Virgin Media O2 Business is UK’s first telco to launch commercial plug-and-play 5G SA private network
Aug 2, 2023
London, UK – Virgin Media O2 Business is now the UK’s first telco to offer a portable commercial 5G Standalone (SA) Private Network (PN). Once plugged in, the new portable network enables companies to immediately access 5G connectivity at the flick of a switch, without the time and expense of building an entire network.
Only slightly larger than a carry-on airline bag, the new product is small but mighty. With a network that can be easily used and activated, not just by telecoms engineers, the product enables businesses of all sizes to access private connectivity. This means that organisations from tech start-ups to large companies will be able to tap into a secure 5G network quickly, and in a way that fits their needs.
Since the first trials of the portable solution, Virgin Media O2 Business has developed and deployed two 5G SA PN platforms. Telefónica’s innovation arm, Wayra – home to the first trial of this product – has been using the network since last summer, enabling customers and small businesses to experience 5G SA enabled applications first-hand.
Start-ups based in Wayra’s London office have already benefited from the solution, including Mobilus Labs, an organisation using advanced voice technology to enable industrial teams to communicate in environments with extreme noise (85 dB+). To ensure safe interactions between people and devices on sites like construction, manufacturing and healthcare locations, Mobilus Labs requires fast internet speeds and secure connections which private 5G networks can provide. Further trials with companies offering products ranging from Virtual Reality (VR) applications to Internet of Things (IoT) services have already shown benefits including high reliability, enhanced data security, and ultra-low latency.
These applications and features are leveraged using Nokia Digital Automation Cloud (DAC) and Nokia MX Industrial Edge (MXIE), which allows organisations like Mobilus Labs to safely support mission-critical applications. This integration makes Virgin Media O2 Business the UK’s first telco to incorporate MXIE into its private wireless offering. With on-premises edge cloud capabilities, enterprises can process data at the source in real-time, meaning business-critical applications do not need to communicate back to an application in the public cloud. This removes the complexity and economic hurdles typically associated with mission-critical networking, meaning the solution can support digital transformation for businesses across sectors including, manufacturing, construction, and healthcare.
As the product is continuing to be used for 5G SA demonstrations, businesses can experience the PN hands-on to test relevant use cases for Industry 4.0 robotics, IoT, VR, and Artificial Intelligence. With potential productivity and reduced risk gains, testing is not limited to businesses operating in large cities the product’s compact nature can support 5G connectivity in rural locations or places where public network access to 5G may be more limited – meaning businesses of any size and in any location can now instantly tap into private 5G connectivity.
Tony Blackburn, Chief Technology Officer at Mobilus Labs, said: “At Mobilus Labs, we are making Industrial teams more connected through clear voice communications. The portable 5G standalone private network will unlock access to super-fast Internet connectivity across Industrial sites. Having trialed Virgin Media O2 Business’s solution, we believe it will enable mobiTALK, our Push-To-Talk smart phone application, to offer a seamless customer experience.”
Jo Bertram, Managing Director at Virgin Media O2 Business, said: “Moving beyond trials, Virgin Media O2 Business is now the UK’s first telco to offer a portable commercial 5G Standalone Private Network. Britain is a hub for innovation, so it’s crucial that companies operating here can access the connectivity needed to create new experiences for customers. From start-ups to large enterprises, our latest network solution will enable 5G trials and deployment without the time or cost of building a whole network. Removing barriers, like location and cost, to ensure that businesses get the connection they need.”
Phil Siveter, CEO at Nokia UK&I, said: “Nokia has deployed mission-critical networks to more than 2,600 leading enterprise customers in the transportation, energy, manufacturing, webscale, and public sector segments around the globe. We have also extended our expertise to more than 635 private wireless customers worldwide. We have developed Nokia Digital Automated Cloud and MXIE to help enterprises achieve their economic, environmental, and operational goals in the most intuitive way. This private wireless network delivers on high resilience, performance, and security as part of the OT Edge, helping to accelerate enterprise adoption of OT transformation.”
Bruno Moraes, Managing Director at Wayra UK, said: “Reliable, fast, precise, on-demand connectivity is a must for all businesses, especially those in the most challenging environments like hospitals and construction sites etc. This plug-and-play private network unlocks reliable and low-cost connectivity for those industries whenever and wherever they need it, which is game-changing. In partnership with Virgin Media O2, we are collaborating with corporate customers and startups in these areas to test this network and build new products on the foundation of new levels of connectivity.”