H Private Network

Private networks will become irreplaceable in manufacturing—here's how

May 2, 2023
Private networks provide an extra layer of protection and enhanced performance by isolating business data from public networks.

By Johan Bjorklund, CEO, Betacom

The private wireless market is rapidly growing in 2023, with many industrial enterprises turning to these networks to power their digital transformations and achieve the benefits of Industry 4.0. But what lies ahead? How will the private networking market continue to evolve? What new opportunities will emerge? Let’s answer a few common questions about key trends that are accelerating momentum this year.

Question: When do you think the prevalence of 5G networks will surpass 4G? 

Answer: 4G will continue to dominate private wireless, with 5G rising

Here’s a reality check. As we move further into 2023, there’s no denying that both 4G and 5G wireless networking will continue to dominate private networks around the world. However, 4G will represent the lion’s share of deployments through 2026 because it supports the vast majority of today’s IIoT automation use cases. 5G is waiting in the wings as more devices are released and new ultra low-latency use cases are realized with Release 16. Only when we see these developments taking place in full force will we begin to see 5G surpassing 4G. The good news is that this will give enterprises time for 5G technology to mature and for the costs to come down.

Question: What will the relationship between WiFi and private wireless look like? 

Answer: Private wireless and WiFi will continue to co-exist, but with private networks gaining ground 

With increasing data demands at an all-time high, it's important to assess how different networks will shape the future. WiFi has been a prominent part of our consumer digital lives for many years, but as business technology evolves, so must our connectivity options. Due to the rising numbers of production deployments and proven use cases, private wireless networks will begin to be seen as the better option in 2023 in places where security, performance , and low latency are critical to business applications that need always-on connectivity. While WiFi will continue to enable customers to access data over the networks they already have, its comparatively low performance in demanding settings like transportation, warehousing and manufacturing will see it decline in prominence. As ABI research noted in a recent report, “WiFi 6 provides high bandwidth for a limited number of devices, is cost effective, and is easy to access. However, WiFi struggles when latency, mobility, coverage, and security are required. For business-critical applications, WiFi is not the best solution.”

Question: What type of developments will we see within the 5G device ecosystem?

Answer: 5G device ecosystem will continue to grow and mature

It's a virtuous cycle. As we start seeing 5G radios mature throughout the 2020s to meet the standards established by 3GPP, IIoT automation use cases will become more sophisticated and the demand for new devices will grow. The transition will take time. By 2025, we will just begin to realize the promise of high throughput, ultra low latency and massive IoT connectivity needed to drive applications like truly autonomous vehicles and virtual reality.

Question: How will private networks impact manufacturing?

Answer: Private networks will become irreplaceable in manufacturing

Supply chain issues and labor shortages have created a new trend in manufacturing: bringing work back to the US while attracting a smaller but engaged workforce. To do so, manufacturers must maximize space, equipment and resources to create goods with the greatest efficiency. Automation is a key part of this transition. Our robotic partners are providing technology that include automated storage and retrieval, robotics for conveyor and sortation systems, remote-teleoperation solutions, and autonomous mobile robots. Relying on WiFi can mean bandwidth interruptions and production stoppages. To run these solutions reliably and safely for their manufacturing customers, robotic companies are increasingly turning to private wireless networks for robust connectivity.

Question: Can you share any details on a deployment in the manufacturing sector?

Answer: Yes 

Our company recently announced a partnership with the Digital Manufacturing Institute and the National Center for Cybersecurity in Manufacturing ( MxD), an incubator for digital manufacturing technologies, in which Betacom was selected to provide the organization’s Chicago headquarters and Factory Floor Lab with a private 5G network. Betacom has deployed both a 4G and a 5G private network, and is working with Google Cloud and Ingram Micro, Inc. to test and showcase automation and security technologies that will help to modernize US manufacturing. MxD members, representing some of the top US manufacturers and suppliers, are testing their automation use cases against both the 4G and the 5G private network to see which works best for each. 

“5G is an enabling technology that will unlock potential for manufacturers to be more efficient and competitive, which is core to MxD’s mission,” said Berardino Baratta, CEO of MxD. “With Betacom testing, documenting best practices, and securing 4G and 5G networks on MxD’s factory floor, it will answer many questions for manufacturers looking to implement these technologies and offer exceptional options.”

Question: What’s next for private networks in terms of transportation?

Private networks will be quickly adopted by airports and airlines

Private wireless networks’ ability to provide airports with high-speed, low-latency services such as perimeter surveillance, luggage/cargo tracking, and automated gate systems are making them increasingly attractive, and more often deployed. Private networks also eliminate the need for expensive maintenance and data contracts with third parties, since all network management is handled internally. As an added bonus, airports are finding that deploying a private network for operations is freeing up their WiFi network for travelers, supporting their key objective of creating a seamless passenger experience.

Private networks will be seen as central to enterprise security

Private networks provide an extra layer of protection and enhanced performance by isolating business data from public networks and enabling enterprises to control who can access their information. By controlling which devices can connect to the network and which services can be accessed, organizations can reduce the risk of malicious actors infiltrating their systems. In addition, because private networks use a dedicated hardware infrastructure that includes routers and firewalls, they offer an additional layer of security compared to a shared public network.

In conclusion

Private wireless networks offer many benefits to manufacturers looking to automate their operations and improve their security posture while providing enhanced performance and quality of service at an affordable price point. Private 4G networks can do this today and will into 2027. Private 5G networks will start to dominate as the technology matures, the device ecosystem develops, and costs come down. This combination of benefits makes private wireless extremely attractive to businesses, and will propel it to new adoption heights starting this year.