Feature: Experts wrestle with 5G priv… – Mobile World Live

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Various industry figures mulled the key factors hampering deployment of 5G private networks during the latest in Mobile World Live’s Topic Panel series, with the experts optimistic some of the strongest headwinds are easing.

Among the main challenges to adoption raised are widespread awareness of the benefits within target sectors, high initial equipment costs, worries around integration with existing systems and availability of compatible devices.

Bringing a view from a major industry player which already uses a private 5G network, head of IT business partnering, data and analytics at Associated British Ports (ABP) Duncan Welberry said the biggest challenge had been proving the use cases which meant “you need 5G rather than 4G”.

“Private networks [are] absolutely really important for us”, he explained. “In some of our ports you have some really patchy mobile connectivity. So actually having that certainty of connectivity is really important”.

Welberry added it “actually worked out cheaper to go 5G than Wi-Fi” in a deployment with Verizon Business in the Port of Southampton, with specific benefits being realised by using the latest network technology.

However, he highlighted a deployment in another part of the UK had used 4G as it had not “proved the use case that you definitely need 5G”, although this installation is upgradable to the newer network technology.

GSMA Intelligence head of research and commercial content Pablo Iacopino pointed to the need for the mobile sector to engage with industry to spread the word of the benefits of private 5G.

He emphasised even though there are examples of companies gaining benefits from their networks such as ABP, “it doesn’t mean that all companies in the world running ports are aware of this technology”.

Iacopino added there is also a challenge around timescales, with the view from some “it takes a lot of time from day zero when an enterprise customer starts thinking about implementation of 5G private networks to the last day to when the service is active”.

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Some work on reducing the time to market could help with deployments

Pablo Iacopino, head of research and commercial content

GSMA Intelligence

Orange Business VP for smart industries Emmanuel Routier cited to a need to work with the industrial ecosystem and respect its timelines.

“Industry obviously has different timeframes compared to the usual telco timeframe.”

“It takes time to adopt new technology like industrial private networks, but we need to work with them,” Routier explained, pointing to a requirement to engage with machine manufacturers and equipment vendors alongside those in the telecommunications sector.

“It takes time to get them to embed 5G technology into their machines, but we see appetite there and an acceleration” in adoption, the Orange executive noted.

Tech headaches
Ramesh Kaza, president and CCO at app platform provider Shabodi, agreed with Iacopino and Routier on industry engagement being a key factor, but also illustrated a necessity to ease brownfield deployments which were common given the industries being targeted.

Noting the need to ensure applications perform seamlessly across 5G and Wi-Fi, he emphasised “people have invested so much in Wi-Fi technologies they are not just going to get rid of them”.

“One thing we’re really helping deployment partners and operators with is how the private 5G networks can co-exist with Wi-Fi networks,” he added.

Kaza also pointed to a desire to make private 5G networks easy to control for IT staff as “they are used to managing the network systems but not cellular systems”, alongside a need to continue to increase compatible on-site hardware.

“The more devices are available the faster [the] adoption,” Kaza added, stating the issues raised were “slowly going away”, paving the way for growth in the private networks sector.

As is often the case with emerging technology systems, cost was cited as an early barrier to entry.

Routier noted initially standalone (SA) 5G kit was “pretty heavy equipment which was pretty expensive”.

“But now you have SA 5G virtual mobile private networks which are being implemented into the public networks of the operators, which are then easing that entry barrier.”

He noted Orange Business is also now seeing products from equipment vendors enabling them to offer “acceptable pricing and much lower than it was before.”

The Topic Panel also included wide ranging discussion on the status of the private network deployments, key factors to keep in mind and details of industries able to benefit from the technology architecture.

Catch-up on the session in full here.

Interested in being a part of our next Topic Panel? Click here to find out more.

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