China tech giant Tencent has warned that 5G needs to be more cost-effective and flexible if it wants to compete in B2B.
Wang Yachen, general manager of Tencent Cloud Network, says the company has taken part in a number 5G trials and projects but finds that it is expensive and with key features still not market-ready.
The gaming, social media and cloud provider, with a market cap of $600 billion, is looking to collaborate with operators that can provide dedicated private 5G networks for its own customers.
"Our enterprise customers are looking for a private 5G network, whether it's virtual or physical," Wang told the GSMA Thrive online conference this week. "But the physical network cost is a very big challenge."
To deploy a 5G private network for a 1,000 sq meter smart factory in China would cost $2 million, including the 5G modules, terminals and RAN and core network, Wang said.
He said 5G in its current form lacks flexibility both in technologies and business models.
"We need to provide flexible combinations of different technologies – for example, MEC, or slicing, or even light 5G core or public cloud-based 5G core. Those different technologies can be combined or decoupled in certain scenarios. So, operators need to provide very flexible technology solutions for customers."
He pointed out that businesses typically require a total solution, including items such as the cloud network or SaaS, and the 5G network is just one part of the bundle.
"A flexible business model means that 5G can be integrated into a total solution, especially with a public cloud service provider."
Wang said key 5G features such as QoS, LAN, network slicing and flexible traffic offloading for MEC were still not ready for commercial deployment.
But he acknowledged Tencent had learnt a lot from cloud gaming trials with China operators.
"It is different from traditional mobile gaming, with higher network requirements," he said. Typically it needs a stable 20ms RTT latency and at least 30Mbit/s download.
At this stage cloud gaming was the most important 5G use case for Tencent.
Separately, the company ran trials to test out different combinations of 5G tech in different scenarios, such as with and without MEC, and with and without network slicing.
It also tested out 5G for broadcast, using a 50Mbit/s uplink for cloud broadcasting, and "a lot of scenario trials with robots."
One of these was a smart factory inspection robot, requiring a minimum 50Mbit/s uplink and 20ms RTT latency.
"We can remote control the inspection robot using 5G combined with VR," Wang said, adding that this was another major use case that could likely be deployed in smart city and manufacturing projects.
— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading