AWS wants to make private 5G networks as painless as possible

Nick Wood
By Nick Wood

Dec 1, 2021

  • AWS Private 5G promises to reduce procurement to a few clicks
  • Dish Network, Koch and Amazon's own fulfilment centres have already signed up
  • It uses shared spectrum, which could spell trouble for mobile operators

Amazon Web Services (AWS) late on Tuesday swept into the private 5G network market with a new managed service designed to make procurement and deployment for enterprise users quick and easy.

Called AWS Private 5G, customers simply use AWS's Website to specify where they need coverage and what their capacity requirements are: It is the same approach that AWS applied to cloud computing, reducing the complexity of specifying, ordering and activating a network to a few clicks.

Within days of pressing 'go' on an order, AWS should arrive with a van-load of small cell radios, a server that hosts the 5G core and RAN software, and however many SIM cards the customer needs. Everything is pre-integrated, so when the network is plugged in and switched on, it automatically configures and connects to all the devices.

Interestingly, there are no upfront fees or per-device costs. Customers pay for capacity and throughput, which they can scale up if they need to support additional devices. The official announcement makes no mention of integrating AWS for the Edge, but it's a fairly safe bet that Amazon will be more than happy to bundle its edge offering with AWS Private 5G.

The hype surrounding private mobile networking is considerable. Just last week, Ericsson announced a private networking deal with steel giant ArcelorMittal, in partnership with Orange Business Services. As we noted in that story, ABI Research reckons private network revenues will reach $64 billion by 2030. Meanwhile this week, Ericsson announced another private networking deal, this time with Porsche, and separately Analysys Mason predicted that 75 percent of private networks deployed in 2022 will be 5G. (See Ericsson, Orange show their private networks mettle with ArcelorMittal dealEricsson and Porsche rev up for 5G future and Analysys Mason Research’s telecoms, media and technology predictions for 2022.)

That 75 percent seems a reasonable assumption because if AWS Private 5G delivers on its promise, it could lower the barrier to adoption to private 5G networking for companies that lack the in-house expertise and resources to engage an operator, a vendor and a systems integrator and embark together with them on a potentially costly voyage into the unknown.

"Many of our customers want to leverage the power of 5G to establish their own private networks on premises, but they tell us that the current approaches make it time-consuming, difficult, and expensive to set up and deploy private networks," said David Brown, vice president of EC2 (elastic compute cloud) at AWS, in a statement. "With AWS Private 5G, we're extending hybrid infrastructure to customers' 5G networks to make it simple, quick, and inexpensive to set up a private 5G network. Customers can start small and scale on-demand, pay as they go, and monitor and manage their network from the AWS console."

US TV provider and soon-to-be 5G operator DISH has already signed up to offer AWS Private 5G to its enterprise customers. The fact that DISH is building its entire 5G network on AWS likely made the decision a no-brainer. Koch Business Solutions, the IT arm of industrial conglomerate Koch, is another launch customer. Meanwhile, Amazon's own fulfilment centres (FCs) will also deploy AWS Private 5G.

"We deploy technology outside of FCs to make moving tractor trailers around safer and more accurate and efficient. We have to provide network services for these systems across millions of square feet of outdoor space. Previously, to get proper Wi-Fi coverage in the parking lots around our FCs, we had to add light poles for the Wi-Fi equipment, modify our outdoor electrical systems and either trench fibre or support Mesh systems. This was expensive, disrupted productivity during installation, and had a high support burden," explained Jeff Armstrong, director of infrastructure engineering at Amazon, in a statement. "With AWS Private 5G, we can use two outdoor small cells mounted on the corners of our warehouses and achieve additional coverage in our parking lots, which was much quicker and cheaper to deploy. Just as important, we will be able to scale up our AWS Private 5G deployment as we expand our facilities."

There is another interesting aspect to AWS Private 5G, and it is one that could spell trouble for mobile operators: Amazon's new offering is designed to use shared spectrum.

In the US, that means CBRS, which consists of 150 MHz of 3.5-GHz spectrum – prime real estate when it comes to striking that balance between coverage and capacity. Other big markets like Japan and Germany have also reserved spectrum for private enterprise networks. Here in the UK, Ofcom has rolled out spectrum sharing and localised licences in several frequency bands to facilitate private networking.

Until recently, operators had to be part of the conversation about enterprise mobility because they were the gatekeepers of cellular spectrum. They could be shoved down the value chain, relegated to the role of so-called dumb pipes, but they couldn't be elbowed out of it entirely. However, the advent of private networking on shared spectrum – and the arrival to the market of a hyperscaler the size of Amazon – could keep a few mobile operators awake at night.

- Nick Wood, reporting for TelecomTV

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