Skip to content

Search the site

AWS's Private 5G is GA, but it ain't 5G

It's more 4GaaS right now...

Amazon says its AWS Private 5G managed service is now generally available.

The announcement may initially have telcos looking over their shoulders with some trepidation.

Perhaps less so when they read the small print -- it's not actually 5G.

As AWS's Jeff Barr blogs: "[It] supports 4G LTE today, and will support 5G in the future" -- with each network supporting one radio unit that can provide up to 150 Mbps of throughput across up to 100 SIMs.

The AWS Private 5G service lets users place an order in the AWS Management Console specifying location and the number of devices you want to connect. AWS then delivers and maintains a small cell radio unit, the mobile network core and RAN software, and SIM cards required to set up a private mobile network.

Amazon's sheer scale and logistics heft means if market demands picks up it has the ability to rapidly muscle its way into a potentially significant market as interest in private 5G deployments grows.

(The hardware it ships is certified for use only in the US, on the CBRS spectrum -- 150 MHz of 3.5 GHz shared  spectrum, also used by the federal government for radar systems and commercial fixed satellite systems. It's not entirely plug-and-play though. Perhaps unsurprisingly, CBRS spectrum in the US requires certified professional installation; AWS is building up a roster of partners who can help sign off installations.)

“AWS Private 5G automates the setup and deployment of the network. No upfront fees or per-device costs are incurred with AWS Private 5G, and you pay only for the network capacity that you request” the hyperscaler said; although the release is currently limited to US East (Ohio and N. Virginia), and US West (Oregon).

Somewhat contradicting that pricing note in the press release, the separate blog from Jeff Barr said users can also expect to pay $10/hour for each radio unit on top of network capacity fees.

The hyperscaler plans to offer two versions of the managed service: one where the mobile network core is hosted in an AWS Region and one where the mobile core is hosted on premises. The current limited release of the product only supports the former option, AWS noted in its FAQs – i.e. small-cell radio units are installed on your premises but the network control and data plane (core) are hosted in an AWS Region.

“This configuration meets the needs of customers whose applications are hosted in the cloud and want to route device traffic to downstream AWS services running in AWS Regions or to the internet” it said.

More caveats from Jeff Barr: "... the cloud–based deployment option, which is designed for testing and evaluation purposes, for time-limited deployments, and for deployments that do not use the network in latency-sensitive ways. With this option, the AWS Private 5G Mobile Core runs within a specific AWS Region. We are also working to enable on-premises hosting of the Mobile Core on a Private 5G compute appliance."

AWS Private 5G release comes as deployments surge

The release, in short, is significantly more modest than the product name and press release initially suggest, which AWS customers may feel is something of a shame -- private 5G use cases increasingly proliferate, as widely covered by The Stack (see for example our look at Ford's UK deployment here, which suggests that the ease-of-use of what we'll have to call P5GaaS may be enticing for enterprises:  “The network took longer to install and set up than we, certainly at Ford, anticipated. We’re not the telecoms experts... so that was perhaps surprising in comparison with Wi-Fi that we’re more used to, where you can just stick your router, and away you go" as Ford told us.)

Among other private 5G network deployments we have noted in the UK are the Port of Felixstowe 5G IoT project, which has seen the UK’s largest container port using a private 5G network to control and monitor its cranes – one of a number of pilots backed by UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

A private 5G network trial in Liverpool meanwhile is focussed on health and social care.

That's using 5G small cells on lamp posts owned by the city council and is using the CCTV fibre network as a backhaul. The vision for that trial includes "virtual wards" where healthcare professionals can monitor patients remotely, and the ability for paramedics to stream ultrasound images from an ambulance to a hospital.

See also: As funding dries up for private 5G trials, is there a business case?