This article is part of our Essential Guide: Essential Guide: State of 5G in APAC

Private 5G networks will be a ‘big trend’

With private 5G networks, enterprises can expect a wireless local area network type architecture that addresses the limitations of Wi-Fi, says top Commscope executive

Private 5G networks are expected to be widely deployed by enterprises to shore up the performance and quality of corporate network connections, according to a top executive at Commscope, a network infrastructure supplier.

Noting that private 5G networks will be a “big trend”, Navin Vohra, Commscope’s vice-president for service provider sales in Asia-Pacific, told Computer Weekly that it is far simpler to roll out 5G connectivity within enterprises rather than at public locations.

“On an enterprise campus, power, backhaul and site access are provided by the enterprise, so you will see more operators establishing private 5G networks for enterprises,” Vohra said, adding that enterprises can expect a high-speed wireless local area network type architecture that addresses the limitations of Wi-Fi.

5G networks, which promise low network latencies and fibre-like broadband speeds in the gigabits per second range, will also drive enterprise adoption of applications such as the internet of things and augment reality, Vohra said.

While Vohra expects most private 5G networks to be deployed in branch offices, he said there is nothing stopping companies with existing Wi-Fi networks from jumping on the bandwagon if they want to take advantage of 5G capabilities.

Private mobile networks are not new. Across the Asia-Pacific region, Thailand and South Korea have already deployed private 4G LTE networks for public safety, along with smaller-scale private networks in Australia’s mining industry.

For the most part, however, adoption of such networks is still in its infancy due to the lack of dedicated spectrum to support private cellular networks, as well as high capital and operating costs.

According to Chong Siew Loong, chief technology officer of StarHub, a Singapore telco, that could change with 5G’s network slicing capabilities, which will allow telcos to offer critical service providers their own private 5G networks for secure and real-time connectivity to the cloud.

Network slicing will also enable operators to carve out segments of their 5G infrastructure for customers with differing quality-of-service requirements such as hospitals that need very low latency connections to facilitate remote surgeries.

In Southeast Asia, many countries have started to test 5G services, but none have explicitly committed to a commercial launch date. Most industry regulators across the region are still working out the process of assigning spectrum for 5G services.

According to Vohra, 5G spectrum is broadly divided between higher-frequency millimetre wave above 28GHz that is mainly used for fixed wireless access, and the sub-6GHz spectrum, particularly in the 2.6GHz to 3.5GHz range.

Julian Gorman, head of Asia-Pacific for GSMA, told Computer Weekly that whatever bands are assigned to whichever telco, either by auction or otherwise, spectrum should only go to the bidder that is best able to maximise efficiency and technology adoption.

He said high spectrum pricing has been an issue across Asia, and can distort network roll-out plans, delaying the availability of 5G services to users. “Southeast Asian countries should avoid these pitfalls at the assignment stage and lower regulatory costs to secure investment where it is most needed,” he added.

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