Getting the 5G Glow

The differences between 5G and 4G are quite well-known from an end-user perspective, but for enterprises, the nuances in the infrastructure underpinning 5G's vaunted performance are equally important. 5G's backend ecosystem will be substantially broader than 4G, with service providers being dependent on a wide array of partners for maintaining the quality of service. Subsequent investment is ramping up to meet this need; spending on 5G infrastructure globally is projected to grow at 67% CAGR from approximately $784 million in 2019 to $47.8 billion in 2027.

5G Edge and Private

We can divide 5G enterprise applications into two categories: 5G edge and private 5G. Edge computing refers to locating applications and their infrastructure relatively close to end users, which greatly benefits application performance. 5G edge's ultra-high throughput and low latency allow for next-generation business services that were never before possible with prior generations, from virtual reality to Internet of Things and more.

While 5G edge is ideal for mobility in a wide geographic area, 5G can also be well suited to more localized applications for enterprises, referred to as ‘private 5G’. In essence, private 5G is a 5G local area network created through dedicated bandwidth and infrastructure. Private 5G has many benefits for enterprises, enhancing their processes with greater agility, speed, IT security and efficiency. Think of it as an enterprise's own in-house 5G network that can be adjusted easily to meet a business's continually changing demands.

While the largest companies could install private 5G using fully-owned infrastructure, medium-sized and smaller companies are more likely to turn to ‘systems integrators’ to install and operate their private 5G networks. Integrators manage the end-to-end process, from determining where the antennae should be located for greatest coverage to monitoring the network, but these integrators will differ depending on the vertical and use.

For industrial wireless operations that are carried out today with WiFi or 4G/LTE, the new features brought by 5G can bring immediate, yet marginal benefits. 5G now brings higher data rates, more cybersecurity, and a more reliable connection. But this isn’t enough to create a solid business case. There is huge untapped potential with 5G. But it can only be reached on a longer time-scale.

Better consulting is also needed. Telecom providers have the highest level of expertise in 5G since they have been at the forefront of implementation. However, their expertise deals more with using 5G for consumer applications rather than industrial ones. Novel industrial use cases, such as Internet of Things, have requirements that are different from a consumer’s mobile device.

The role of Glow

2020 has been an eventful year, with COVID-19 dampening the efforts of service providers in implementing 5G nationwide as planned. But we are expecting 2021 to be the year when 5G takes off in a big way. At Glow, we focus heavily on providing end-to-end services, to build 5G networks. Some of the areas Glow is currently supporting for 5G rollouts and operations are:

* 5G RAN end-to-end support from network planning to deployment and validation for multiple service provider networks, and private LTE/5G networks.

* Remote integration of 5G RAN network elements to help service providers get their 5G networks integrated seamlessly with a get-it-right-the-first-time approach. We have integrated more than 10,000 5G sites in the last 2 years.

* Supporting lab validation, testing, first office applications and implementation for NFV platforms for 4G and 5G networks, and supporting operations activities as well.

* Providing optical end-to-end services for more than 2 decades, and catering to the growing capacity needs for 5G networks being built.

* Playing an active role in the legacy network optimization (TDM to IP migrations) space to get the networks ready to support 5G capacity needs.

* Being an active player in field support, one of the most critical components of a network build out, and even more important in the 5G space due to the nature of distributed multi-vendor environment – staging, installation, commissioning and integration of multiple vendors’ equipment.

5G is an incredible opportunity; the sheer diversity and scale of the 5G ecosystem is one of the reasons why it's such a cutting-edge technology, estimated to unlock $13.2 trillion in economic value by 2035 and generating 22.3 million jobs in the global 5G supply chain. Enterprises must embrace 5G but make sure they have the requisite visibility to properly leverage this ecosystem for each enterprise's needs.

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