  • Consistent low latency for example is critical for autonomous vehicles, safety systems and augmented reality
  • Speed of data transmission is a basic ‘must have’ for applications that rely heavily on video
  • Mobility (specifically seamless handover) is needed when people and things are moving over a large area or at speed – such as when vehicles are navigating an airport or a shipping port environment

What makes 5G stand out in these scenarios is that its base stations can transmit at a higher power than Wi-Fi access points. As a result, fewer base stations are needed to cover a given area, which in turn helps increase any solution’s overall reliability. But that doesn’t mean it’s ideal for every application being used.

As a case in point, take the average office. Here, connectivity revolves around devices like laptops and printers – which typically means Wi-Fi. This standard go-to connectivity solution is also great for employee connectivity (in small buildings), and for enabling mobility across areas of limited size (traversed by people on foot and/or slow-moving vehicles). Plus, Wi-Fi remains relatively inexpensive and well understood by customers and integrators alike.

In other use cases though, we’ve found that connecting to a 5G public mobile network is the only viable option, particularly when high data throughput is needed. Just keep in mind though that such a move can require the installation of dedicated coverage on site from your mobile operator to make it possible.

Myth #2: A 5G network leads to business transformation

This is the myth of the silver bullet: that 5G alone can unleash a dynamic new working reality. It will help of course, but predominantly in an enabling role.

Instead, and as experience teaches, the real value of using 5G lies in the applications you choose to run on it. These include various types of robotics (e.g., communications for autonomous vehicles), security and safety applications, flexible deployment of video analytics (for quality and process control), and many more.

Each application (or use case) carries with it a financial benefit, in terms of working faster, smarter, and safer. What’s more, there’s often a single ‘killer app’ that once optimised for performance can help to quickly justify any further investment in 5G. From that point on, it then becomes easier to demonstrate the incremental improvements possible with other apps – and what that means for your overall business case.

Myth #3: all industrial devices are universally available on a 5G network

They’re not. The truth here is that in the wake of every new 5G release comes the need for manufacturers to slowly build up an ecosystem of supporting devices – which in turn helps speed their adoption and increase choice. Progress takes time.

It’s also worth noting that certain specialised devices that exist on 4G, as well as on WiFi, are not yet available with 5G. For example:

  • 4G remains strong in the areas of predictive maintenance, device tracking & monitoring, digital signage, and reefer monitoring
  • Whereas 5G is better placed supporting use cases such as push-to-video, AR/VR, remote control machinery, and video geofencing

However, the situation is changing fast, with new 5G-enabled devices and modules being launched all the time. So, it really is a case of “watch this space…”

Myth #4: 5G networks are already optimised for autonomous vehicles and remote control

When it comes to low latency communications, 5G is a ‘work in progress’. Like all other standards, the technology is constantly evolving through a development lifecycle - with each new release helping unlock a set of additional features and (through these) unique capabilities.

What’s more, even when a new feature becomes available (such as Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communications – URLLC), there is still a lag as device manufacturers incorporate it into their products through software upgrades. That said, current versions of 5G will be just fine in some settings – just make sure you get the right advice, from someone who’s done it before – and can be trusted to not over-promise.

Myth #5: 5G private networks are super secure by design

The good news here is that a private network is super secure. Indeed, having 5G-enabled devices engaging over a 5G network in a 5G language is a hacker’s nightmare. However, the network itself doesn’t exist in isolation of the wider IT environment. Any device connecting to it, could by itself offer a potential back door for circumnavigating the security features contained in that wider IT environment. These attack vectors are myriad, ranging from a lost laptop to even (as a casino discovered a few years ago) a connected fish tank. What matters is that if they’re talking to the network and can be hacked, then they represent a potential vulnerability to your operations.

To protect against these threats, Three Group Solutions are adept at working with our customers’ IT teams and select security partners (many of whom have launched 5G-specific security products), to design solutions that will secure your mission-critical data on 5G.

So that’s it: 5 myths and 5 responses - from an organisation that’s done it before with 4G, 5G and Wi-Fi solutions.

If you agree or disagree with the 5, have others to add, or want to discuss their implications, please get in touch.