As enterprises in China and other countries launch or expand a number of digital initiatives to support their businesses, emerging private 5G networks—which enable organizations to dedicate bandwidth for highly reliable, low latency use cases—stand to play a major role in supporting those endeavors.
Research firm, International Data Corp. (“IDC”), in a March 2022 report forecasted that worldwide private LTE/5G wireless infrastructure revenues will reach $8.3 billion by 2026, a significant increase from revenues of $1.7 billion in 2021. The market is expected to see a five-year compound annual growth rate of 36% over the 2022-2026 forecast period, according to IDC.
IDC defines private LTE/5G wireless infrastructure as any 3GPP-based cellular network deployed for a specific enterprise or industry vertical that provides dedicated access to private resources. “This could include dedicated spectrum, dedicated hardware and software infrastructure, and which has the ability to support a range of use cases spanning fixed wireless access, traditional and enhanced mobile broadband, IoT endpoints/sensors, and ultra-reliable, low-latency applications,” the firm says.
On the Edge
While it’s still relatively early in the 5G timeline, companies should be preparing to leverage the latest wireless technologies. One key area where private 5G is likely to play a significant role is edge computing and how it can enhance supply chains.
Improving supply chain management has been a key priority for companies in a variety of industries, particularly with the challenges they have been facing during the pandemic. In a January 2022 report, research firm Gartner Supply Chain Practice predicted that 25% of supply chain decisions will be made across intelligent edge ecosystems, driven by evolving data communications networks including 5G, through 2025.
Historically, digital supply chain investments prioritized large-scale, centralized applications in domains such as manufacturing and logistics, said Andrew Stevens, Senior Director Analyst with the Gartner Supply Chain Practice (“Gartner”). Increasingly, supply chains are becoming more dynamic and cover larger networks where data and decisions originate at the edge—from operators, machines, sensors or devices, he says.
Edge ecosystems transform operations by allowing decision making close to the original source of information, Gartner stated. Enabling data processing, communications and storage at the point of data capture creates more even workflows, distributes data capacity and streamlines real-time responses to stakeholders who need to make decisions.
Advances in data communications services such as 5G are poised to support edge ecosystems and complement traditional centralized supply chain solutions with more virtualized and remote networks processing data, Gartner stated.
Another major use case for 5G is the Internet of Things (IoT). A 2022 report by consulting firm EY says many of the organizations involved in its study are interested in using private networks to support 5G and IoT use case implementation.
Among the potential applications are systems and process optimization, monitoring management and control and orchestration, customer insights and feedback, personalized products and services, predictive or real-time operations, and energy efficiency and sustainability.
China Promotes 5G
In China, regulatory authorities have been gradually promoting the commercial use of 5G private networks. A 2021 report by GSMA, an organization that represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, described a number of 5G use cases already in place in China.
The study, prepared jointly with Chinese operators and industry partners, noted 5G-empowered applications including industrial manufacturing, ports/mines, transportation, electric power, healthcare and content creation. For example, organizations have built 5G base stations in challenging conditions such as underground coal mines; used 5G live streaming to enable smart inventory management; and deployed private 5G network slices to ensure precision time service in grid power distribution in urban areas.