The debate over whether or not enterprises should have access to dedicated spectrum in India has been heated. Recently, however, it came to a close when the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) rejected the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) plan to reserve 5G bands for private/captive networks, despite 20 companies applying for use. Instead, enterprises wanting to deploy private networks will have to lease spectrum from operators. As we have already pointed out, the opportunity is there for the taking as enterprises embark on digital transformation, especially in the manufacturing sector.
When it comes to private networks, the typical rules of engagement no longer apply. Thanks to network virtualisation and disaggregation continuing, the ecosystem of vendors has expanded beyond traditional telco players. The crowded marketplace comprises operators, industrial players, hyperscalers, startups, system integrators, and equipment vendors, each vying to address this opportunity. These players are forming partnerships to better address the market, such as Cisco and Wipro, or HFCL and Microsoft.
The price is worth it. Nokia stated that it expects investments in 5G private networks in India to reach around $240-250 million by 2027 in India Mobile Broadband Index 2023 report. The vendor looks to address the opportunity on its own and through partnerships with operators such as Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio, which already own 5G frequencies. Nokia is one of many players vying to capture the opportunity. Tata Communications opened a dedicated Private 5G global centre of excellence (CoE) in Pune, the US operator Verizon Wireless is also eyeing up the opportunity as it carries out PoC. Furthermore, during the Cisco India Summit, Cisco was bullish on how it can facilitate 5G monetisation thanks to its private 5G as a service offering that helps to offset the initial investment burden, and allows greater flexibility and simplicity. The vendor also sees its ability to integrate with existing enterprise Wi-Fi networks and its security credentials as an advantage. This is important, as Wi-Fi is already well established within the enterprise IT network environment. Wi-Fi 7 promises to deliver significant bandwidth gains over earlier generations of Wi-Fi networks. Looking ahead, 5G and Wi-Fi, including Wi-Fi 6 and 7, will co-exist and complement each other in private network deployments.
As vendors and operators continue to form partnerships and tout their credentials, they must focus on selling outcomes from private network deployments, such as increased productivity, rather than simply selling more technology, to scale private networks successfully.