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November 17, 2021
Qualcomm Expands its View to the Connected Edge

November 3, 2021
Microsoft, Nvidia Highlight the Practical Metaverse

October 27, 2021
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IBM Brings Weather Data and AI to Help with Sustainability Goals

September 28, 2021
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September 22, 2021
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September 15, 2021
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August 19, 2021
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August 11, 2021
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July 21, 2021
Amazon Drives Ambient Computing Forward with Alexa Enhancements

July 14, 2021
Microsoft’s Windows 365 Brings Cloud PCs to Life

June 29, 2021
MWC News Shows 5G Focus Shifting to Infrastructure

June 22, 2021
Global Foundries Fab Expansion Reveals New Strategy

June 16, 2021
Videoconferencing Challenge Looming

June 8, 2021
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June 2, 2021
Computex News from AMD, Intel and Nvidia Demonstrates Strength of PC Suppliers

May 18, 2021
IBM Simplifies Automation with Watson Orchestrate

May 11, 2021
IBM Simplifies Automation with Watson Orchestrate

May 5, 2021
Dell’s APEX Brings Hardware as a Service to the Mainstream

April 28, 2021
Arm Brings New Compute Options from the Cloud to the Edge

April 21, 2021
Apple Announcements Accelerate Custom Chip Transition

April 13, 2021
Nvidia Steps Up Enterprise and Automotive Efforts with GTC Announcements

April 6, 2021
AWS and Verizon Bring Private 5G and Edge Computing to Life with Corning

March 31, 2021
Cisco Wants to Make Hybrid Work Actually Work

March 23, 2021
Intel Reinvigorates Manufacturing Strategy with IDM 2.0

March 16, 2021
AMD Refocuses on Business with Latest Epyc and Ryzen Pro Launches

March 9, 2021
GlobalFoundries and Bosch Emphasize Shift in Automotive Semis

March 2, 2021
Microsoft Brings AI Appliances and Improved Connectivity to IoT

February 23, 2021
Cybersecurity Deal Highlights Benefits of 5G and AI in PCs

February 16, 2021
Will Conference Rooms Help or Hurt in the Return to Work?

February 9, 2021
The Ever-Present Need for Simplicity in Tech

February 2, 2021
Poly Makes Videoconferencing Personal

January 26, 2021
2021 Shaping Up to Be Big Year for Automotive Tech

January 12, 2021
What CES 2021 Says About Our Future

January 5, 2021
Big Tech Trends for 2021 Are Hybridization and Customization

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TECHnalysis Research Blog

December 8, 2021
AWS Rewrite Rules for Private 5G with Latest Offering

By Bob O'Donnell

One of the hottest topics in the tech world today is the notion of private 5G networks. The idea behind them is to bring the high bandwidth, low-latency capabilities inherent in 5G into private businesses, giving them the opportunity to create new applications that have the speed and reliability of wired networks along with the flexibility and security found in cellular-based, wireless connections.

Virtually every major tech company out there, it seems, has talked about some way they can help enable private 5G, either via chips, hardware, or some element of the many types of software necessary to enable such a solution. At last week’s re:Invent, however, Amazon’s AWS cloud business managed to pull all the required pieces together in a surprising and potentially game-changing new offering called simply AWS Private 5G.

The new AWS service leverages both the company’s enormous cloud computing resources and its pay-as-you-consume-it business model into a solution that allows companies to turn on a new 5G network in a matter of days instead of the months that it typically takes. Amazon supplies the antennas and other RAN (radio access network) hardware as well as the SIMs used to connect devices to the network, and then leverages its own Open RAN software as well as its Outpost on-premise compute hardware to give companies everything they need to get started. Cleverly, because all cellular networks require the use of radio frequency RF spectrum, Amazon chose to leverage the freely available GAA (General Availability Access) portion of CBRS (Citizens Broadband Radio Service) as its means of delivering the network’s wireless signals. While a few critical details are still to be determined and some important questions remain unanswered, at a glance, the combination appears to be a very robust offering that makes it significantly easier to start a private 5G network.

