Blog · 05 Mar 2021

How have the Edge and Private 5G become inextricably linked?

5G is game-changing for manufacturing and healthcare.

Andy Rowland
Head of digital manufacturing

Private 5G is the new hot topic

4G was all about enhanced mobile broadband, and spawned a host of new applications, such as Uber and Spotify. But 5G is all about mission-critical applications, and I mean ‘critical’: things like remote surgery, driverless cars and massive machine-type communications. Yes, you can buy 5G phones, and they’ll give you an improved experience, but the real interest is in Private 5G.

Applications, such as Mixed Reality (MR) Autonomous Guided Vehicles (AGVs), haptics and co-Robotics are where it’s at. Private 5G offers low latency, high bandwidth and high availability. It’s a game-changer for two sectors in particular – manufacturing and healthcare – and the coronavirus has without doubt given this technology its opportunity.   

Private 5G in today’s world

‘Remote’ is the word of the moment for every 5G application.

Currently, manufacturers can’t fly experts in to fix things, so staff are using Augmented Reality (AR) headsets, enabling remote experts to guide them. Logistics companies, meanwhile, are typically worried about their warehouse staff being exposed to Covid-19, so they’re interested in AGVs that they can drive remotely. And in the medical world, doctors are being pushed to undertake more remote consultations, so they’re using AR for an immersive experience, or haptics gloves to direct paramedics – as trialled by Birmingham University Hospital for ultrasound scans.

In all these cases, latency and reliability are critical – and that’s where 5G comes in. Using an AR headset with too much latency will make you feel nauseous; driving an AGV with too much latency creates a health and safety hazard. And doing a remote medical intervention with too much latency… well, I think you get the picture!        

Private 5G and the Edge go hand in hand

Private 5G doesn’t need access to the public network, and is often used indoors in factories, warehouses, and hospitals where the public 5G signal would struggle anyway.

Our private network solutions provide flexibility at the Edge, with updates from the cloud as needed. We also make sure the Edge devices are highly optimised, as we’re effectively squeezing the control plane and user plane for a 5G RAN (Radio Access Network) into a couple of small servers. Our solutions also come with small cells that you can install, like Wi-Fi hot spots, and software to optimise and manage the experience.

However, as latency is so key, the compute needs to be localised too. Even with public 5G running compute workloads at the Edge in a Multi-Access Edge Compute (MEC), this makes more sense rather than sending data to the core; with private, this is often the only option.      

The future

Future 5G releases will come with developments, for example, network slicing, to offer improved quality of service; maybe then 5G could send workloads directly to the cloud. But for now, it’s all about the Edge for the things you really rely on, with the remaining, less critical data being sent to the cloud for further analysis or to train algorithms.

And when it comes to the Edge, the Private Cloud service, delivered in association with VMware, gives customers the same intelligent IT infrastructure stack across their private, public and edge environments, which is the key to digital transformation. By refreshing your architecture to a hyperconverged infrastructure with Dell and BT, you have a trusted foundation to create a true 21st century private cloud that is fit for precisely this kind of 21st century business.

Essentially, Edge and 5G have become inextricably linked and it’ll come as no surprise that all the hyper-scalers are looking closely at both to see how they can capitalise on this new opportunity. At BT, we’re working closely with Dell to run trials for our customers so they can explore this brave new world, driving efficiencies whilst keeping people safe.    

Discover more

To learn more about the potential of Private 5G and Private Cloud Dedicated, and to see how BT and Dell could design an optimal installation for your business, get in touch.