With Cisco, another major IT player is entering the private 5G business. Enterprise customers are to receive 5G at calculable costs.
© James Thew
A private 5G network for your own company without high investments? This is what Cisco promises with its private 5G offer for companies, which the network supplier presented at MWC 2022. However, the company is not addressing enterprise customers directly, but rather service providers and system integrators, who can then put together a complete solution consisting of a private 5G network and other services.
The Private 5G Technology
Put simply, Cisco's Private 5G offer is an Infrastructure-as-a-Service offer. On the one hand, this includes the actual network technology (antennas, etc.), whereby Cisco relies on Open RAN technology. For this, Cisco works closely with ORAN providers such as JMA and Airspan, whose technology is already being used in test projects. Furthermore, the offer includes the actual 5G core, which comes from Cisco's TC portfolio, for aspects such as SIM management. There is also a management platform from the cloud. It is a further development of the IoT management platform Cisco IoT Control Center. Together, this is intended to serve Cisco partners as a private 5G platform on which further services are then offered. These could be cloud services from AWS, Google or Microsoft, but also industry platforms such as Siemens MindSphere and Cumulocity from Software AG, to name just a few examples.
Ultimately, the Cisco 5G offer - in contrast to other offers - leaves out the business and process logic for the time being and provides a kind of private 5G marketplace for further services. On the other hand, Cisco emphasises that its own solution does not treat 5G as a standalone network, but rather as complementary to other networks - regardless of whether LAN or WLAN (Wi-Fi 6). With a view to Hybrid Work, the typical area of application is seen more in the office sector, while Private 5G is located in the OT segment. In other words, in applications such as robot control, where secure networks with low latency and quality of services (QoS) are important.
Management solution to be delivered later
When asked, Cisco admits that the interaction of private 5G with other networks will only work policy-based in the first step. However, according to Adam MacHale, Vice President Service Provider EMEAR at Cisco, the company is "working hard on a management solution that enables joint administration and orchestration of the various networks. Two approaches are conceivable: One is in the direction of Cisco DNA Center, the other is a Meraki-style solution.
The management solution for private 5G is already multi-client and role-capable today. This means that companies can decide whether they want to leave the management of a Private 5G solution completely to the provider and be satisfied with status information, for example, or whether they want to manage parts or even the entire network themselves.
Cisco Private markets 5G to its partners in a subscription model. Pricing is based on three points. In addition to a basic price, the network size (number of antennas) and the number of end devices, i.e. all devices with a SIM card, are included in the subscription fee. The partners themselves are free to set their own prices for corporate customers.
In this country, Cisco has already won two partners for Private 5G. It is officially known that the Logicalis Group offers corresponding solutions on a Cisco basis. The name of the second partner is expected in a few days.
One of the first German users to adopt Cisco Private 5G is the Schaeffler Group in Herzogenaurach. "We have recognised the potential of Private 5G to achieve important goals such as factory automation and enhanced communication between machines," said Fabian Wagner, Global Head of Network Infrastructure Services at Schaeffler Group. "To do this, we need a reliable and secure solution that can be seamlessly integrated into our existing Wi-Fi network."