Monday, October 09, 2023

Enterprise 5G - evolving bottom-up from small islands, not top-down from national networks

This post originally appeared on September 29 on my LinkedIn feed, which is now my main platform for both short posts and longer-form articles. It can be found here, along with the comment stream. Please follow / connect to me on LinkedIn, to receive regular updates (about 1-3 / week)

While the broad concept of #privatewireless seems to be getting a lot more awareness in the wider tech industry, some of the implications haven't quite fully landed yet.

I've had a couple of meetings recently where there was still a prevailing view that #5G evolution would continue to be "top-down", with major MNOs setting the agenda, especially for enterprise. The belief is that national "umbrella" networks would address all the various localised applications, such as #industry40 and #smartagriculture, or #v2x networks along roads.

Such a set-up would mean that the network "mothership" would need all sorts of cloud-native elements for orchestration, security and control systems, both at the telcos and their clients, which would be a boon for vendors expecting a direct correlation with the promised $xxx billions of 5G value, coming from URLLC capabilities, slicing and other features.

But what is happening is much more bottom-up. The most cutting-edge uses of 5G are happening at specific locations - whether that is standalone networks at factories, or new #neutralhost deployments in offices and hotels (more on NH's in my next post btw). We can expect Release 16/17/18 features to appear at a micro level, long before they're switched on for the macro domain.

And while these small local networks are sometimes being deployed by MNOs, they are often based on dedicated infrastructure, perhaps using different vendors to the main umbrella national networks. It's often the B2B units running the show, with a variety of partners, rather than the central core network team.

Other small islands are getting their networks built by integrators, towercos & infracos, inhouse teams, industrial solutions suppliers and assorted others. It's very heterogeneous.

And each island can be *small*. A port's 5G network might have huge value for the site's operator, but only have 100 SIMs in cameras and vehicles. There might be redundancy, but it won't need a datacentre full of kit. There's often going to be a lot of customisation, and unique combination of applications and integrations with other systems

So if you're a vendor pitching umbrella-grade solutions, you might need to rethink how to re-orient towards small islands instead.


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