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Securing the Future with Private 5G - Rob Le Busque, Regional VP, APAC at Verizon Business Group

As enterprises accelerate their digital transformation, many are considering 5G to enable advanced applications like digital twins, predictive maintenance, and smart factories. But should businesses invest in public 5G or deploy their own private 5G networks? We chat with Rob Le Busque, Regional Vice President for Asia Pacific at Verizon Business Group on how private 5G presents an opportunity for manufacturers in Asia that have lagged behind in technology adoption, to leapfrog generations of technology infrastructure and make significant advancements.

Rob Le Busque, Regional VP, APAC at Verizon Business Group
Rob Le Busque, Regional VP, APAC at Verizon Business Group

Singapore has very strong public 5G coverage from the major telecom operators already. Why should enterprises consider investing in private 5G networks when public 5G is widely available?

Firstly, it is important to understand the difference between public and private 5G networks. A private 5G network is a fully self-contained network. It has components of hardware, cabling, infrastructure, software and management controls that all sit within a single facility and are all managed and controlled by an organisation that deploys that technology. They really have three key benefits over and above public 5G networks, with a focus on control, reliability and security.

Control: A self-contained high-performance private 5G network gives ultimate level of control and flexibility to the organisation as to how they use that network and that technology.

Reliability: Private 5G networks are primarily deployed because they have higher performance levels and deliver reliable connectivity, particularly in mission-critical settings and high-density settings.

Security: Private 5G networks bring consistent, dedicated connectivity and performance to a campus-based environment, but more importantly, there are very high levels of security, access management and control authorisation with remote access, and the ability to set your own operational process and security applications. Private 5G really is unrivalled when it comes to next-generation networks, especially if enterprises are looking to digitise at scale and provide significant technology coverage.

What are some of the most security-sensitive industries that would require a private 5G network instead of public 5G or Wi-Fi? Can you provide specific examples or use cases from industries like healthcare, defense, or financial services where a private network is critical for security reasons?

Every industry should be security sensitive. We have learnt from the 16th annual Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report —which analysed 16,312 security incidents and 5,199 breaches⁠—that no industry, large or small, is immune to the security paradigm that we all now face. When we think about industries that consider security above others, we really need to think about, and consider, the type of customers operating in that particular environment or consumers that the industry serves.

Verizon has been working with a university in the UK that specialises in training healthcare workers, deploying private 5G technology inside their healthcare training facilities to help healthcare workers better deliver health and patient outcomes. Security is critical because of privacy considerations in this sector. Extremely sensitive health and individual data is transiting that network, and such enterprises will need to have very high levels of privacy, access and security controls to ensure that data is kept secure.

The ultimate benefits of such a solution are better healthcare outcomes for patients and a far more robust and agile healthcare worker environment where they can leverage private 5G technology to be more efficient. Even though it is evidently critical for the healthcare sector to have a private network, every industry should be security-sensitive and enterprises should seek to understand the security benefits of such networks in helping them secure their assets. With a private 5G network, it is very likely that enterprises will still need to connect with other enterprises or public networks.

Why should enterprises even consider a private network if they still need external connectivity? Enterprises will still need to connect with other networks. Even if they are not on private 5G networks yet, the modern enterprise network architecture still acts as a connectivity fabric that comprises many different aspects to create the way data moves around an organisation. There is connectivity at a specific site, the corporate network which invariably uses public Internet access, and even interconnection with partner networks.

Private 5G networks have excellent next-generation applications for specific sites, be it a campus or production and manufacturing facility or an office. Increasingly, they're being used at the age of a corporate network within a connectivity fabric to increase performance, increase capability and increase application availability for workers on those sites. Ultimately, with any type of connectivity and network, corporations are seeking to do one simple thing­ – connect dynamic users to dynamic applications. Private 5G networks play an essential part of that fabric in helping to achieve that goal.

The pandemic has accelerated digital transformation significantly, heightening cybersecurity risks for many enterprises. At the same time, major investments have also been made in hardware and software encryption technologies. Given these advancements, is a private 5G network still necessary just for security purposes, or can enterprises make do with public networks plus strong encryption?

