Increased security, resilience key drivers for 5G private mobile networks adoption

Even though private mobile networks are emerging as a viable alternative to traditional enterprise networks, the disaggregated private networking ecosystem, wide range of domains, technologies and diversity of user cases result in greater complexity than the traditional wide area networks (WANs) enterprises have previously relied on, according to a study from Spirent.

The Accelerating private networking value creation survey from the provider of test and assurance solutions for next-generation devices and networks, examined key trends and requirements of prospective enterprises around the adoption of 5G private mobile networks (PMNs). It was compiled by STL Partners and surveyed 200 enterprises in the manufacturing, financial services, transport and logistics, and oil, gas and mining sectors. It identified technical and commercial drivers, challenges, service-level management (SLM), delivery ecosystems and buying centres for private 5G networks.

Overall, the survey revealed security and network resiliency as the key drivers motivating enterprises to consider private networking, fuelling a market that Spirent forecasts to reach US$7.7bn by 2027. SLM was found to be especially critical because private networking directly enables enterprise business outcomes which are affected by network performance and service-level agreement (SLA) compliance.

Yet increased security and network reliability were the top two business values enterprises are requiring to achieve from their private network. This, said Spirent, was due to sensitivity requirements around data sovereignty and IP, security and reliability being viewed as “table-stakes” to enable mission-critical user cases and the current costs and complexity of trying to implement security and reliability across best-effort networks.

From a business perspective, enterprises were trying to shift from CAPEX to OPEX models, as private networks are typically financed with IT budgets. Many enterprises favour consumption-based as-a-service models. In addition, enterprises appeared willing to pay a premium for an increase in service-level requirements, but stringent SLAs are viewed as difficult to achieve on current public networks.

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The study also noted that automation and continuous testing across the lifecycle from network/device design through to site acceptance testing and into live operational assurance and SLA management was essential for deploying and managing diverse private networks, and to reduce operational costs.

“Spirent has observed firsthand how private network resiliency requirements, complexity and risk thresholds are introducing new dynamics. To ensure success, rigorous testing is essential at every step of the private network lifecycle – from network design and validation testing, field and acceptance testing, to live network operations and maintenance,” said Spirent’s principal strategist for private networks, Marc Cohn. “Test automation and simplification are also essential for deploying and managing diverse private networks and reduce operational costs.”

Looking forward, the study observed that private networks must support diverse applications, environments and commercial models, which drives up complexity, and while PMNs offer previously unobtainable capabilities and significantly lower total cost of ownership, unprecedented complexity necessitates a new approach to SLM.

“Comprehensive and robust private network service-level management is an essential tool to ensure business outcomes as planned. With this in place, a significant opportunity exists for MNOs and CSPs to monetise their investments in 5G,” Cohn added.

“However, as the survey shows, none of this is possible without a mature testing strategy in place and employed in the planning and development and throughout the lifecycle of the solution.”

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