One of the UK’s flagship 5G deployments, Liverpool’s 5G network for health and social care, will finish its rollout next month, along with a raft of other UK 5G testbed projects, as a growing numbers of enterprises start planning their own private 5G network deployments.
The Liverpool 5G project is currently focused on health and social care, with the aim of providing free connectivity for users and devices which are used in the sector, according to Rosemary Kay, director of the Liverpool 5G Health and Social Care project.
“We've got our private network - we've got 5G small cells going on lamp posts owned by the city council and using the CCTV fibre network as a backhaul – using these more creative ways of doing connectivity, so not necessarily just the big masts,” Kay told Business News Wales in an interview this week.
Vicki DeBlasi, head of marketing for UK5G, told The Stack the main advantage for this type of project is control and guaranteed access: “When you're looking at something Liverpool has been looking at, which is the health and social care coverage, we all know that mobile network operators are commercial entities, they will roll out network coverage where it where it makes commercial sense for them to do so.
“In Liverpool they [Liverpool 5G] are working primarily around Kensington, which is one of the more deprived areas of the city. And so there you have a digital divide, which exists not just between kind of where public networks are available, but between who can afford it, who can't afford it, because of the population who don't have good connectivity in their homes.”
DeBlasi said the project gives the local authority scope to expand connectivity beyond just health and social care, for use in schools and other local services. Kay also talked about the potential of private 5G network deployments, referencing virtual ward projects where healthcare professionals can monitor patients remotely, and the “remote ambulance” project in the West Midlands, where paramedics can stream ultrasound images from the ambulance to a hospital.
Public sector projects such as these have gained a lot of attention in the UK, but the private sector has also seized on the potential of private 5G network deployments as well. DeBlasi referenced potential applications such as private networks at stadiums or large events to guarantee visitor connectivity, along with projects such as the 5G Factory of the Future as well as supply chain applications.
“We've got a couple of port projects, 5G Logistics and 5G Ports, which are based in Port of Bristol and Felixstowe respectively. And they're looking at chain of custody, being able to know exactly where your items are, and also what condition they are in. If you think about things like the Pfizer vaccine, for example, that needs to be stored at a certain temperature for transit, you’re able to monitor and guarantee that you're storing in the conditions it needs,” she said.
She added that a number of private 5G network deployments were due to complete next month as many move out of the testbed and trial phase.
An EY report released today said 56% of its respondents planned to invest in private 5G network deployments within the next three years, and 85% were driven to look at 5G because of the global health crisis.
Tom Loozen, EY’s global telecommunications leader, said in a press release: “This study indicates that the technology has moved out of its infancy and is now actively being applied to drive real-world benefits. This is to be applauded, with 5G following the same innovation cycle of other transformative technologies. Sophisticated use cases will become important in time. More pressing, however, is the need for 5G providers to tune their solutions to the practical demands of industry leaders today.
“Disruptive customer signals suggest that telcos’ traditional relationships with enterprise customers are under pressure and more agile go-to-market strategies are essential in a 5G-IoT world. Telcos should take steps now to help ensure that they can meet enterprise demand for private network deployments,” he added.
This mirrors the findings of an NTT report from December 2021, which suggested 80% of IT leaders were planning private 5G network deployments over the next 24 months.
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