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Private networks, network slicing, and the future of business connectivity

A recent panel discussion at MWC Barcelona 2024 featured our Group COO Brendan O'Reilly as well as Caroline Chan (Intel), Waris Sagheer (Cisco Systems), and Cayetano Carbajo (Telefonica). They explored two transformative technologies for business connectivity: Private networks and network slicing.

What’s the difference? And which one is the best fit for your business?

The short answer is that it’s less a technology decision, and more an organisational one. And rather than competing, the two solutions complement each other.

The difference between private networks and network slicing

Private networks offer a secure and dedicated solution. They provide businesses with their own exclusive spectrum, hardware, and software, resulting in the highest level of security and isolation for critical applications. This makes them ideal for geographically complex areas, like factories, mines, and ports, where there might not be any public network coverage. Private networks are also a good fit for enterprises that require absolute control over their network infrastructure and prioritise data privacy.

Network slicing, on the other hand, takes a more flexible and cost-effective approach. It virtually partitions a shared public network into multiple, customised sections. Each section, or slice, can be tailored to meet the specific needs of a particular application. This allows for scalability, seamless roaming between different network areas, and potentially lower costs compared to private networks. Network slicing is well-suited for applications that require broad coverage, lower latency (minimal delay), and high bandwidth, such as fixed wireless access for businesses and potentially public safety networks.

What is each solution most used for?

Strong use cases for private networks include data-intensive manufacturing processes, logistics in ports, remote mining and oil and gas operations, and secure tactical networks for military bases. Network slicing, on the other hand, works well in areas like autonomous vehicles, patient monitoring, and applications that require high-definition video streaming, VR/AR, and cloud gaming.

How to choose between the two

Choosing between private networks and network slicing depends on the specific needs of a business. As Brendan puts it, they are “two very different journeys to the same destination, that is great experience”. Does your organisation have sensitive data and security is a priority for you? Or do you have mission critical needs where downtime can’t be tolerated? Then you might be better served by the dedicated resources of a private network. Does the high upfront investment seem daunting? Or do you require broader coverage and have a public network at your disposal? Then you may want to look into network slicing.

However, the distinction between the two is not always so black and white. When it comes to control, for example, private networks grant organisations complete say over their underlying infrastructure. Whereas network slicing offers less control. Network operators are, however, exploring ways to provide more granular control to users of network slices (network micro-slicing). Likewise, if we look at cost, the upfront investment is lower with network slicing than with private networks, which also need to account for ongoing maintenance. However, one of the many benefits of working with a neutral host such as Boldyn Networks is flexible financing options. We can help you strike the right balance between capital and operating costs to fund your private 4G/5G network.

The future of business connectivity is a world with mixed deployments

Brendan offered a thought-provoking perspective on the future, stating: "I do think what you'll see is private networks and network slicing being the go-to medium of delivering important mission-critical services to customers in five years' time."

Looking towards the future of business connectivity, the panellists agreed that private networks and network slicing are complementary solutions, rather than competing ones. Public network slicing and private 5G will co-exist to serve diverse enterprise needs. Businesses may adopt a hybrid approach leveraging a combination of the two solutions depending on their specific requirements. For example, a logistics company may use a private network on premise and leverage slicing for their trucks on the road or to expand capacity during peak periods of operations.

And Artificial intelligence (AI) can facilitate that integration and apply a whole new layer of dynamism to your network. The topic of AI application in telecommunication networks deserves a dissertation of its own – it’s a transformative tool capable of unlocking whole new possibilities in network optimisation. Through AI-powered algorithms, businesses can optimise their networks in real-time based on changing conditions and demand, resulting in improved network efficiency and reliability. They can help predict performance and adjust bandwidth usage.

So, how can you get the right solution for your business?

Find the right partner

Connectivity is a very crowded market. A complex landscape of many different players. System integrators. MNOs. Hyperscalers. Who should you turn to? The truth is that they’re not necessarily all competing with each other. System integrators can bring valuable expertise in specific industries to the table, while MNOs contribute their network operation strengths. MNOs can integrate too – they’ve been doing it for years – but may not be in their interest to do it for a local business in a complex environment.

Regardless of which players are involved in deployment, the ultimate goal is to deliver solutions that enhance enterprise use cases through improved network connectivity. The right partner for you is the one that will prioritise your business objectives and help you achieve your desired outcomes.

That’s what makes a neutral host like Boldyn Networks an incredibly valuable partner. We serve as a bridge between stakeholders and provide the kind of commitment and stability your business need. And because we’re neutral, we’re not locked into a single vendor or trying to sell any one technology or solution. Instead, achieving the shared outcome is always our top priority. That gives us the flexibility to create a truly custom solution for every need that builds on existing assets with the very best technology options for each unique situation.

If you’d like to talk about best practices in your industry, or discuss your particular situation with us, get in touch. We'll help you identify your connectivity requirements and design a custom solution for your use cases.

Let’s reimagine the future. Together.

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