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Private 5G matures, 2023 to be the year of enterprise POCs

Johannesburg, 25 Jan 2023
Gary Woolley, Executive: Private Networks, Comsol.
Gary Woolley, Executive: Private Networks, Comsol.

5G private network technologies have evolved rapidly, making this the year enterprises will start deploying private 5G networks in earnest.

This is according to Gary Woolley, Comsol Executive: Solutions, who says private 5G network technology geared for enterprises is maturing, with OEMs and system integrators coming to market with more granular solutions that address enterprise needs across multiple sectors.

According to Analysys Mason, take-up of new private networks internationally has been led by large organisations with networking teams and significant internal expertise. They expect this to continue in 2023, but note that private networking solutions will need to be simpler and easier to buy if 5G is to penetrate the next tier of business.

Woolley says: “South African enterprises have shown great interest in the opportunities for private 5G, but until fairly recently, OEMs and telcos have not offered real granularity in service offerings and pricing structures. Very specific technologies, network architectures, pricing structures and SLAs are needed to meet the unique needs of a wide range of industries. Proper pre- and post-implementation planning and support is needed and the market needs to push the boundaries between what product sets are and what enterprises are actually asking for. Now, we’re seeing more R&D and a broader range of solutions being developed, which address particular industry requirements.”

These unique requirements could include the need to run autonomous equipment on a mine, for example.

Woolley says getting true value from 5G private networks depends on more than the foundational 5G technology: “There needs to be a focus on how the solution is installed. For proper 5G coverage and performance, the environment must be properly assessed and the right masts, power supply and backhaul technologies must be integrated. In addition, the SLAs must be tailored to address the needs of organisations whose mission-critical systems depend on highly available networks.”

With OEMs and system integrators increasingly able to meet enterprise needs in the market, Woolley expects pioneer enterprises to start planning for 5G private networks and running proofs of concept this year. “Adoption has been relatively slow in South Africa so far, because many organisations want to see examples of existing deployments and use cases before making their move. However, because the technology has matured and 5G private networks offer compelling business value, we expect early adopters to start rolling out their own private 5G networks and proofs of concept this year.”

He notes that elsewhere in the world, organisations that deploy private 5G networks to address a handful of business needs typically discover a wealth of additional use cases and reduce their dependence on other technologies, saving money while also improving their efficiencies.

“We find that they start automating more systems – because they can – and achieve incremental value. A private 5G network can span a massive area, so organisations start running autonomous vehicles, heavy equipment and voice systems on their networks, they find they can replace two-way radio systems and don’t need to refresh their WiFi networks, because now they have blanket coverage indoors and outdoors.”

Woolley adds: “5G isn’t just about capacity, but also offers reliability, lower latency and the option to better secure data by keeping it all on campus. This supports requirements for continuity of mission-critical systems, and systems that support health and safety, improve productivity and efficiency and enable cost savings.”