China Mobile is aiming to offer network slicing services from the middle of next year when its standalone 5G network achieves commercial scale.
Lu Lu, a senior researcher at the China Mobile Research Institute, said in an industry speech last week that 5G was "born for industry" and said the operator saw 5G private networking as a major new enterprise service.
The telco giant has said it expects its 5G network to reach 50 cities by the end of 2019 and 300 major cities by the end of 2020.
Lu said China Mobile aimed to reach commercial scale in 5G by June next year.
The flexible architecture of the new network was the critical factor, allowing for much more granular services and applications.
Edge computing, which is difficult to do in 4G, was also essential for delivering customizable private networks, she said.
China Mobile and its partners hoped to provide "full-stack edge-computing capabilities to industry customers," Lu said.
"At present, China Mobile has reserved hundreds of nodes in edge computing rooms. Based on these nodes and 5G networks we will carry out trials of relevant edge computing services," she said.
The Chinese telco is building a "one-stop cloud-network convergence platform" that can provide customized service capabilities in both centralized data centers and data centers at the edge of cities around the country, Lu said.
The operator has issued network slicing templates for six industry verticals -- power grid, autonomous driving, gaming, entertainment, banking and medical.
In partnership with Ericsson, the company showed off a network slicing-based autonomous vehicle application at MWC in Barcelona early this year.
China Mobile Executive Vice-President Li Zhengmao has said he believes private networking and slicing offered some of the best prospects among new 5G services.
"Operators can create a network-slicing-as-a-service business model, providing high-reliability, high-performance and easy deployment for the vertical industry through a centralized network slicing service platform," he said in an interview with state news service Xinhua.
But he acknowledged that the lack of clear business models in industry partnerships was one of the biggest problems.
China Mobile has set up a 5G Joint Innovation Center to drive application development, with more than 500 industry partners and more than 400 vertical industry partners, he said.
— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading