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5G private networks: Seven years beyond Reykjavik

As 2021 closes, it is only natural to look ahead to 2022 and try to grasp the telecom technology trends that will shape service provider technology strategies. And yet, I cannot help but turn back to 2014. In December 2014, Light Reading held the inaugural Vision 2020 event with a mandate of focusing on what technologies would shape the telecom world in the next six years.

At this event held in Reykjavik, my colleague Gabriel Brown gave a presentation on 5G adoption. The presentation focused on how the 5G "development process will be instrumental in setting a vision for how mobility and wireless, and perhaps even network connectivity itself, will evolve."

One of his charts had an ineradicable impact on me. It showed how 5G ultra-low latency networks could be used to drive robotic innovation in factories, setting the stage for 5G private networks. At the time, this seemed overly ambitious. Many of us had only very recently acquired 4G handsets, and the industry was only a year into trying to assess the real impact of network functions virtualization (NFV).

But seven years and one week later, the notion of 5G private networks driving commercial service innovation is rapidly becoming a reality. This reality was documented in a recent 5G private network custom survey that Heavy Reading conducted on behalf of QCT and Intel.

Timeline for deploying 5G private networks

In the survey, Heavy Reading asked the survey respondents about the timeline for deploying 5G private networks. (Note that only service providers committed to deploying 5G private networks were invited to take this survey.) As shown below, the service providers surveyed are proposing an aggressive deployment schedule, with 18% claiming to have already deployed some form of 5G private network commercially. The remainder of respondents are either currently deploying (35%), plan to deploy in 12–18 months (27%) or will deploy sometime after 18 months (19%).

5G private network deployment timeline
Question: What is the status of your 5G private network deployment? (n=62) 
Source: Heavy Reading
Question: What is the status of your 5G private network deployment? (n=62)
Source: Heavy Reading

Heavy Reading believes that one of the key factors driving this aggressive deployment schedule is that 5G private networks are by their nature extremely well suited to supporting a broad realm of complex enterprise services.

5G and the smart enterprise market segments

The segments aligned with the Reykjavik presentation back in 2014 are referred to as smart enterprise market segments. Their evolution path is being reshaped by the need to leverage the additional intelligence inherent with the introduction of automation, robotics and analytics to make their businesses more efficient.

As the figure below illustrates, service providers plan to engage enterprise customers in all possible segments. The smart transportation (21%), smart healthcare (18%) and smart agriculture (15%) segments are leading the business opportunity discussion based on "rank 1" levels.

Ranking smart network market segments
Question: Please rank the following 'smart' market segments on a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 is the greatest 5G business opportunity. (n=62) 
Source: Heavy Reading
Question: Please rank the following "smart" market segments on a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 is the greatest 5G business opportunity. (n=62)
Source: Heavy Reading

While 5G private networks are gaining momentum, it is important to note that 5G private networks are not the only technology option available in a world where wireless technologies such as LTE and Wi-Fi have already been deployed at scale.

Still, as illustrated in the figure below, when Heavy Reading asked service providers if they planned to use a 5G private network for these smart segment industries, only 19% indicated that it was not under consideration.

The two largest groups (representing 79% of total responses) aligned with the "likely to use" option (47%) or "very likely" preferred approach (32%) options. These results confirm that 5G private networks have gained considerable market momentum.

5G private networks and smart markets
Question: How likely are you to utilize a 5G private network architecture to support 'smart' market segment services? (n=62) 
Source: Heavy Reading
Question: How likely are you to utilize a 5G private network architecture to support "smart" market segment services? (n=62)
Source: Heavy Reading

Attributes fueling interest in 5G private networks

Understanding the factors fueling interest in the deployment of a 5G private network architecture was also a key consideration in the survey. As illustrated in the figure below, there are numerous contributing factors in the mix.

Of these, based on the number of "rank 1" inputs, the top three considerations span network reliability (24%), network performance (23%) and scalability and enhanced security (both 16%). Heavy Reading interprets this data as verifying that service providers believe they can sell private networks to their enterprise customers by focusing on traditional network attribute strengths — reliability, performance, scalability and security.

5G private architecture benefits
Question: Please rank the following benefits associated with deploying a 5G private architecture on a scale of 1 to 6, where 1 is most important. (n=62)  
Source: Heavy Reading
Question: Please rank the following benefits associated with deploying a 5G private architecture on a scale of 1 to 6, where 1 is most important. (n=62)
Source: Heavy Reading

Ironically, aligned with the old adage, "the more things change, the more they stay the same," the importance of these attributes were also front and center in discussions at Reykjavik in 2014 — albeit in a different technical context.

— Jim Hodges, Research Director – Cloud and Security, Heavy Reading

Looking for more information?

Download the whitepaper for full survey results here.
Register for the webinar for more insights here.

This blog is sponsored by QCT and Intel.

Intel, the Intel logo, Optane and Xeon Inside are trademarks or registered trademarks of Intel Corporation in the US and/or other countries. All trademarks and logos are the properties of their respective holders. QCT, the QCT logo, Rackgo, Quanta and the Quanta logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Quanta Computer.
Intel, the Intel logo, Optane and Xeon Inside are trademarks or registered trademarks of Intel Corporation in the US and/or other countries. All trademarks and logos are the properties of their respective holders. QCT, the QCT logo, Rackgo, Quanta and the Quanta logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Quanta Computer.

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