Ste Ashton: Revolutionizing the Facets of Connectivity

Ste Ashton
Ste Ashton

The telecommunications industry has been witnessing a transformative shift with the emergence of 5G and the promise of 6G on the horizon. These advancements hold the potential to revolutionize various sectors and industries—paving the way for enhanced connectivity, accelerated innovation and unprecedented opportunities. The expansion of 5G networks is continuing throughout the world, with networks providing new communication capabilities and services that are set to transform society. The 5G Advanced evolution is being continued to ensure the success of deployed systems globally and to expand the usage.

As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, leaders in the field are at the forefront, driving innovation and shaping the future of telecommunications. One such visionary is Ste Ashton, the Managing Director of nexGworx, a small but pioneering company in the 5G 6G and smart connected technology domains. nexGworx has actively engaged with ecosystem partners, leveraged testbeds and worked closely with customers to start to bridge the gap between R&D and mass-market adoption.

Let’s delve into the insights of revolutionizing connectivity in the 5G and 6G landscape!

Bridging the Gap Between Innovation and Adoption

Incorporated in 2021 as a subsidiary of Malvern Hills Science Park, nexGworx emerged from the Worcestershire 5G Testbed and Trials project. With a focus on maintaining a leading edge of innovation and delivering exceptional value to customers, nexGworx has established itself within the rapidly evolving landscape of 5G and 6G technologies. At the helm of this groundbreaking company is Ste Ashton, whose strategic vision and leadership has been critical to keeping nexGworx at the forefront of innovation within the industry.

Advancements and Developments in 5G and 6G

Unleashing the Full Potential of 5G: Public and Private Networks Converging

When discussing the advancements in the field of 5G, Ashton emphasizes that we have only scratched the surface of what is possible. In public networks, the current limitations imposed by non-standalone architecture, current licensing, and reliance on 4G networks have hindered the realization of 5G’s full potential. However, private networks have showcased some of the early promises of 5G, including lower latencies, higher throughput, bespoke network architecture, and customization.

Furthermore, 5G NB-IoT, network slicing and commercial wrap-around services are areas that still require further development. Ashton expresses excitement about the convergence of public and private networks, the potential growth of network slicing on public networks for new services, and the role of non-terrestrial networks in addressing connectivity challenges.

Looking Ahead to 6G: The Influence of AI and Quantum Computing

Ashton shares, “I don’t consider 6G to be market ready in the near future, so nexGworx’s focus is on the 5G part of the question.”

While 6G is not expected to be in the connectivity landscape in the near future, Ashton recognizes that the fields of artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computing will play crucial roles in shaping and complementing 6G networks and their applications. The growing influence of AI and quantum computing presents both opportunities and challenges for these advanced networks. Their impact will extend to network operations and enable revolutionary applications that redefine how society operates.

Transforming Industries and Sectors with 5G and 6G Technologies

Empowering Manufacturing and Industry 4.0

The advent of 5G has already showcased its transformative potential in industries such as manufacturing and Industry 4.0. Ashton highlights examples of improved productivity, enhanced customer satisfaction and sustainable practices facilitated by 5G solutions. Ashton says, “For manufacturing and industry 4.0 – we’ve already seen applications of solutions over 5G networks that evidence improvements.”

While large-scale deployments of “dark factories” may still be on the horizon, tangible benefits are already being realized through better data management, informed real time decision-making, quality control, monitoring for net-zero targets, increased robotics and collaborative robots, and the use of augmented reality to support field engineers and training initiatives. The healthcare, aerospace, automotive and public service sectors have also witnessed the promising impact of 5G technologies.

Challenges and Obstacles to Overcome

Ashton acknowledges the initial hurdle of overcoming overhyped expectations and subsequent waves of negativity. 5G has been burdened by these fears but also by confusion the industry has created itself by referring to simply ‘5G’; to cover a number of different technologies, different spectrum bands and different network architectures that deal with specific challenges and have their own characteristics, we need to find better ways to explain how a public network using low band 5G to support a ‘thin and crispy’ coverage layer, differs from the performance you would expect from a private 5G network in the mid bands with an onsite core and edge compute dealing with a ‘stop-start’ command on an industrial cutting machine.

Collaboration and innovation beyond traditional service boundaries for mobile operators are also areas that require attention. Ashton emphasizes the need for clearer communication to demystify the different technologies and network architectures associated with 5G, as well as the need to address device affordability and availability concerns.

He adds, “Finally, whilst the telecoms and tech sectors are focussed on how the technology develops and evolves, I believe the customers are asking questions like, where are the skills? Who will stand behind a service commitment and when to make the investment.”

