Guest: Johan Bjorklund (LinkedIn)
Company: Betacom (Twitter)

When COVID hit, the global supply chain was put under a significant amount of pressure which, teamed with other factors, has led to a drive to bring manufacturing back to the US. However, connectivity continues to be a key challenge in realizing this plan with some saying that WiFi is not best suited to the task.

In this episode of TFiR: Let’s Talk, Swapnil Bhartiya sits down with Johan Bjorklund, CEO of Betacom to discuss the state of dedicated private cellular networks, particularly in light of the push to bring manufacturing back to the US. He goes into detail about some of the benefits of private 4G and 5G networks over WiFi and talks about Betacom’s role in testing out the new technologies and the standard of 3GPP Release 16.

Key highlights from this video interview are:

  • Private wireless networks are gaining traction. Betacom’s primary focus is on logistics, manufacturing, and transportation and Bjorklund feels that there is a lot of opportunity to bring manufacturing back to the US but more robust wireless networks are needed to handle the increase in robotics and automation.
  • Geopolitics is playing a significant role in the case to bring manufacturing back to the US such as the political strain between China and Taiwan since over 90% of our chips are manufactured in Taiwan. Bjorklund explains how this is incentivizing the US to become less reliant on Taiwan-manufactured chips by manufacturing more domestically.
  • One of the key challenges for bringing manufacturing back to the US is connectivity as many manufacturing facilities are situated outside big cities and may not be fiber or a secure wireless network. Carriers mostly cater for high-density spaces so there is a need for more infrastructure in locations outside these areas.
  • 4G and 5G private network technologies are deployed in a similar way to WiFi networks in that they lie behind customers’ firewalls so that their data is kept within their own firewalls. Bjorklund explains the benefits of 4G and 5G networks such as cybersecurity on the edge and being more robust for business-critical applications compared to WiFi.
  • 4G remains the biggest ecosystem but 5G is starting to gain traction with devices becoming more readily available. Bjorklund forecasts that it will be a couple of years though before 5G deployments overtake 4G ones.
  • COVID’s increased pressure on the global supply chain, in addition to current geopolitical issues, is driving an increased focus on domestic manufacturing. However, we need private wireless in order to make this come to fruition. Bjorklund feels the government is aligned with this and is investing money to support this transition.
  • Bjorklund explains how private networks can enable industries like manufacturing, such as building automation to increase capacity. He talks about how it can help with reconfiguring workstations and assembly lines.
  • Airports are another key use case, which has business-critical applications such as luggage scanning. Bjorklund discusses how dedicated private cellular networks can offer more capacity and consistency, with predictable demand and supply.
  • Bjorklund talks about the 3GPP Release 16 standard and how it will develop the 5G ecosystem. Betacom’s partners are working closely on the standard to enable new features such as better latency and more robustness. He explains Betacom’s testing process with the standard and how they are ensuring it all works end to end.

This summary was written by Emily Nicholls.

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