Home5GWill operators build dedicated NOCs to run private 5G for key industrial enclaves?

Will operators build dedicated NOCs to run private 5G for key industrial enclaves?

Note, this is part of a forthcoming report on operator-run private 5G enterprise NOCs. Look out for the report next month; sign up here for the upcoming webinar on carrier-run private 5G enterprise NOCs, featuring ABI Research, Radisys, Vodafone and others.

At times, during the investigation of this subject, the original premise seemed to be unreliable. The concept, entirely logical on a number of levels, that mobile network operators will seek to establish dedicated regional (‘edge)’ network operations centres (NOCs) to manage new private 5G networks on behalf of digitally-progressive industrial enclaves looked problematic. It would be just too resource intensive, the response came.

The idea, a step beyond, they would install engineers on site, at the very far edge of the cloud/network continuum, was laughed out of town. No way, Pedro, they said; big national network operators are not in the way, nor in position, to easily scale-down; the collective business model for national carriers is not designed to serve myriad different enterprises in myriad different industrial sectors, running myriad different disciplines.

“[Enterprises] don’t want a NOC; they want a self-optimizing access technology that works out-of-the-box, which they can run and manage on their own… [And] the last thing an operator wants is to put a person on site, and they don’t want to build an enterprise NOC, either. Not because a NOC is not needed, but because the enterprise doesn’t want to pay for it,” said Francis Haysom, principal analyst at Appledore Research, over in the blue corner, back in April.

Worse, Vodafone, in the red, the most candid (and strategically deliberate) operator in the business, appeared to backtrack. To be clear; the idea of regional NOCs as a discussion point came (to us) from Vodafone, during a previous conversation. The UK-based operator said it was looking to ape its model for stolen vehicle tracking, where it has established 52 operating centres across the world to liaise with car drivers, car makers, and crime agencies.

“We [are managing] mission critical [network] services today, already… But I think the model will be different. For us, we are going to need a NOC… Whether to have a dedicated enterprise NOC for mobile private networks? I don’t know. But you can imagine we will have something like that,” responded Phil Skipper, Vodafone’s group head of IoT business development, in the same report. But now, exploring the subject further, the deal is off, says Skipper.

Vodafone will serve enterprises from a centralised NOC, with a network of support services in the field for emergency call-outs. Figuratively, Enterprise IoT Insights hunches its shoulders, and scratches its head; how, then, to write 5,000-odd words on carrier-led edge-management of 5G networks? But the thing is, looking again, Vodafone has not backtracked, actually; its position was speculative in the first instance, and its formal-sounding strategy tallies, just about.

The thing is, nothing is written, of course, because nothing is decided – which makes for more to say. (Five thousand words? No sweat.) The private 5G market is shiny-new for suppliers, just as it is for enterprises. And digging further, with Vodafone and with others, it is clear every card is on the table and every ‘thing’ is to play for. Operators will, it turns out, build dedicated NOCs to serve regional enterprises, and they will, clearly in some cases, put staff on site.

So we have a concrete story, after all, even if it remains complex, nuanced, and messy, and even if the nascent private 5G market remains hard to define. But let’s start with some ‘givens’ about the in-life management of private cellular networks, and specifically about the role of mobile operators in this run-phase discipline – after the project has been scoped and the sale negotiated (as part of the ‘sell’ phase), and the construction has been finished (in the ‘build’ phase). Let’s start with what we know for sure – or what we think we know.

To be continued… For more, look out for the report next month on operator-run private 5G enterprise NOCs; sign up here for the upcoming webinar on carrier-run private 5G enterprise NOCs, featuring ABI Research, Radisys, Vodafone and others.

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