Three years, 300 private-wireless-as-a-service networks — and we’ve only just begun
One of my colleagues reminded me that it is just three years since we launched our Digital Automation Cloud or DAC. Our DAC solution was not just the first private-wireless-as-a-service offering in the market but in that short time, has become the leading one with a whopping 300 networks deployed. In honor of DAC’s third birthday, I thought it might be a good time to take stock of our accomplishments and review what we’ve learned about providing private wireless as a service over the last three years.
We first launched Nokia Digital Automation Cloud to a certain degree of skepticism in the market. In 2018, many stakeholders in the industry did not even know what private wireless networks were, and as-a-service was not yet a popular term in the telecom space. From the time of our first private wireless projects in 2012, which defined what private wireless was for the industry, the early adopter customers had tended to be large enterprises that were willing to undertake the capital investment of buying their own networks, customizing them and absorbing the operational learning curve. Would there also be companies interested in having it as a service?
From our many customer meetings and the perception of complexity associated with telco technologies, we strongly believed that there was a latent demand from a different set of customers. Our experience suggested that private wireless would be big business, and that as private wireless became more mainstream, there would be also a strong demand for a pre-packaged plug-and-play solution, with low upfront investment but massive scaling potential. As-a-service seemed to be the right model. It would give them an ability to replicate easily between their different sites and for Nokia or a third-party company to take care of managing the operations. But we had yet to prove it.
Today, Nokia leads the market with 290+ private wireless customers (at last count). Eight of the top analysts in this space rank us as the market leader. We count by customer because it became extremely complex after 100 networks to keep tabs on all the networks those customers were deploying, as we are not always involved in the installation and, with a growing number of partners, the networks get deployed without our knowledge and the equipment is covered as part of recurring orders. For our DAC, private-wireless-as-a-services customers, in contrast, we always know what networks are in operation and where.
As such, we’re absolutely sure that we are running 300 DAC private wireless networks worldwide today, with many customers having more than one network. One of the main drivers for this burgeoning demand for private wireless is Industry 4.0, which has also taken off over the last three years, where the need for reliable and secure wireless connectivity is key for typical OT use cases. In the case of “as-a-service”, its growth can also be explained by enterprises’ need for solutions that gives them a specific outcome, and less about the sub-elements of the solution.
When enterprises buy a production line or a machine from a supplier, they generally expect a turnkey solution that delivers the complete outcome. This is also the approach they have for private wireless, which is a key digitalization accelerator/platform for them. They expect the complete package: devices, services, enabling applications, spectrum and industrial partners/ecosystems. This not only delivers the outcome but, once it is proven, allows them to replicate it quickly across multiple sites.
Private wireless as a service (pWaaS) package approach
Our complete package approach has been behind most of our success to date. It has been the key to simplifying private wireless adoption and providing maximum value when it comes to accelerating industry 4.0 digitalization for our customers.
Here is a quick summary of the DAC pWaaS package.
- An edge-cloud-centric architecture that helps address many pain points:
- pWaaS operation and management (O&M) can be done from the cloud, with Nokia (or third-party) experts
- The local edge cloud implementation enables local data confidentiality by keeping it on site. It also runs the application framework to make it into a digitalization platform. Being local it helps lower latency and increase reliability with local processing of data for critical applications.
- Customer access through a simplified web-based management interface
- Key components run on the edge to ensure the network will keep operating if the link to the cloud goes down
- Cloud-driven software updates to ensure the network always runs the latest software builds (important for security)
- Multi-site networks with simple replication of configurations from one site to the next, and the same O&M approach across the company
- pWaaS business model allows for upfront cost to be kept low yet allow for massive scaling
- End-to-end solution and innovations for simplicity:
- Includes wireless spectrum through spectrum partnerships, spectrum-related enablers (such as CBRS SAS and domain proxy), as well as unlicensed spectrum support, including MulteFire
- Pre-tested and validated range of ruggedized industrial devices
- Simplified operations with SIM tools and device management application
- Catalog of key digital enablement applications includes Nokia’s own portfolio, such as indoor geo-positioning, video analytics, critical voice services and connectors to support industrial protocols on private wireless (e.g., PROFINET, ETHERCAT), as well as third-party applications, including cloud services from providers such as Azure
- Automation innovations and pre-integration for simplified installation and operation
- Web-based DAC radio planning tools
- Enterprise services offering and vertical specific blueprints.
- Adding 5G is mostly a software update*
The icing on the birthday cake came this last summer when DAC launched the first 5G standalone (SA) private network, a world first for private wireless. It strongly positions DAC as a digital platform for the future.
So, happy birthday DAC! Your combination of a quick to set-up service, your catalog of applications to choose from and portfolio of pre-tested and ruggedized user equipment has been incredibly successful to date. You have helped us to grow the Nokia private wireless base worldwide and easily secure our global leadership position. Just think where we’ll be in another three years — we’ve only just begun!
*Adding 5G will often require new radios to be deployed as 5G operates in different frequency and needs higher-grade MIMO.