Industrial sector increasingly tempted by idea of private 5G

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Author: Alex Scroxton

The idea of running private 5G mobile networks seems to be gaining traction among manufacturers and other industrial companies, according to a study on 5G as it relates to digital transformation, conducted on behalf of outsourcer Capgemini.

The firm’s report, 5G in industrial operations: How telcos and industrial companies stand to benefit, said 5G was clearly regarded as a catalyst for digital transformation. Indeed, 5G as a digital transformation enabler came second only to cloud computing – 75% to 84% – and ahead of technology such as automation and artificial intelligence (AI).

Industrial enterprises are apparently already sold on many of the proposed benefits of 5G, such as enabling more secure and efficient operations, addressing connectivity challenges and fuelling the introduction of even more innovative technology further down the line.

“This research makes it clear that industrial companies are confident about the benefits of 5G before it has even come to market. That said, 5G is an emerging technology and there will be many challenges to overcome before it is ready to be deployed at scale,” said Capgemini principal consultant in telecoms, media and technology, Pierre Fortier.

“Co-innovation between industrial companies and the telco ecosystem, in the form of pilots and open experimentation platforms, will be essential to create win-win business, service and operating models that will foster 5G adoption.”

Capgemini’s findings back up recent remarks made by Navin Vohra, vice-president of service provider sales for Asia-Pacific (APAC) at network hardware supplier CommScope, who predicts that private 5G will play a major role in enhancing corporate networks, particularly when it comes to addressing the limitations of traditional Wi-Fi.

“On an enterprise campus, power, backhaul and site access are provided by the enterprise, so you will see more operators establishing private 5G networks for enterprises,” Vohra told Computer Weekly in April 2019.

Capgemini reported that 47% of industrial companies were interested in applying for their own 5G network licence, and 33% were actively planning to, based largely on a desire for more autonomy and security, coupled with concerns about the possible slow pace of roll-out by mobile network operators (MNOs).

Gunther May, head of technology and innovation for Bosch Rexroth’s automation and electrification business unit, said he was exploring the possibility of investing in private 5G for several reasons.

“As a solution provider and a manufacturer, we are monitoring the 5G landscape closely and we believe there are multiple benefits to holding our own licence,” said May. “It would allow us to be in full control of our 5G strategy by giving us the freedom to either deploy the network alone or with a telecoms operator.”

Two-thirds of respondents to Capgemini’s study said they planned to introduce 5G-enabled services in the first two years of availability, rising to 75% in the UK and 68% in the US, and over a quarter within 12 months in the case of Canada, France and Italy.

Predictably, the larger the manufacturer, the greater the likelihood of investment. Some 74% of those with annual revenues of over $10bn expected to implement 5G in two years, dropping to 57% for firms that make between $500m and $1bn.

In contrast to the prevailing mood among MNOs, 72% of respondents to the study also said they were willing to pay more for premium services even though only 54% of operators think there is an appetite for this, suggesting an opportunity exists for operators to reconsider their 5G business models.

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