A proactive and collaborative approach will pay great dividends
The crowd of industries and companies anticipating the broad-based availability of 5G is getting larger. Faster connectivity, greater reliability and security, lower latency, and added capacity promise to be exponential improvements. The business value of connecting devices using 5G opens new opportunities as companies strive to deliver on their digital transformation plans.
It is an exciting time, but a recent report from the Capgemini Research Institute, 5G in industrial operations, shows the need to contain some of the hype. Two-thirds of manufacturing or asset-intensive companies said they wanted to implement 5G for industrial operations within two years of availability. The same report showed communications service providers (CSPs) indicated they will need at least three years to roll-out all the 5G features.
The timeline disconnect has the potential to cause issues. Different 5G features will be available at different times, so managing client expectations and educating them about the timelines will limit confusion. Being proactive with this discussion will help companies plan a more realistic 5G roadmap.
This presents an opportunity for CSPs to more closely partner with their business customers and not just look to close the next deal. Instead, they can work to understand the connectivity technologies being used by their business customers today, assess what works, and help customers determine where there are issues or gaps to best plan their rollout and use of 5G. With the promise of 5G, some companies surveyed indicated they are avoiding investments now that may become obsolete once 5G is introduced. CSPs need to understand this dynamic and help their customers decide when it’s right to hold back or rush ahead.
Additionally, roll-out of 5G across large geographical areas will take significant time. The report showed just 37% of operators feel they have a good grasp of locations and numbers of site towers. Further, the share of operators who feel they are well-equipped with backhaul network infrastructure is only 33%.
With all this uncertainty, it’s no wonder many industrial customers are looking at private networks as alternatives. Nearly 50% of surveyed industrial companies with revenue of more than $10 billion are considering private network solutions to get the features they need and the control they want. Rather than looking to drive broad geographic rollout, CSPs should balance their approach and also focus on addressing these unique private or more localized demands with connectivity solutions that range from fully dedicated PMR networks to network slices with specific QoS. The good news: around 80% of manufacturing and asset-intensive companies are willing to share the load of capital expenditure for their 5G connectivity – they are willing to pay a premium. CSPs should take advantage of an eager sector ready to push 5G forward.
5G means network operators need to evolve from being service providers to transformation partners. It requires more understanding of business needs and translating those into solutions, and then taking the lead on implementation in partnership with customers. Setting up co-innovation projects with other players, start-ups, and universities also plays an important part of this transformation, as does participating in the 5G discussion to establish an open platform or active participation model. Overall, they must bridge any perception gaps that CSPs are less willing to partner with other players or adapt solutions to meet customer needs. CSPs can and should drive collaboration with the 5G ecosystem to benefit the entire value chain.
5G is a disruptive technology. Its launch cannot be approached with existing business practices. It is time to engage with clients to not only manage their expectations on the roll-out but help plan roadmaps and drive innovation. 5G is a powerful tool and CSPs are the best-positioned to make sure their customers use it to its full potential.