A private 5G network and solution do not simply serve security purposes. There have been significant advancements in encryption technologies, and we are continuing to make strong advancements in cybersecurity protections and controls every day. We all need to continue our work in this area as many of the advancements we make in cyber protections are being watched by cyber criminals, who are matching those advancements with their sophistication and ability to launch attacks.

Private 5G also enables all our hardware devices and software encryption technologies to operate at a speed and scale that other types of connectivity or wireless connectivity solutions are unable to achieve. One of the critical benefits of a private 5G solution is its ultra-high bandwidth availability and ultra-low latency, even with the significant density of devices that can connect within such networks. This translates into near real-time capabilities in monitoring information and data, enabling enterprises to implement a higher level of security. This is even more critical when it comes to applications in environments that are inherently dangerous, such as in the operation of large machinery or equipment, where health and safety are of paramount concern.

Can private 5G facilitate cross-border collaboration between manufacturers in Asia? Will the lack of spectrum harmonisation across Asia-Pacific present a major hindrance?

There is a need for cross-border partnerships and interoperable systems. Market demand is driving this journey that is taking us on a spectrum of availability and maturity. The Asia Pacific (APAC) region has globally been at the forefront of adopting new mobile technologies. The first 3G network anywhere in the world was launched in Japan, demand for 4G was driven by consumer apps that first emerged here in the region, and South Korea was one of the first countries to launch a commercial 5G network.

Verizon is proud to have launched the world’s first commercial 5G network in the US with a spectrum of availability in terms of service and capability. Here in APAC, it is heartening to see that many governments are availing spectrum in different ways, and Verizon constantly works with our partners everywhere in the world to understand how to address their market needs. It is also very encouraging that many governments in the region establish settings and protocols for proof-of-concept deployments for private 5G networks, thus lowering the barriers to entry to test, learn and deploy. This will increase understanding of the benefits of private 5G and in turn, drive adoption, further facilitating cross-border partnerships and interoperability.

Verizon talks about using 5G to enable digital twins and predictive maintenance. However, many factories in Asia still lack digitalisation and even basic IT infrastructure. Will this be a challenge to Verizon's ambition? What is Verizon's perspective on the maturity level of these technologies on the factory floor in Asia?

At Verizon, we see the constraints faced in factories in the region as an opportunity rather than a challenge. Manufacturing facilities in Asia have always been more adaptable, dynamic and agile, critically assessing and changing their operational models far more quickly than anywhere in the world. In APAC, there has been a very early and rapid adoption of 5G technology in manufacturing facilities for two key reasons.

Firstly, APAC is seen as the manufacturing base of the world, and manufacturing companies view technology such as private 5G as the key to maintain their competitive edge, particularly in smart manufacturing or advanced manufacturing. Asia produces a wide range of products for both domestic and global markets, and 5G technology can support high-resolution video streaming, real-time imaging, and augmented reality (AR) applications for quality assurance and inspection processes. Manufacturers can conduct remote inspections, perform detailed product analyses, and ensure adherence to quality standards, even when dealing with distributed manufacturing locations.

Secondly, for organisations that are lower on the digitisation maturity curve, private 5G offers a great opportunity to leapfrog several generations of technology infrastructure. Enterprises can reduce the risks of technology debt arising from stranded assets. Specifically, private 5G brings to the manufacturing sector a rapid generational shift upwards in operational capability and resiliency.

How does Verizon plan to tailor its 5G and private network solutions to the unique needs of manufacturers in Asia as compared to Western markets? What localisation strategies will you leverage?

Verizon has been operating in APAC for close to 30 years, offering solutions spanning cybersecurity, secure network services, advanced communications, professional services and media services across key markets in the region. We work very closely with customers for their unique needs, tapping on a significant set of relationships, infrastructure and capabilities in these locations.

Our strategy and solution here—as with every other technology that we bring to our APAC customers—is first and foremost to start with our customers to understand exactly what they need and to provide the technology they are looking for to help them advance their business and maintain their competitive advantage. In the region, we will continue with this focus of putting the customer first in the customer journey, an approach that all of us at Verizon adopt globally.

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