Private Network Driving Opportunities in 5G and WiFi

A surge in private 5G network deployments is now underway and will continue to accelerate at a higher rate than public 5G until peaking around 2028 in most markets, although about two years earlier in China and some time later in developing areas of Africa and Latin America. By 2028, private 5G network sales and associated services such as installation will generate $23.8 bn, before plateauing in 2029 and then subsiding as saturation approaches and further deployments will be mostly upgrades and extensions.

There will be a similar rise in deployment of enterprise WiFi networks around the current 6E standard, offering greater capacity and performance than the previous generation, closer to 5G. That WiFi growth will be strongest in North America and Europe, and peak earlier in 2024, after which an increasing number of sites will switch to 5G for more demanding use cases. The big difference from 5G is that WiFi deployments will decline steadily after 2024, a significant factor being Chinese enterprises largely abandoning the technology in favor of 5G. The forecast is for WiFi deployment revenues to increase from $751m in 2022 to $2.51 bn in 2025, similar to the rate of growth for private 5G, but then decline year by year to $1.70 bn in 2029.

However, manufacturing and healthcare will still account for a large proportion of cumulative private 5G deployments over the whole forecast period 2022 to 2029, respectively 4.63m and 3.0m cells out of a global total of 35.8m. That global total is 19 times the 2022 total of 1.89m, with a similar rate of increase for revenues. The 2021 total was just 689,000, so deployments have almost trebled in the last year, driven especially by the USA, China, Japan and Germany, followed by other leading industrial nations like the UK, France and South Korea.

China did look like being hamstrung by regulatory resistance to private 5G with roll out dominated by the three great state-owned monopolies, China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom. But strong upsurgence from the county’s enterprises, including government agencies as well as manufacturers, has opened up the country’s enterprise 5G field to rapid growth, although with the big carriers enjoying greater involvement in the major projects.

While 5G will account for the lion’s share of the growth over the whole forecast period, there will still be a significant number of 4G private networks being deployed over the next few years. Similarly, on the WiFi front, the last generation 5 is dominant at present but it will be the latest 6E that takes over during the forecast period, followed by WiFi 7 after 2024, offering an alternative to 5G for some of the less demanding emerging cases.

Private 5G networks are drawing new players into the mobile arena. Operators face competition not just from new service providers but also enterprises themselves bypassing them to build their own networks. The established technology providers themselves face a challenge from new providers coming in on the back of Open RAN. 

These are key findings of the latest version of our report, “Private Networks Driving Opportunities in 5G and WiFi” from RAN Research, the wireless forecasting arm of Rethink Technology Research. The forecast drills down into regions and vertical industry sectors, identifying manufacturing followed by healthcare as major drivers of private enterprise 5G early on, but with strong growth across the board and other sectors catching up to varying degrees later. While manufacturing accounts for 19% of all deployments by number of cells installed in 2022, followed by healthcare on 11%, the respective figures for 2029 are forecast to be 12% and 8%.