Private 5G networks growing in non-industrial sectors

26 July 2023 Consultancy.uk 5 min. read
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5G is a technology which has broadly failed to capture the public’s imagination – but its potential is finally beginning to gain the attention of a range of non-industrial service providers. Broadcasters, venues and healthcare companies are recognising 5G could help find efficiency savings, and boost their customer experience offering.

The latest form of mobile internet first began its much-anticipated roll-out in late 2018. Five years – and €600 billion in Europe – later, however, telecoms companies are struggling to monetise their huge gamble.

Certainly, 5G has not had an easy start to life. Its installation was hampered by the pandemic, which saw huge delays to 5G infrastructure across the continent – while it also led to some individuals to suggest there were public health issues around the technology – but in the end, a far less dramatic factor seems to have put consumers off stumping up extra cash to upgrade their connection. For most people – especially when weighing up the rising cost of living – 4G is still good enough.

Private 5G networks growing in non-industrial sectors

The issue seems to be that the benefits of 5G aren’t especially relevant to households – and the technology was never really a consumer proposition. Instead, it was always more appropriate for businesses and industrial uses. While the technology is unlikely to see massive spikes in consumer uptake, then, there are major opportunities which telecoms firms are yet to take advantage of.

Previous studies have found that healthcare and utilities providers might actually be the greatest beneficiaries of 5G in the UK economy. As hype grows for the technology in such sectors, a new study from Analysys Mason suggests there is a mounting uptake for 5G beyond the UK industrial sector – where the bulk of demand for the technology had previously been.

Ibraheem Kasujee, a senior analyst at Analysys Mason, explained, “Early private 5G activity was concentrated in industrial verticals, led by the manufacturing sector – which made up 49% of all 5G networks at the start of 2021 – followed by transport and logistics, and mining, oil and gas, at 17% and 7% respectively. But the industrial sectors are beginning to account for a smaller proportion of private 5G deployments as the number in other sectors is starting to accelerate.”

In early 2023, the portion of private 5G networks run by industrial players has declined to 64%, while all other sectors now account for 36% of such networks. Three sectors in particular are driving this change, according to Kasujee.

Entertainment venues

Many venues are finding it difficult to stay relevant to consumers, in the post-lockdown era. With ticket prices having risen well above the rate of inflation, while the stadium experience remains the same – or even less – than it was before, many fans are simply consuming sports and events from the comfort of their own homes. Some venues are looking to use new technology to improve that experience, and improve customer experiences – but they will need the improved bandwidth of 5G to do that on a large scale.

Kasujee noted, “Verizon is particularly active in this segment and is working with multiple US sports organisations. In February 2023, Verizon announced a deal with the NFL to deploy private networks at the stadia of all 30 NFL teams, to enable real-time coach-to-coach communications. It also trialled a private network at Hard Rock Stadium to support the venue hosting the Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix, including solutions such as digital signage and point-of-sale terminals.”

Broadcast networks

On the other side of things, 5G can also be used to improve the broadcast of live events within people’s homes. The high speed and low latency that 5G can provide can help make live event coverage more efficient for broadcasters—and even more engaging for viewers.

“Specialists such as Neutral Wireless are deploying ‘pop-up’ standalone private 5G networks to support video streaming of live events,” noted Kasujee. “Neutral Wireless has trialled these temporary networks for broadcasters such as BBC and QTV (UK), TV2 (Denmark) and RTE One (Ireland), which are attracted to the flexibility of using wireless connectivity.”

Healthcare

As previously mentioned, 5G is suggested to have potential for efficiency and boosted resource management is one of the key reasons why the UK’s healthcare sector has the highest potential to benefit from 5G technology. It can help boost efficiency in hospitals by improving the utilisation of medical devices and patient beds, enhancing the functionality of telemedicine and enabling the application of AI to a range of sensor data for preventative care, remote diagnosis and more seamless patient handovers.

Kasujee stated, “Private 5G is being trialled in several hospitals around the world. Recent announcements include Cleveland Clinic Hospital with Verizon in the US, and Ewha Womans University Mokdong Hospital with Samsung in South Korea. Healthcare facilities are subject to strict regulation, making it difficult to use public cellular networks, and fixed networks come with much less flexibility in terms of what can be connected. Private 5G in hospitals is being tested for a host of applications including computer vision, robotic-assisted surgery and remote examinations.”