In a report on Private LTE/5G network deployments, Analysys Mason said that “Only 58 of the 363 private network announcements in our tracker explicitly mention that the private network is working with edge computing.” That’s no surprise as per our recent IEEE Techblog post that edge computing has not lived up to its promise and potential.
The number of announced private networks increased from 256 during the third quarter of last year, to 363 announced deployments during Q3 of this year. Most of that growth is coming from more advanced countries and China “where the IoT markets are mature and are driving demand for private networks.” Private networks using 4G LTE technology continue to dominate the overall market “because it is able to meet the connectivity requirements of most private network applications.” However, 5G is gaining ground with more than 70% of new networks announced this year stating the use of 5G technology.
Private networks and edge computing are complementary as each adds value to the other. When combined, the technologies can support applications that have requirements for low latency and high bandwidth or that need to be located on site for security purposes.
The adoption of edge computing with private networks has been limited thus far due to several factors, such as the relative immaturity of edge technology. The drivers of private network adoption are also different to those of edge computing adoption.
Private LTE/5G networks are often introduced to replace existing Wi-Fi or fibre access networks, and no other changes are made. Nevertheless, the share of private network announcements that mention edge is growing, and more than 20% of the private networks that have been publicly announced in 2022 so far include edge. We expect that more private networks will include edge computing in the next 18–24 months. Some vendors are promoting edge as part of a packaged private network solution (such as Nokia with its NDAC solution).
A few operators, such as Verizon, Vodafone and the Chinese MNOs, are promoting the combination, and many other service providers have trials that combine the technologies.
Verizon Business CEO Sowmyanarayan Sampath who during a recent NSR & BCG Innovation Conference explained that private 5G network momentum was outpacing demand for the carrier’s mobile edge computing (MEC) services.
“On the MEC, what we are finding is demand is taking a little longer to go,” Sampath said. “And part of that is we are having to work back and integrate deeper into their operating system. So it’s going to be much stickier when it does happen [but] it’s going to take a little longer. We’ve got loads of proof of concepts and early commercial deployments, but we shouldn’t see revenue till the back half of next year and into 2024.”