As 2020 begins, ExteNet finds itself busy upgrading networks to 5G technology, deploying new systems in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) and meeting with companies that are interested in what can be accomplished with edge technology, according to Tormod Larsen, CTO, ExteNet.
With 5G technology and CBRS systems, ExteNet is able to create islands of layered networks. For example, a stadium could have multiple layers of networks, one that has applications that are unique to that facility with a high level of control by the owner. Other layers that can be accessed by the public for typical smartphone use.
“We can layer in different use cases and drive multiple economic and operational benefits for the different customers,” Larsen said.
Early adopters of 5G in-building networks are high-profile, public venues, such as arenas, stadiums and convention space. ExteNet has not seen as much interest from the office buildings and commercial real estate.
Not all the 5G deployment has been indoors. ExteNet has been busy outdoors updating its small cell networks using dedicated 5G spectrum, especially in high-density areas.
Larsen said he has been seeing a lot of interest from companies looking for concrete solutions for infrastructure underlying edge compute and edge storage. The applications of note include autonomous manufacturing, autonomous ports, and areas where close to real-time reliability is needed. Edge technology is also being considered for applications in retail, sports and entertainment.
“There are questions around how content can be pushed, whether it is sending advertising video to the parking lots of retail stores or digital signage for wayfinding or advertising,” Larsen said. “Another application is to use a video camera to ascertain the age and sex of a customer in order to discern what type of product advertising to display. It is amazing what people are thinking about. These trends could also impact our outdoor networks in places like Times Square.”
Lately, interest is being stirred by the ability to deploy private networks. Fixed wireless for wireless internet service providers was the early mover in the CBRS band. At the end of 2019 and early in 2020, private LTE system deployment is coming on quickly for market verticals such as the sports and entertainment, hospitality/hotels, and industrial. Retail, which is mostly discussions right now, will pick up steam, according to Larsen.
“We have had discussions with a number of commercial real estate owners, which is the hardest sometimes because private LTE is not something every enterprise needs,” Larsen said. “It is needed when a company must have security, predictable performance, mobility and low latency. When Wi-Fi is not good enough and the plain vanilla service from the carriers doesn’t cut it.”
Because of the return on investment that private systems offer, Larsen believes deployments of 5G will accelerate faster as private networks than they do with the carriers. The challenge for ExteNet is to find commonality so it can create a platform that serves the different applications.
“If you are in a manufacturing environment, you want to be in control of any system that affects your security or efficiency,” said Larsen. “They don’t want to be beholden to a carrier. A lot of IoT applications need a limited geographic area, which doesn’t play well with a nationwide carrier. Applications are unique. You will see different business models. For us, it is understanding the infrastructure behind the applications,” he said.