In the last several years, we have witnessed 5G discussions move from idealized futuristic hype to a practical and relevant technology that holds promise for the future, while also providing immediate value. Of course, no other phenomenon in recent memory has helped a technology to deploy faster than the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.
The global challenge has underscored the need for connectivity, specifically higher quality wireless connectivity, which has been demonstrated in virtually every corner of human existence – whether in public or private scenarios, be it for mission critical or general use. Wireless connectivity needs to be secure and provided at cost points that are acceptable by large sets of consumers. The accelerated demand for remote and hybrid work across industries like education, healthcare, commerce, and others still remains in effect and is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. These demands herald the emergence of a new era of improved internet access and enhanced cellular access for all communities.
The February 2022 GSA report on private mobile network uptake helps us understand where we are on the 5G adoption curve. There is clear and compelling growth in all categories. We are witnessing organizations deploying private 4G and moving to private 5G, many vendors building solutions, as well as launching a variety of offers. The future is bright with many market observers and analysts also reporting increased interest and demand for private 5G across almost all industry verticals, while also pointing out challenges. Overall, the wireless communications sector is bubbling with a healthy dose of energy and interest, which is currently translating into meaningful engagements between customers who need solutions and the vendors offering them. These engagements are continuing to refine knowledge about industry requirements that will lead to implementation and more offers of readily consumable services.
For industrial verticals, the promise of private 5G has been driving digitization trends as defined in Industry 4.0. While progress on Industry 4.0 has not been as fast as with other commercial 5G sectors deploying public network mobile broadband and Fixed Wireless Access (FWA), the vision painted by Industry 4.0 in 2015 still remains vivid and desirable. Overall, we are witnessing a dose of moderation and careful thinking applied to where and when which technologies are ready to be deployed effectively.
For example, smart manufacturing and factories of the future have been defined in great detail on paper. However, realizing and deploying these factories have not happened as fast as some have expected due to real world logistics issues such as lack of necessary equipment, delays in supply chain, as well as complexities of integration with brownfield production facilities. While these delays have not weakened the vision of Industry 4.0, it will still be a matter of time before many of the ideas that were introduced by Industry 4.0 can be realized.
On the other hand, emerging worldwide issues such as the pandemic and increase in cyber warfare have been pushing many innovative ideas to be realized even faster. Remote working capabilities to support hybrid work, as well as increased demand for secure infrastructure are examples of areas where faster overall development and deployment are happening.
In this paper, we will build on top of several past 5G Americas papers on Private Mobile Networks and will focus on how enterprise deployments of private cellular are evolving. In particular, we will focus on emerging deployment models, evolving RAN technologies, developing mobility requirements that are changing to meet enterprise requirements, as well as security and management needs that are being raised by enterprises.
Finally, this white paper is authored by a multi-vendor group of authors who are all active experts in 5G and private cellular technology and engaged with interested customers. The paper is made possible by 5G Americas, who are providing a productive collaborative environment for like-minded experts to discuss, debate, and ultimately articulate a summary understanding of the state of technology and market. We’d like to thank both 5G Americas and the authors for their support and contribution.