WinWin Issue 42


By Brite Devassy
Senior Manager of Network Strategy, MTN
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Building 5G Private Networks for Industry Transformation

-- As a leader in 5G networks in Africa, MTN deployed 5G isolated networks with a host of applications. Through this network platform, MTN realizes market monetization and revenue growth, promoting economic development.

MTN is the largest mobile operator in Africa, serving over 282 million subscribers across 19 markets in the Middle East and Africa. The service revenue for MTN last year was 170 billion rand; and we expect this to grow this year, especially with the growing 5G customer base in both B2B and B2C segments. In South Africa, MTN provides 5G coverage to 20% of the country's population and aims to reach 25% by the end of this year. We have set the Ambition 2025 strategy with a focus on five key enablers: second-to-none technology platforms; leading customer experience; best talent, culture, and future skills; value-based capital allocation; and environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG). We want to ensure that these five enablers are central to everything we do as we move towards private networks.

5GtoB market scenario

Several operators around the world have kicked off their 5GtoB journey within private networks, and there are numerous private networks running on LTE as well. Analysys Mason forecasts that the market for private networks comprising 5G and LTE will exceed 20,000 networks by 2026, and enterprise spend on these networks will reach USD5 billion in 2026. Manufacturing and mining are the top two verticals benefitting from private networks, with a combined share surpassing that of the rest combined. MTN has been a forerunner in private networks in South Africa, especially in mining. Our collaboration with Huawei to power South Africa's first 5G metal mine for Zijin Mining Group has been ground-breaking. The 5G-based ICT solutions not only provide high-speed 5G broadband access, but also enable smart mining solutions like vehicle remote control, IoT, and driverless trucks, among others. Currently, we are providing private networks to over 14 companies in the mining and ports sector in South Africa.

Private networks drive industry digital transformation

Private networks are widely being deployed across mining and manufacturing. With gigabit speeds and stable millisecond-level latency, 5G enables a host of advanced applications like predictive maintenance, precision monitoring, remote control, and augmented guided vehicles and machinery. Private networks are also transforming sectors like healthcare, retail, transport & ports, construction, media, and agriculture. In healthcare, private networks support critical services like patient monitoring, AI-enabled diagnosis, and connected ambulance. In retail, major use cases are developed for customer journey analytics, contextual advertising, and inventory tracking. The transport & ports sector largely benefits from traffic and parking analysis, smart city traffic management, and connected car driver assistance. In the construction industry, private networks enable AR-based training and video analytics for quality assurance, whereas in the media industry, the use cases mainly revolve around live video & broadcasting, temporary compute for events, and edge content delivery network (CDN).

5G isolated networks bring great value, efficiency, and safety to mining scenarios.

5G isolated networks' gain over sliced networks

5G isolated networks are emerging as the ideal network solution for a number of industry scenarios. However, many enterprises are still in two minds as to whether they should deploy isolated on-prem networks or network slicing. With network slicing, you can segment the network with various qualities of service and service level agreements (SLAs), to make sure that whoever wants a portion of the network will get it for their particular use case. However, the reality is that in sectors like mining, enterprises want total isolation of their network elements. They want to make sure that they have their own radio network sitting on-prem, wherein they can tailor SLAs depending on their requirements. The intention is to gain complete control over the network, and in doing so drive efficiency. 5G isolated networks are also known for their latency gains because the entire processing happens at the core data center, eliminating concerns associated with processing in other data centers or application environments.

MTN's smart mining journey with 5G isolated network

MTN's 5G isolated network serves as the backbone of the smart mining projects. There are three phases of deployment: communication, product monitoring, and product automation.

Communication is about providing the basic connectivity, to get the process up and running. Most of the mines are remote and have no connectivity. The handsets owned by the workers also have poor 4G connectivity, even for basic consumer services. Clearly, the challenges are enormous. By deploying a private network for the mine, the company can provide superfast connectivity to all employees working there. 5G is a lower cost alternative to fiber in large-surface mining areas with hard soil and challenging terrain. We have also implemented surveillance using IoT and camera devices for information tracking and vehicle tracking, which is applicable in scenarios such as fatigue detection, vehicle health check, and more.

The second phase, production monitoring, consists of two steps: belt monitoring and security monitoring. Belt transmission is the predominant way to transport ore from underground to surface. The whole production process may breakdown once the belt is broken. With smart mining, all such processes are supervised and inspected automatically. For security monitoring, MTN's private 5G network provides a complete set of smart campus solutions comprising access control, license plate, and attendance monitoring. It also performs production flow tracking; explosive management; equipment inventory; and monitoring of illegal operations such as smoking, passing under equipment or belt seat, and the like, to improve operations and ensure safety of the people and industrial assets.

Traditionally, mining requires a series of complex and dangerous operations to be performed manually, posing a threat to the lives of the workers. Without connectivity and proper monitoring, they are forced to work in a high-risk environment. Remote management can greatly improve the safety and efficiency of operations. With automation, machines take charge of the dangerous tasks, helping to avert potential casualties. Indeed, the value brought by such improvements to safety is unquantifiable. Automation also enhances the value of operations by helping reduce the waste during ore sorting. With machine vision and mechanical arm sorting, metallurgical customers can reduce the waste rock proportion, leading to faster return on investment (ROI).

In short, 5G isolated networks bring great value, efficiency, and safety to mining scenarios. As a leader in 5G networks in Africa, MTN has the ability to build, support, and deploy 5G isolated networks with a host of applications. The network works like a platform where we take advantage of these applications to monetize, grow, improve, and drive the economy within the markets that we operate. We think it's invaluable to any operator that's looking towards the 5GtoB journey. We are keen to drive industry partnerships to jointly build use cases that benefit industries, their people, and humanity as a whole.

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