As consumer 5G rapidly expands around the world, enterprises are beginning to explore the advantages of adopting this faster connectivity for their own business purposes. A recent survey found that 71 percent of enterprises believe that 5G networks will have a major impact, particularly when it comes to the enormous potential for building innovative new 5G-based products and services.
5G offers enterprises important business benefits, including:
- Greatly improved speed and bandwidth and reliability
- Movement towards zero-touch networks enabled by increased deployment of automation capabilities
- Lower cost alternative to Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) and similar dedicated lines which are typically used for applications that depend on low latency
- Increased RAN capacity capable of supporting higher numbers of devices and users without negatively impacting availability
- Lower energy requirements which extend remote Internet of Things (IoT) device battery life
- 256-bit encryption, making 5G a more secure option for sensitive enterprise traffic
Enterprises Now Have Options
Moreover, enterprises are no longer strictly relegated to offerings from carrier service providers (CSPs), but instead, have a wealth of implementation choices:
- Build and operate in-house 5G private networks themselves
- Build and operate a private 5G network in conjunction with a systems integrator
- Work with non-traditional services providers such as Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure
- Outsource to a CSP
Carriers have the advantage with size, economies of scale, and expertise, but that doesn’t always make them the best choice. For instance, a basic 5G RAN may be appropriate in the case of a company whose connectivity requirements involve a manufacturing site. On the other hand, a 5G user plane in a factory or hospital setting may be sufficient for applications such as robotics.
Enterprises that are exploring private 5G should keep several things in mind when deciding the best path forward. The following considerations should help narrow the choices:
- What’s the cost benefit? Match the budget to the application, because implementing private 5G in-house requires a significant investment. In addition to building out an entirely new 5G-capable infrastructure, new wireless gear will be required to take advantage of the network.
- Do you have In-house expertise? Private 5G puts responsibility for deploying and maintaining critical infrastructure in the hands of enterprise IT, which means businesses must have sufficiently skilled staff available to manage all locations.
- Do you need to customize the application? Putting in place your own 5G infrastructure allows an enterprise to select the parameters that matter most to the business, whether it's high-speed, ultra-low latency, or high reliability.
- Do you need site-specific 5G availability? Enterprise 5G can be established inside structures where 5G is not yet available from carriers, making fast connectivity available where it’s needed. Think, for example, of using a complete 5G private network in a box, such as those available from major CSPs or AWS Wavelength, to deliver 5G speeds and ultra-low latency in a discrete setting, such as a factory floor.
- Can you handle security? 5G requires a greater focus on security and protection from threats. Because 5G’s expanded bandwidth enables more users and devices to be connected, there are now increased vectors of exposure that must be monitored.
- What’s your spectrum strategy? Private 5G does require gaining access to bandwidth on sanctioned 5G spectrum. This may necessitate working with a CSP to obtain permission to use their spectrum or purchasing a government license. Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) is another lightly licensed option for 5G.
Ultimately, the choice of private versus public 5G is one that each business will have to decide, weighing the factors that matter most to their organization. For some, being able to customize their 5G buildouts to satisfy specific application requirements may outweigh the cost savings that CSPs can deliver. Businesses that have the technical expertise in-house are clearly in a better position to assume that 5G role. In the end, it comes down to carefully examining the pros and cons along with a self-assessment of the business.
Learn more about 5G for Enterprise