Shahid Ahmed, EVP at NTT, discusses the outlook for private 5G and the partnership with Celona.
NTT (Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation) is one of the world’s leading telecom providers. The conglomerate is deeply rooted in the mobile space, providing cellular services across Japan through its subsidiary NTT Docomo.
More recently, NTT has shifted its focus to building innovative solutions that utilize next-gen mobile technologies to help organizations deploy networks specifically customized for their business.
In August, NTT partnered with startup Celona to launch the first globally available private 5G network-as-a-service platform (NTT P5G), leveraging capabilities across NTT’s various subsidiaries. Celona developed the P5G technology powering NTT’s platform, which can be deployed via cloud, on-premises, or at the edge as a subscription-based service.
This solution is targeted at organizations that want a single private 5G network deployed across the enterprise, with visibility and administration controlled from a single, self-service portal.
In my latest ZKast video, I interviewed Shahid Ahmed, group executive VP of new ventures and innovation at NTT, to discuss the new partnership with Celona and why enterprises should be looking into private 5G right now. Highlights of the ZKast interview, done in conjunction with eWEEK eSPEAKS, are below.
- Private 5G is an extension of the local area network (LAN) and is very much CIO-centric. With private 5G, organizations can build an on-prem extension of the LAN either managed internally or by a third-party service provider. It has to be secure, cloud-capable, and highly adaptable to changes. NTT chose Celona because its technology aligns with these requirements.
- NTT took a deliberate approach to help organizations build and manage their own private 5G networks, so they have better control, security, and network capabilities. Private 5G allows organizations to do more than they could on a shared network or a public network. Especially those with strict security and compliance requirements, which prefer to build and manage their own 5G networks. NTT is putting its carrier role aside to focus on this market.
- NTT is offering organizations tier-based pricing for private 5G, rather than taking a pay-per-use approach. They can choose different tiers of subscription services depending on their needs, similar to Amazon Web Services (AWS). The P5G platform is pre-integrated with an end-to-end stack of services from various network and software partners, which offers organizations flexibility.
- A new study recently published by Economist Impact, in partnership with NTT, surveyed organizations around the world to gauge how soon they plan to deploy private 5G and the key drivers behind the technology. The study found more than half of the respondents—including CIOs from various industries—plan to deploy a private 5G network within the next 6 to 24 months. Nearly a quarter (24 percent) are piloting private 5G networks, while 6 percent have at least one operational private 5G network.
- A key driver for organizations deploying private 5G is security. Despite all the advancements happening with Wi-Fi technology, such as Wi-Fi 6, CIOs believe private 5G offers superior security capabilities compared to Wi-Fi. According to the study’s findings, 86 percent of IT decision-makers believe private 5G is a substitute for Wi-Fi because it offers several advantages for customizing security and data protection.
- However, having a 5G network in place is not enough to provide robust security. NTT’s P5G platform uses zero trust network access (ZTNA) principles to secure access to apps and services on-prem and in the cloud. ZTNA guarantees that access to network resources is tightly managed and restricted if needed.
- Security aside, Wi-Fi is not a scalable solution for many organizations. In industries with warehouses, factories, and distribution centers, it’s not economical to use Wi-Fi. For example, a company implementing industrial Internet of Things (IoT) can put up a few private 5G access points versus hundreds of Wi-Fi access points, which can become insurmountable.
- Although some specific use cases are better suited for private 5G, Wi-Fi and 5G technologies will continue to co-exist. It’s likely that 5G will be used for operational technology (OT) and Wi-Fi for information technology (IT). When an organization needs an ad hoc network, connectivity can be provided over Wi-Fi. When it’s more mission critical—like a factory assembly line—5G should be used instead.
- In summary, 3G and 4G technologies didn’t take off in the enterprise, but 5G is different. Any organization that has mission critical wireless devices should be seriously considering private 5G.