Up until now, one of the big stopping points for private cellular networks of any kind has been the cost and complexity involved in setting one up. The costs for getting access to licensed RF spectrum alone has typically been a deal-killer for most organizations that have considered the concept. By using the relatively new and freely available CBRS bands (which range from 3.5-3.7 GHz in the US, very near the highly coveted C-Band spectrum, aka mid-band, that major US carriers are about to launch), Amazon and the companies that choose to try the service are avoiding those costs entirely (for more explanation of CBRS and its relation to C-Band, see “CBRS Vs. C-Band: Making Sense Of Mid-Band 5G” for more).

Another big challenge for companies that have wanted to leverage private 5G (or even 4G) networks, is the complexity of the equipment and the software necessary to manage the network. Unlike corporate WiFi networks, which have developed straightforward network management tools, cellular network management is a very specialized skill that few people outside of major telco carriers or highly specialized service providers have. In fact, that’s part of the reason why most organizations with private 5G networks (or aspirations) begin their conversations with telco providers or other organizations with extensive experience in working with carriers. It’s simply not something most enterprises want to (or know how to) deal with. In fact, private 5G networks are expected to be one of the larger revenue opportunities for carriers. Some have even called it the first “killer app” for 5G.

At the same time, one of the things that separates 5G from 4G is the ability to do more computing within the network itself. Many edge-based applications, for example, are essentially meant to be AI-powered applications that run at the “edge” of a wireless network. As a result, because the major carriers have less experience in this area, most of them have started partnering with major cloud computing providers (e.g., Verizon with AWS, AT&T with Microsoft Azure, etc.) to help bring together the worlds of 5G wireless and cloud computing. That’s part of why this new AWS Private 5G offering is so intriguing. AWS started with its cloud heritage, built the software tools necessary to run telco-focused workloads, then pieced it all together with the one element it didn’t natively have—the antennas and hardware RAN components—to create a complete solution. (To be clear, AWS is partnering with RAN hardware providers—not creating its own hardware—as part of its offering. However, the company has yet to reveal who those partner companies are). This is the exact opposite of the traditional concept of the carriers leading with a wireless network offering and then getting the necessary partners on the computing side, which they have clearly started to do (Intel, Nvidia, Qualcomm, Dell, HPE, Cisco and many others have all started efforts with carriers).

What this also reflects is the speed with which cloud providers are able and willing to create solutions and potentially cut out carrier partners entirely. In many ways, the pay-as-you-go model offered by Amazon is even more compelling for something like a private 5G network than its computing model because of the large upfront capital costs that private networks typically require. As the cloud providers have been building up their telco-related efforts (primarily on the network operations side) for the last few years, an offering like AWS Private 5G has undoubtedly been a long-term goal for several big cloud players, but this is the first instance in which it has actually happened (though I certainly expect other major cloud providers to follow suit). Now, Amazon did say they would be able to connect with, and therefore partner with, the major carriers’ public networks as well, so I do expect crossovers to occur. Still, it seems this should be a big wakeup call to the carriers.

As great as the AWS Private 5G offering appears, however, a few uncertainties remain. First, while potential interference and network congestion are a non-issue right now because there is still so little usage of the GAA portion of CBRS, as with WiFi and other unlicensed spectrum, if enough companies choose to leverage it, those problems could arise. Of course, cellular coverage reaches much farther distances than WiFi, so the issues are not identical. However, they are something to consider. Second, while having Amazon supply the SIMs for connected devices sounds useful on one hand, it raises questions about how to use devices that already have SIMs on these networks, like every single active smartphone in the world. In some situations, private cellular networks require devices to have multiple SIMs in order to be used on both private and existing public cell networks. The eSIM capabilities of modern phones could be leveraged to overcome some of these concerns, but many questions still remain about how to provision and manage these existing SIM-equipped devices.

Finally, of course, there are still important questions about exactly what types of applications really require private 5G and what other types might work just as well (and be managed more easily) on something like a new WiFi 6E network. There certainly are plenty of industries, including manufacturing, health care, and others, for which the security or latency-sensitive benefits of cellular vs. WiFi are very clear, but in others, more investigations will need to be done.

Ultimately, probably the most interesting outcome of the AWS Private 5G offering is that it will accelerate the conversations about and the early deployments of this technology. There seem to be many interesting potential applications, but until more companies start to deploy their own private 5G networks, we won’t really know.

Here’s a link to the original column:

Bob O’Donnell is the president and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, LLC a market research firm that provides strategic consulting and market research services to the technology industry and professional financial community. You can follow him on Twitter @bobodtech.