Yet another private network initiative has been announced – this time in South Africa, where operator MTN plans to build private 5G networks for mines and ports.
In fact, according to reports from the South African Sunday Times news service, no fewer than 14 companies in the mining and ports sector are to receive the networks, which, it is claimed will provide the firms with guaranteed coverage and capacity for their operations.
Noting that this is a huge growth area for MTN South Africa, CEO Charles Molapisi has been quoted as saying that in addition to providing data and voice services, the networks would support cloud computing, better cybersecurity and unified communications. However, MTN has not yet revealed its vendor partner or partners for private 5G rollout in South Africa.
Of course 5G’s high capacity and low-latency capabilities have strong potential in Internet of Things (IoT) applications in smart mines and factories, not least where autonomous vehicles can enter areas too dangerous for humans.
However, improved efficiency and reduced operating costs, notably at ports, are other attractions, as indicated by a 2019 project at the vast Port of Hamburg which tested the implementation and realisation of 5G and network slicing in a real-world operational environment.
As for 5G availability, MTN aims to have 25% of people within MTN 5G coverage by the end of 2022 and seems to be making real progress towards that target; 20% coverage was reached by the end of June.
The growing interest in the potential of private networks for industry has been noted in these pages a number of times this year. In fact, in only the past few weeks we have reported that a 5G private network is being deployed in Brazil with help from Ericsson and an LTE private network has been rolled out in Mexico with support from Nokia.