VMO2 claims UK first as it launches portable 5G SA private networkVMO2 claims UK first as it launches portable 5G SA private network
VMO2 Business launches portable 5G SA private network that can be activated without a telecoms engineer in both urban and rural areas.
August 2, 2023
Virgin Media O2 (VMO2) Business has launched a commercial plug-and-play 5G standalone (SA) private network, targeting businesses in both urban and rural areas. The network is portable and allows companies to tap the benefits offered by private networks without complex installation requirements, says the company.
Its device is "only slightly larger than a carry-on airline bag," as the telco puts it, and can supposedly be activated without a telecom engineer. It incorporates Nokia's Digital Automation Cloud (DAC) and MX Industrial Edge (MXIE) technology, designed to guarantee support for mission-critical applications. Nokia DAC is a private wireless network and an edge computing platform, while MXIE is used for data processing on site, meaning companies can retain data sovereignty.
VMO2 says this will remove the complexity and economic hurdles that usually complicate mission-critical networking, allowing companies in industries such as manufacturing, construction and healthcare to digitalize.
Two of the private networks have already been deployed. The technology was first trialed at the London offices of Telefónica's innovation arm, Wayra, where it has been operational since last summer. It is being used by startups based there, including Mobilus Labs, which has developed a voice communication solution for industrial teams operating in extremely noisy environments (over 85 dB). The private network meets the startup's requirements for fast Internet speeds and a secure connection, according to VMO2.
A solution for both urban and rural businesses
Other trials have been carried out with companies focusing on virtual reality (VR) and Internet of Things (IoT) applications. VMO2 says the solution offers high reliability, ultra-low latency and enhanced data security. As the telco continues to use the product for 5G SA demonstrations, it says other relevant use cases can be found in the areas of Industry 4.0 robotics and AI.
VMO2 also says the network is not limited to large cities and can be deployed in rural areas and areas "where public network access to 5G may be more limited." Since the private network comes with 5G, there does not need to be any 5G in the area, and customers can still benefit from SA connectivity, VMO2 confirmed to Light Reading via email.
The operator also says it is the first UK telco to have deployed such a product commercially. It is, however, not the only one eyeing compact private network solutions. In February, Vodafone Business showcased a box-sized prototype private 5G network built on Raspberry Pi, but it has not yet made public any plans to commercialize the device. Elsewhere in Europe, Orange has recently unveiled a hybrid private network using 5G SA in France.
Nevertheless, 5G SA has been slow to take hold in the UK and the rest of Europe, as there is still a lack of compatible devices and mass-market applications. Vodafone announced the UK's first launch of 5G SA in June, having already deployed it in Germany. Telefónica and Orange have, meanwhile, both deployed 5G SA in Spain. But while momentum is building, the technology has yet to take hold.
— Tereza Krásová, Associate Editor, Light Reading
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