Verizon puts private 5G in focus with Nokia, Microsoft partnerships

Verizon got vocal about private 5G networks this week, making separate announcements with Nokia and Microsoft to expand its reach in the enterprise.

Today Verizon said it will offer private 5G network solutions to enterprises in Europe and Asia-Pacific with Nokia, using the Finnish vendor’s Digital Automation Cloud (NDAC) tools. It’s going to market with 5G private networks for international customers first with Nokia, but indicated other partners will follow, though wouldn’t say if that includes Ericsson specifically.

“At this time we are concentrating on our recently launched partnership with Nokia,” said John Crawford, general manager for Innovation & 5G, Verizon Business, in emailed responses to Fierce. “We will continue to grow our global 5G trusted partners ecosystem which already includes AWS and Microsoft.”

Microsoft was part of Verizon news yesterday that the pair are partnering on private 5G mobile edge compute (MEC) capabilities integrated with Microsoft Azure services for enterprise. Those capabilities are only available to U.S. customers at this time.

AT&T in the last week said it will offer private enterprise network solutions with Nokia and Ericsson using CBRS spectrum in the U.S.

Taking private 5G global

The move to help international business customers deploy dedicated 5G networks expands on Verizon’s network-as-a-service (NaaS) strategy, and points to growing enterprise interest in private cellular networks.

According to Crawford, Verizon’s private 5G managed service solution for global enterprises consists of “the Nokia NDAC (core, radio antenna), coupled with Verizon’s existing portfolio of managed WAN and LAN services, as well as professional services to define exact requirements for a given use case.”

Nokia’s private network solution allows enterprises to deploy applications via a web-based interface.

Nokia, for its part, has been pretty clear about engaging enterprise customers both directly and through partners. It already counts more than 180 private wireless deployments, of which around 60-70% are outside of North America. 

RELATED: Exploring CBRS for industrials with Anterix, Cradlepoint, Nokia — Special Report

In a recent interview with FierceWireless, Nokia’s head of business development for private wireless Dustin LaMascus said about half of its private wireless sales are direct, while the other 50% are in-direct, either through carriers or smaller partners including local systems integrators.

For many enterprises, private networks offer more control and security, as data and infrastructure stay on premises and traffic doesn’t have to go over a public network.

Verizon called out low-latency, real-time capabilities and on-prem data as key, particularly for industrial users with manufacturing and distribution facilities, as well as logistics. (Plug: FierceWireless is hosting a virtual event today focused on private networks for industrial verticals, with an eye on CBRS).  

When it comes to spectrum for private 5G networks internationally, business customers will apply for their own spectrum licenses, Crawford said via email, but “Verizon’s professional services team will work closely with customers and advise them on any procedures required.”

RELATED: AT&T teams with Ericsson for private wireless networks on CBRS spectrum

Some international enterprises have secured access to spectrum for private networks through regulators. That has been seen in Germany for example where, as of late September, regulators had assigned unlicensed 5G spectrum to 74 applicants for private use including auto-makers Audi and Mercedes-Benz. 

That said, GlobalData noted 38 of the entities were publicly named, of which only eight were manufacturers or utilities. Other successful applicants in Germany included private network integrators, network infrastructure or software services providers “indicating either speculative or sub-contracted spectrum investments,” according to John Marcus, principal analyst for Business Network and IT Services at Current Analysis.

Included in Verizon’s press release was comment from associate vice president of IDC’s European Telco Research practice, Martina Kurth, who said the firm is seeing international market move quickly to deploy private 5G networks. This seems to be a significant use case for the adoption of 5G “particularly in order to capitalize on 5G investments in the enterprise market.

With the ingredients of an early mover go-to-market 5G-know-how, foundational enterprise networking and innovative 5G enabled services Verizon's go-to-market recipe with Nokia will be an attractive solution to the broader market,” Kurth stated.  

Private 5G edge compute 

Verizon already has mobile edge compute (MEC) partnerships with AWS, as well as IBM and Cisco, but this week it added Microsoft Azure for on-site 5G Edge capabilities for enterprises.

Azure private cloud and edge services are integrated with 5G MEC located at the enterprise site, which Verizon said will help businesses increase power efficiency and reduce costs of end-user devices.

Ice Mobility, a logistics and supply chain company, is testing the private 5G Edge platform, using computer vision for quality assurance of its product packing. According to Verizon, near real-time data on packing errors could save Ice Mobility 15-30% in processing time.

“By leveraging Verizon’s 5G network integrated with Microsoft’s cloud and edge capabilities, developers and businesses can benefit from fast, secure and reliable connections to deliver seamless digital experiences from massive industrial IoT workloads to precision medicine,” said Yousef Khalidi, corporate vice president Azure for Operators at Microsoft, in a statement.  

AT&T has also gotten into partnerships with cloud players, including a multi-year strategic pact with Microsoft focused on 5G, cloud, as well as edge compute.

Verizon stated that it plans to explore opportunities to co-develop with Microsoft on solutions that add value to industries like manufacturing and healthcare.