The telecoms sector in India is witnessing renewed growth riding on accelerated 5G rollout. To start with, 5G would improve enterprise connectivity manifold. Depending on the requirement, topology and feasibility, 5G can offer improved quality of service, quick set-up, and customization. 5G is expected to play a crucial role in the proliferation of SD-WAN, which is one of the fastest growing enterprise networking segments. 5G’s ability to offer high-speed and low latency networks in places where fixed line is not available, makes it a viable option for enterprise connectivity.
Globally, private 5G network deployment is on the rise and opens-up several new use cases. Manufacturing and automotive are the early adopters, with smart manufacturing, industrial automation and auto manufacturing emerging as top use cases. Access to licensed spectrum and expertise in technical aspects of network deployment positions telecom operators well, where they can offer significant value for end customers. An integrated telecom operator in Taiwan aimed to double the number of private networks deployed for enterprise customers in 2022. Whereas two leading operators in Germany have launched 5G private network solutions for enterprises.
On the other hand, partnerships are crucial to cover myriad aspects of a private network. Telecom operators are reassessing their position in the wireless private network supply chain and considering strategic partnerships with system integrators and equipment vendors. A leading operator in the US partnered with a network OEM to combine their respective capabilities and enable customers to build 5G private network.
In India, telecom operators are well placed to capitalize on the 5G private network opportunity. The specific business model to be adopted – developing end-to-end capabilities or partner network OEMs/System Integrators – remains to be seen. Telecom operators can proactively educate enterprise customers and look to co-develop the solution together. At the same time, building necessary capabilities around 5G private networks should be a key focus.
Capitalizing on the enterprise 5G opportunity will require telecom operators to reposition themselves from pure connectivity/network providers to a solution driven approach. Globally, telecom operators have formed strategic partnerships with leading players across industry verticals and network OEMs to trial enterprise 5G use cases. Successfully delivering the proof-of-concept will help to strengthen the commercial proposition and open-up further monetization opportunities.
Success in the 5G era may require an altogether different approach. For instance, setting-up a separate 5G Business Unit (BU) to focus on differentiated service offerings. One of the Nordic telcos has formed a separate division to provide private networks, especially for 5G. The new division can be more agile and free of any legacy baggage.
Globally, telecom operators are taking up differentiated positions through a platform-centric approach for 5G. A leading Japanese technology major has developed a private 5G Network-as-a-Service platform, with end-to-end management capabilities to help drive business value and support innovative business models.
Telecom operators in India are uniquely positioned to learn from the plethora of enterprise 5G use case trials currently undergoing globally. It is important to identify incremental enterprise revenue benefits through 5G services, rather than relegating 5G to a replacement technology. The basic building blocks need to be in place – skills building, strategic partnerships, end-to-end solution provisioning, and innovative delivery mechanisms.