Looking through the rear-view mirror, when 5G started on its journey towards the “peak of inflated expectations,” many industry watchers were predicting it would drive a revolution in enterprise opportunities. In the midst of that revolution, an interesting set of discussions and actions have risen around the subject of private 5G networks.
In the context of 5G, the focus is around the delivery of a dedicated mobile network infrastructure solely for (typically large) enterprise usage. How that is delivered is the source of much debate and some divergence of opinion. Organizations, such as Bosch and Volkswagen, have publicly indicated interest in pursuing this approach and often quote security, control, choice, flexibility and cost as their main business drivers. The message being received is that those considering this path believe the public, licensed 5G networks and telcos will struggle to deliver these attributes to the levels that enterprises think they need.
To execute a private 5G mobile network is no small feat. From frequency planning and aerial deployment to the radio backhaul network, the core and integration into existing IT systems is a complex challenge. On top of that, acquiring a private license within the frequency range allocated by the local regulator, and then operating within the license agreement, is also an exacting task.
When taking all of that into consideration:
Let’s find out.
In uncovering the scope of opportunity for telcos in this space, it pays to look at the possible delivery options, their pros and cons and how much a telco may need to shift its focus to capitalize on that opportunity. It goes without saying that by investing billions in public 5G licenses and infrastructure build-out, telcos will want to sweat out that asset quickly by attracting and keeping devices on the public macro network.
In breaking down the possible deployment options, the first thing to consider is what the actual high-level purpose of deploying a private 5G network is.
The deployment options, their benefits/drawbacks and possible telco roles are as follows:
The “revolution in enterprise” is promising for telcos, certainly for those who want to move along the “value per bit” continuum and establish a new position in the value chain. The role of a digital connectivity and content platform, delivering the best of applications and services “powered by 5G,” is one that holds great promise. Private 5G networks will be an interesting part of that overall opportunity. Recognizing that the current enterprise experience delivered by most telcos has room for improvement is key. Recent enterprise organization research conducted by IDC points to the gap between a 5G network and a 1G user experience — a gap that needs to be closed quickly if the “revolution” is to gather pace.