Home5GOrange on URLLC (and private 5G): “The economics favour public networks”

Orange on URLLC (and private 5G): “The economics favour public networks”

Note, this article is continued from a previous post, entitled “Orange on LPWA: ‘If there’s no improvement in the radio, we’ll keep the same system’.” Click here to go to the previous article.

The storm of digital change that 5G connectivity will unleash is on the horizon line. But it will come with an industrialised version, specified as ultra-reliable low-latency communications (URLLC).

But URLLC is a way behind the rolling waves of enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), which are crashing on the beach already, and even the swell of massive machine-type communications (mMTC), which will build on the wide-area undercurrents from LTE-M and NB-IoT.

At MWC 2019 and Hannover Messe 2019 in recent weeks, twin trade fairs telling a revitalised story of telecoms in industry, the talk flitted between the future importance of ultra-reliable 5G and the existing ultity of pretty-fast, totally-wireless LTE.

Telecoms offers nothing without 5G, we heard; LTE serves 90 per cent of industrial use cases already, we heard as well. What is the truth? What enterprise use cases hinge on URLLC-flavoured 5G?

The question goes to Emmanuel Routier, vice president of verticals, IoT and analytics at Orange Business Services, the enterprise arm of the France-based operator and the engine room for its more expansive digital forays.

He describes this storm of 5G, stirred-up and made-perfect by the internet-of-things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and cloud computing – set to pull enterprises off their moorings and change the landscape forever. That is the idea, anyway.

Routier comments: “There are these three elements. The first, eMBB, will be fully implemented by the end of the year, and bring use cases around safety, better streaming of images, connected vehicles, HD maps, firmware updates. Those are the main elements.”

He goes on: “Massive IoT is basically already what we have today, although with improved energy performance, which would be a breakthrough. And critical IoT, with URLLC, will bring latency and slicing, and enable autonomous vehicles, real-time management of robots, remote surgery and healthcare.”

The last one is a stretch, perhaps, he suggests. “These are the types of use cases.” What is Orange’s position on private networks and unlicensed spectrum, which have emerged as the preferred operational model and the sometimes-neccessary operating medium for critical LTE and 5G communications.

“We have experience of private LTE, already. We’ve delivered private LTE in public spectrum,” he says. He references a private network contract with a “very well-known public transport company” (he won’t say more), which has enabled it to prioritise usage and guarantee quality-of-service for essential communications.”

SNCF, perhaps? Orange has just shared the stage with the French railway operator at an IoT summit at MWC. He won’t be drawn, he says. “There are lots of well-known public transport companies,” he reasons. No matter.

Is Orange’s deployment of private LTE always in licensed spectrum? “We also have experience to deploy it in unlicensed spectrum,” he says, before qualifying this work as experimental. “We’re still working on that – we are still investigating. Today, it’s all based in public spectrum.”

He adds: “It has to be discussed – we won’t close the door. But the economics [favour] public networks, by definition – because a public network is there to aggregate multiple use cases. It is the most efficient solution.”

The sense, among the industrial set, is that private networks, privately managed, will afford tighter control of their operations, and a clearer path to so-called ‘6x9s’ (99.9999%) reliability. Will public LTE and 5G networks, privately managed, achieve those kinds of service guarantees?

It is the same technology for everyone, offering the same service guarantees at infrastructure level, he reasons; it makes no odds who is at the controls. “5G is a telco technology,” he says.

“That quality-of-service would have to be accepted by the manufacturing industry, as well, whether [the network] is operated by another service provider or equipment provider.”

The rollout of private networks for industry is is in its early stages, observes Routier. “The question is more about the territory,” he says, implying OBS will work to secure private networks on a case-by-case basis, even beyond its cellular footprint, until a deployment model emerges, which considers spectrum holdings and slicing options.

“We are learning, already, today on 4G. And there are not so many players doing private LTE networks… We need to take a strong position outside of our footprint. It’s a question of where our customers are. It’s a question that is still to be solved: what is best for them? And, frankly, there are many voices today. Let’s see how things are in 12 months and two years.”

A consensus is emerging from the early intrigue about telcos being usurped as operators in the industrial space, that, actually, the opportunity to deploy LTE and 5G networks in new industries is vast and multi-faceted, and will support new operators alongside the old ones, and not in place of them.

Routier says the same: “It’s a huge opportunity, an interesting field. We have the expertise to grab a piece of it – and not more than that. We are well positioned with the solutions we have.”

It is a line that suits Orange, and Orange Business Services in particular, which tells of its measured pragmatism and confidence, and its eye for innovation and opportunity.

Routier rounds up: “We might not be the first to provide a technology, but we are in the race. We will provide the right technology for the right use case.

“But we won’t push the technology, we push the solution. That makes us different – it’s why we, as Orange Business Services, are not only a telco, but a systems integrator, combining our own assets and innovations with others’ assets and innovations.”

Orange on IoT: “We’re different; we take innovation to the customer”
Orange on LPWA: “If there’s no improvement in the radio, we’ll keep the same system”
Orange on URLLC (and private 5G): “The economics favour public networks”

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