AT&T, Verizon tie-up with Nokia to offer private LTE and 5G for Industry 4.0
The timing is uncanny, and probably rigged, but Nokia has followed old rival Ericsson to announce a deal with AT&T for cloud-based private LTE, and trumped it – in terms of one-upmanship – with a global arrangement with Verizon for distribution of the 5G version of its private networking platform. (Logic says Ericsson will announce the same shortly.)
Nokia’s new deals with AT&T and Verizon are both focused on its Digital Automation Cloud (DAC) product, an as-a-service edge networking solution for on-premise private LTE and 5G. The AT&T arrangement, exactly like Ericsson’s, is geared towards enterprise deployments of private LTE in CBRS spectrum in the US; the Verizon setup, with the company’s business unit, is for enterprises taking private 5G in Europe and Asia Pacific.
AT&T is now offering equivalent private LTE bundles from both Ericsson and Nokia, in the form of Ericsson’s Industry Connect offer and Nokia’s AC platform. The carrier said it is also offering Nokia’s full-fat private LTE and 5G solution, which goes under the Modular Private Wireless (MPW) moniker, and comes out of its original Micro-Core Network solution, and subsequent 5G-ready Compact Mobility Unit (CMU) product.
The DAC solution is geared towards quick-fire local-area deployments; the MPW solution is for larger-scale campus-wide private cellular. It is understood AT&T is only offering private LTE to US enterprises, as it stands; the Nokia system is billed as ‘upgradeable’ to 5G NR. AT&T said its multi-access edge computing (MEC) portfolio is “5G-capable”, already, with rollout of its public network; the new private LTE offer will be upgradeable to 5G, it said.
The Verizon announcement does not make clear whether the deal with Nokia in Europe and Asia Pacific is for the DAC or MPW products, or both; it states, however, the distribution deal is for private 5G, making no mention of LTE. Verizon said in its announcement it is “taking private 5G global” with the Nokia deal. Both carriers talked up the role of private cellular in the Industry 4.0 movement, “where privacy, data control and performance are all crucial”.
They emphasised the role of dedicated cellular infrastructure, using local micro towers and small cells, and privately or collaboratively licensed spectrum, in manufacturing, distribution and logistics facilities – to “eliminate the need to transmit data through public networks”.
Robert Boyanovsky, vice president of mobility and IoT with AT&T, said: “AT&T is all about connections. Businesses have evolved as much as mobile networks have – and we’ll continue to work with companies like Nokia to deliver the reliable networking solutions and capabilities that our enterprise customers need.”
Tami Erwin, chief executive at Verizon Business, commented: “Today, we’ve announced the next phase of Verizon’s global 5G vision with the launch of private 5G for our international customers. If the past few months have taught us anything, it’s that there’s never been a more critical time for mobility, broadband and cloud products and services. Private 5G networks will be a transformative technology that will drive the new era of disruption and innovation for enterprises around the world.”
Nokia provided quotes with each announcement. Raghav Sahgal, president of Nokia’s enterprise division, said the Finnish firm was “tapping into joint enterprise expertise” with AT&T to “help businesses realise the Industry 4.0 opportunity”.
Brian Fitzgerald, senior vice president for global solutions at Nokia, commented: “Private wireless connectivity has become central to many industries in realizing their long-term digital transformation goals.” He said Nokia and Verizon are “paving the way to accelerate digitalization for the most demanding industries”.
Meanwhile, a couple of analyst quotes were thrown in, as well, talking in general terms about the importance of private cellular to the Industry 4.0 movement. Martina Kurth, associate vice president of IDC’s European telco practice, said: “We’re seeing international markets moving rapidly to deploy 5G Private Networks, which appears as a major use case for the uptake of 5G, particularly in order to capitalize on 5G investments in the enterprise market.”
Grant Lenahan, partner and principal analyst at Appledore Research, said: “There is reason to believe that ‘the fourth industrial revolution’ will remake industries and the economics of production. Considering the majority of industrial site deployments will be based on private wireless, it’s prudent for communication service providers like AT&T to leverage Nokia’s proven private wireless solutions and vertical experience in the near future.”
Verizon talked up its parallel efforts in the 5G space, particularly as it relates to critical-grade industrial operations. It pointed to its new 5G Lab in London, opened in February to offer startups a production house to test their 5G based innovations, plus 5G roaming in South Korea and its membership of the 5G Future Forum, for accelerating interoperable MEC-enabled solutions.
More concretely, the company has announced it is integrating its MEC infrastructure with Microsoft Azure, to enable “blink-of-an-eye” industrial IoT applications combining hyper-fast connectivity over hyper-local connections. It said the move to integrate with Azure – as a platform for industrial IoT, hooked up to Nokia’s private cellular core-and-radio bundle – will help customers to deploy demanding compute and analytics-based applications.
These include “computer vision, augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR), digital twins, and machine learning”, it said. “Think of automated high-precision asset localization, tracking and positioning in manufacturing,” it said. Think of healthcare, it said; “5G networks could enable real-time precision medicine leveraging mixed reality and AI capabilities as well as seamless and fast sharing of large files to improve patient care.”
Yousef Khalidi, corporate vice president at Azure, commented: “By leveraging… 5G with… cloud and edge capabilities, developers and businesses can benefit from fast, secure and reliable connections to deliver seamless digital experiences from massive industrial IoT workloads to precision medicine.”
Logistics and supply chain solutions company Ice Mobility is already testing with the pair’s networking and edge services to help with computer-vision assisted product packing. Gathering data in near real-time about product packing errors can improve quality assurance and save 15-30 percent in processing time, said Verizon.
Mike Mohr, chief executive at Ice Mobility, said: “Verizon and Microsoft… have listened to our needs to provide automated real-time quality oversight and feedback, which will enable us to cost-effectively launch unique new products, while maintaining the highest execution standards, significantly increasing throughput and reducing costs. And, this is just the beginning.”