Have We Made it Difficult to Justify 5G in the Enterprise?

Why have public mobile technologies, especially after the excitement surrounding 5G networks, struggled to break through to become ubiquitous in the enterprise? Isn’t this what we were promised in the 5G marketing bombardment of the last few years? Could it be that the advent of 5G answered a question that wasn’t asked? The answer may be down to timing and expectation. And possibly the over-exuberant marketing has added confusion by blurring the lines between public and private 5G.

Upon the launch of 5G technology, the biggest fears of the mobile communications industry was that this exciting (and heavily invested) new technology would be perceived as just the next iteration of the network. It is hard to excite the masses with the same old messaging of “lower latency and higher bandwidth for online videos.” Instead, the telco industry launched a full-on marketing assault that targeted the enterprise. Public 5G networks would reach into the surgeon’s hand in a hospital theatre, every machine on a factory floor, autonomous vehicles everywhere, and everyone would be wearing AR/VR headsets. To be fair, 5G technology has proved successful in public use cases; for example, fixed wireless access (FWA) brought broadband to millions. And, yes, a massive increase in viewership of online videos in the 200+ public 5G networks. But where are the enterprise success stories?


Similarly, any enterprise with critical machinery needing ultra-reliable low latency communications (URLLC) to converse with a local edge device could achieve the same results with standard Ethernet communications and use Wi-Fi for mobility. The demonstrators were rightfully showcasing the technology, but not making the case to the CIO or CTO that 5G was a viable replacement or trigger for an innovation transformation they needed.

As my colleague, Philip Swain, alluded to in his recent security blog and infographic, “we have a very powerful hammer, and we were looking for nails in a land of screwdrivers.” Enterprises each have their own unique transformation journey. They need to consider the existing infrastructure, the equipment already procured, and how 5G technology can fold/merge or replace their current roadmap for the entire end-to-end ecosystem. There are some ideal scenarios where public 5G works well with enterprise – Industrial IoT for devices that need to go beyond the campus, vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) for drones, cars, and smart city infrastructure. Anything that can move between the enterprise and public domain while retaining the connection to headquarters, is a good fit for public 5G.

However, there is a parallel track for enterprises where they finally put their hands up and exclaim, “Hey! We want that cool 5G technology, but on our terms.” Their employees and partners must have control, visibility, and most importantly, understand when to make decisions on security, policy, and the end-user experience. Indeed, full control of the complete end-to-end enterprise network is seen as the most significant benefit of deploying a private 5G network.

A campus can have end to end services running across wired and wireless connections, and their staff and users access these networks as needed - but when they want to have predictable URLLC, dedicated high bandwidth connectivity and every single sensor having the capacity to know their connectivity will not be challenged, then this is where private mobile networks can add value.

Where to go next?

We are now ready to progress. All observers report that most enterprises understand 5G and are ready to include it in their budget. They also understand their own journey, including leaps in distributed networking and the parallel advances in Wi-Fi 6E and soon Wi-Fi 7. This understanding means they are ready to start showing us in the networking industry where they need to go. If consumer devices can connect to both Wi-Fi and Mobile Networks, then why can’t enterprises finally get the best of both worlds, by embracing this convergence.

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Cammy Perry
Senior Content Marketing Specialist

Cammy is a Content Marketing Specialist at Extreme Networks, leveraging her expertise to craft thought leadership and engaging content.

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