Looking in the eyes of enterprise – four key requirements for private 5G (Reader Forum)
Operators and vendors alike have stars (and more than a few dollar signs) in their eyes as they gaze longingly at the private wireless opportunity. It’s true; enterprises across industry verticals want to unleash a range of next-gen, connectivity-driven use cases. Finally, a market for all this 5G that’s being built. Right? Well…not so fast.
In the conversations we’re having on the ground with large enterprise customers, we’re actually seeing a disconnect between what these customers actually need and the solutions being spouted as answers. For instance, network slicing buzz remains heavy but will it truly meet emerging enterprise requirements? Probably not on its own.
5G could very well be the savior of mission critical private network use cases. But in our experience, enterprises care much more about outcomes than connectivity at the moment. “This is what I need to accomplish, how can you help me achieve it?”
Use cases vary greatly by industry. But we are starting to see trends emerge in what large enterprise customers need to make their networks more powerful and flexible to address new opportunities.
1 | Seamless roaming
Teams moving between sites? IoT devices or autonomous vehicles moving in to, out of, and between various coverage areas? Relying on dual-SIM devices to maintain connectivity? Sorting different privileges and security policies for different networks is a mission critical use case killer. Not to mention, a network management nightmare. For end users and devices, enterprises crave the seamlessness and simplicity that comes from not worrying about which underlying network is providing connectivity.
2 | Connectivity-agnostic
In many industries, such as mining or agriculture, network sites choose themselves. It could be that CBRS is most advantageous for serving a particular site. Or maybe LTE will do just fine. So long as performance can be supported, enterprises want the most economical and reliable solution to power the desired outcome. Boxing them into one connectivity type (such as 5G) could prove a non-starter. Especially as they are still developing trust in mobile networks for supporting mission-critical use cases.
3 | Easy management
Enterprises are eager to take mobile connectivity into their private networks and manage it the same way they do local wireless connectivity. Oftentimes, this is not possible as they are asked to rely on mobile operator portals or phone calls to support teams to manage changes outside of their typical network management workflows. Breaking down the barriers between local and mobile connectivity is key to simplifying network management for use cases that are becoming anything but simple.
4 | Self-service
Consider the day-to-day management requirements for IT teams looking after nascent, complex networks; they’re changing device access point names (APNs) on the fly, moving devices between networks for configuration and troubleshooting, creating network segmentations based on needs that emerge in real-time. Maybe they need separate networks with different APNs, such as one for the field workers using tablets in their pickup trucks, one for autonomous vehicles and one for administration.
This can get complex quickly, which is why operators typically manage these types of changes for customers. The challenge is that in mission critical environments, waiting is not always an option and these requests can sometimes take weeks to address. Telco network management is complicated, but operators need to abstract that complexity away and give customers the ability to easily manage network changes on their own terms and timelines.
The mobile operator opportunity
In the early days of private wireless, high-touch engagements have proven technical viability. But long-term business viability will ultimately come from demonstrating that large enterprise needs can be met by mobile operators at scale. This will require addressing a growing list of wants and needs in an automated way. One where enterprises aren’t so dependent on operators to run the day-to-day, but rather to power the day-to-day.
It’s the difference between enterprises needing to rely on operators to help manage the network versus empowering them with cloud-based tools that they can’t live without. When operators can make that a reality for hundreds or thousands of businesses at a time, that’s when our industry should really be buzzing about what’s possible.
Brian Anderson is Vice President of Product at Expeto, which provides a “carrier-grade” private mobile networking (PMN) platform that allows enterprises to confidently extend public and private mobile networks as one secure corporate WAN without losing control of their data or devices.