Private 5G as a service is now a thing

Japanese carrier NTT is bringing a new offering to the US: P5G, its name for setting up private 5G networks for enterprises.

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A private 5G platform designed to offer the latest-generation licensed wireless technology to enterprise users as a service was announced today by Japanese telecom giant NTT.

The company said its private 5G-as-a-service platform, which it calls P5G, would use CBRS, 4G/5G frequencies available as public licenses, and sub-6GHz bands in the US to provide businesses with their own 5G networks. The company said also that its platform is highly flexible, working with a wide variety of software standards and networking partners to ensure availability around the country.

Private 5G, at least in the context of enterprise use, is just beginning to hit the upward curve of the hype cycle, according to a report published last month by Gartner Research. The upsides for private 5G, Gartner argued, are potentially immense. In combination with edge computing, the technology creates the possibility of transformative use cases in the industrial, automotive, and energy sectors. That’s because a private 5G network or even one that includes a virtual private network over public infrastructure for part of its functionality can guarantee throughput and latency levels that next-generation uses cases require.

5G supports network-slicing that can subdivide network bandwidth into multiple virtual networks  to handle different types of traffic at the same time. It allows a company to, for example, route IP network traffic from employee phones and laptops via one network slice, while maintaining an interference-free second slice to handle traffic from its operational technology, whether that’s medical devices, asset tracking or something else entirely.

The importance of slicing is hard to overemphasize, according to IDC research manager Patrick Filkins. He said that a critical part of NTT’s P5G platform is its investment in Celona, a startup that takes the slicing concept a step further by automating the application of advanced networking functionality like QoS and access control to slices, making them operate even more like their own full-fledged networks.

“Enabling this capability natively in the platform will appeal to organizations desiring control and insight into what and how applications are performing on each slice as well as those coping with data traversing multiple networks,” Filkins said.

There are still plenty of headwinds. 5G spectrum availability isn’t a guarantee in some areas, according to Gartner, and 5G deployments often have to be very dense and therefore can become expensive quickly. However, the demand for machine-to-machine communications and the rapidly increasing availability of phones and laptops with 5G radios mean that the technology’s use is likely to continue to rise.

The service is available now in the US. NTT said that the service will be priced on a tiered subscription model, but didn’t offer specific dollar figures as of this article’s publication.

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