Driving Innovation in the Evolving Landscape of 5G and 6G

Engaging Ecosystem Partners and Testbeds

To drive innovation and maintain a competitive edge, nexGworx, driven on byAshton, has pursued a strategy of early engagement and collaboration with a wide range of partners within the ecosystem. By leveraging the Worcestershire 5G project and securing both private and government funding, nexGworx and partners achieved remarkable milestones that would have been difficult for any party to accomplish independently.

On a different 5G R&D project working in healthcare, we also recognized that solution providers need early access to the medical Clinicians and the support teams to ensure they are not just monitoring their technology readiness levels but their adoption readiness levels too.

nexGworx acts as a bridge between research and development (R&D) and mass-market adoption, offering testbeds, sandpits and professional services that minimize initial costs and risks.

Ashton shares, “Although we’re happy to go straight to ‘live’ if the customer is ready. We continue to evolve our testbeds and our offer, investing in our R&D capabilities and working with partners on joint ‘go to market’ strategies.  

nexGworx places emphasis on developing relationships and forging a deep understanding of its customer’s needs, actively collaborating with a wide range of businesses across the ecosystem, RTO organizations such as the Manufacturing Technology Centre, supporting manufacturers of all sizes, and Universities.

Ethical Considerations and Responsibilities

When working with emerging technologies, Ashton emphasizes several key ethical considerations and responsibilities. Ensuring data privacy and security, both for businesses and the wider public, is of paramount importance. He states, “Assuming legal and regulatory compliance in the first instance, undertaking combined impact assessments are early on the agenda within projects, and I try to apply these to our strategic approaches.

Security should be integrated into networks and applications from the outset. Ashton emphasises , “Designing in security to both networks and the applications on them is absolutely critical.”

Promoting inclusivity, avoiding discrimination and addressing bias in network operations and applications are critical to ensure responsible deployment. Ashton also emphasizes the importance of addressing financial and non-financial concerns, such as environmental, social and governance aspects. Leaders and organizations must consider the potential unintended consequences of emerging technologies and not just the benefits.

The Future of 5G and 6G: Shaping Lives and Society

Realizing the Full Potential of 5G

As public networks deploy standalone 5G and higher frequency bands, the benefits and applications utilizing these features will become more pronounced. Ashton envisions significant benefits in sectors such as healthcare and public services in the community, transport logistics and agri-tech. Private networks are expected to advance more rapidly, delivering substantial benefits to manufacturing, healthcare in hospitals, engineering, construction and transport hubs. Ashton sees 5G networks in a symbiotic relationship with transformative technologies like AI, augmented reality, metaverses and orchestrated autonomous transport systems, allowing all to flourish, impacting our homes, communities and workplaces.

Anticipating the Long-Term Horizon of 6G

While Ashton believes it is crucial for nexGworx to focus on the present state of 5G, he acknowledges the importance of looking ahead to 6G. As discussions and standard-setting for 6G continue, Ashton urges the industry to adhere to proposed timelines and avoid unnecessary delays. With a multitude of stakeholders, vested interests and patent considerations, it is vital to maintain a forward trajectory. Ashton highlights that 6G networks will not exist in isolation but will evolve alongside other transformative technologies, including AI, quantum computing and advancements in fields like silicon photonics and semiconductors. Excitement for the long-term prospects of 6G is justified, but it is important to remain attentive and adaptable to emerging developments.

Advice for Aspiring Leaders in the Field of 5G and 6G

For those aspiring to make a significant impact in the field of 5G, Ashton offers valuable advice. In the context of 5G, now is the time to deliver, it is crucial to remain focused on what is real and avoid overselling the technology or network capabilities. As the adoption of private networks is still in its early stages, recognizing the ecosystem’s interdependence and the need for strong partnerships is essential. Deploying technology should always be driven by the business benefits it can deliver to customers.

Regarding 6G, Ashton emphasizes the importance of adhering to proposed timelines, avoiding unnecessary delays caused by vested interests, and staying aware of advancements in related technologies. Ashton encourages future leaders to be excited about long-term potential while remaining grounded and forward-thinking.

A Dynamic Business Leader

Ashton, as the Managing Director of nexGworx, brings a wealth of experience and expertise to the dynamic business arena. With a deep understanding of the telecommunications landscape and a passion for driving innovation, Ashton has been instrumental in shaping nexGworx’s strategic direction and fostering its launch and evolution. His role encompasses overseeing the company’s operations, ensuring its position at the forefront of innovation, and delivering exceptional solutions to meet customer needs.