On Tuesday, RCR Wireless News hosted the much-anticipated Private Networks Global Forum, in which industry voices came together online to discuss updates and nuances in the private wireless market for enterprise adoption. The Forum covered a range of market issues, including emerging solutions, spectrum allocation, ecosystem partnerships, challenges, key deployment drivers, and vertical-specific case studies, among other topics. Here are some of the highlights from Tuesday’s Forum.
The Forum kicked off with a status report for the private wireless market. A key milestone in the market has been the transition from trial/proof-of-concept deployments to real commercial deployments. Regarding Wi-Fi and legacy networks, we are finding that enterprises will not rip and replace existing connectivity solutions for private wireless but will instead co-exist. Another point of discussion was the value propositions for enterprises: while expanding network coverage is a major driver, TCO analysis of new networks is providing justification for investment in private 4G/LTE and 5G; more vendors are releasing TCO ‘calculators’ and services for evaluating deployments. Finally, the ecosystem of this market is coming to form and traditional telco companies are being challenged by hyperscalers, system integrators and cloud/software platform providers. Operators excel at providing connectivity solutions, but enterprise applications and service offerings are part of the bigger picture of private wireless deployments. The telco industry will need to evolve to compete with the emerging players.
Highlights of the Forum’s panel sessions were discussions around challenges in private wireless adoption, particularly the emerging challenges faced by both enterprises and vendors, and how the market looks to overcome them. One persistent challenge is the education gap among enterprises for managing cellular networks; the market ecosystem is answering by reiterating the need for professional services early on, while offering private wireless solutions that easily integrate with an enterprise’s existing network portfolio and can be managed in a similar fashion to Wi-Fi. Another challenge discussed is the effect of uncertain macroeconomic conditions on market growth, which may cause enterprises to demand shorter ROI realizations for these networks to less than a year. As the technology and use cases are proven, these networks will roll out faster, but today trial phases take at least a year before operational deployment and true ROI can be seen.
Another growing challenge for networks moving out of the trial phase is the integration of public networks with private networks (hybrid networks). Here, the telco industry can provide unique value by integrating resources into public network infrastructure to address enterprise requirements and adapting network architecture to meet the software-programmable approach required by 5G. In addition, roaming between public and private networks is crucial for moving assets within transportation, logistics and field service environments. These challenges, combined with hold-ups on end-user devices and chipsets, are contributing to a market slowdown.
Speakers highlighted the most important features of private 5G as mobility and reliability for real-time use cases and asset movements. One such example was the effect of private 5G on Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) in a factory; after switching from Wi-Fi to private 5G, the factory saw a 35-40% increase in productivity and less network handoff failures during the AGVs operation. Optimization of worker efficiency, human safety, and energy conservation were also emphasized as factors driving private network adoption; however, speakers acknowledged the risks of automation replacing human labor and of becoming highly dependent on technology, reaffirming the need to prove security and connectivity capabilities before rollout.
VDC Research will continue to closely cover the private wireless market and its progression, including a Private Wireless TCO Analysis report coming this summer.