A new Gartner survey indicates that enterprises need 5G more quickly than many communications service providers (CSPs) can deliver it because CSPs are focusing first on consumer use cases and therefore are not deploying the network slicing capabilities needed to support business applications.
While TM Forum’s research also finds that operators are focusing on consumer use cases first (primarily enhanced mobile broadband), our recent survey of operators and their suppliers shows that many CSPs do, in fact, plan to roll out core network slicing at the same time as 5G radio access networks (RANs) – or at least within two years of 5G RAN deployment.
Gartner conducted its 5G use case and adoption survey in May through June 2018 among 85 Gartner Research Circle members and 100 other organizations. TM Forum’s survey was conducted around the same time and included 71 respondents from 53 unique CSPs and 73 respondents from 41 suppliers. The results were published in July in the report 5G monetization: Operational imperatives.
“In terms of 5G adoption, end-user organizations have clear demands and expectations for 5G use cases,” Sylvain Fabre, Senior Research Director at Gartner, stated in a press release.
“However, one major issue that 5G users face is the lack of readiness of [CSPs].”
Gartner predicts that, by 2022, half the CSPs that have completed commercial 5G deployments will fail to monetize their back-end technology infrastructure investments, due to systems not fully meeting 5G use case requirements.
“Most CSPs will only achieve a complete end-to-end 5G infrastructure on their public networks during the 2025-to-2030 time frame – as they focus on 5G radio first, then core slicing and edge computing,” said Fabre. He added that this is because operators’ 5G public networks plans vary in timing and scope with many focusing initially on consumer broadband services, which could delay investments in edge computing and core slicing.
When will CSPs offer slicing?
However, new analysis of the TM Forum survey data, which will be published next month in a joint white paper with Netcracker, shows that 72% of CSPs plan to roll out network slicing within two years of deploying 5G RANs.
CSPs are planning to use network slicing to manage services that have very different requirements in terms of bandwidth, latency and availability. Some IoT applications such as sensor networks require don’t require much bandwidth because they only need to transmit small amounts of data, but they need to do so frequently. Video-intensive applications, on the other hand, require a great deal of bandwidth. Mobile operators intend to address the varied requirements of specific verticals using dynamic network slices that can be orchestrated and assured end to end using automated closed control loops, intent-based management, analytics and policy.
The graphic below shows the percentage of CSP respondents to TM Forum’s survey who answered ‘yes’ when asked whether the specified vertical would require slicing.
Make or break for slicing
Regardless of the discrepancies between our survey data and Fabre’s analysis of Gartner’s survey, one thing is very clear: Network slicing is necessary, and operators must figure out how to do it quickly if they are to monetize vertical 5G markets and stave off competitors.
Indeed, Fabre cautions that private enterprise networks may be the best option for companies that want to benefit from 5G capabilities early on.
“These networks may be offered not only by CSPs but also directly by infrastructure vendors – and not just by the traditional large vendors of infrastructure, but also by suppliers with cloud and software backgrounds.”