Confidence is growing in the role 5G networks can play in the business arena, with the majority of respondents in a research study from shared network infrastructure provider Boldyn Networks showing the majority of organisations feel more confident in 5G performance than ever before, and that 5G availability has a direct impact on business performance.
The study, Neutral hosts: The answer to 5G densification in delivering an interconnected future, undertaken in August 2023 by Sapio Research, was conducted among 200 telecoms decision-makers, 200 5G enterprise experts and 200 public sector IT decision-makers in the UK and Ireland (50%) and US (50%), from organisations with 100 to over 5,000 employees. The respondents were all decision-makers with varying levels of seniority, including owners, founders or directors (38%); C-level executives (9%); managers (48%); and consultants or advisors (4%).
Among the key findings was that four years into widespread roll-out in major economies, just more than seven in 10 telecoms decision-makers in the US, UK and Ireland feel more confident in 5G than ever before. And a majority recognised that 5G availability currently has a direct impact on performance in their organisations, with half (51%) of respondents believing 5G will deliver optimal performance in areas relevant to their organisations in the next six months – 78% in the next year.
5G availability was rapidly growing in importance among enterprise and public sector IT decision-makers. As many as 86% of US respondents and 64% of UK&I respondents indicated that 5G availability currently has a direct impact on performance in their organisation.
Just more than three-quarters of respondents believe 5G will deliver optimal performance in the next 12 months, with US respondents most optimistic. As confidence in 5G increases, there’s a clear move towards embarking on 5G roll-out strategies quickly. To that end, 47% of respondents claimed that increasing the deployment of macro cells and small cells was a priority.
Yet the survey said to satisfy the demand from businesses will require significant improvements in 5G coverage and capacity – that is, densification. The paper noted that in June 2023, OpenSignal reported that 5G availability stood at just 31.1% in the US, 10.1% in the UK and 14.5% in Ireland.
Moreover, the paper indicated a number of issues that were holding back enterprises from pursuing a 5G densification strategy, outlining the typical challenges that must be overcome to drive 5G densification at the pace expected by public and private organisations.
The major obstacles highlighted include the substantial CAPEX investment needed, achieving ubiquitous connectivity and laying new optical fibre. Some 96% of decision-makers said they have already faced challenges deploying 5G infrastructure, and four in five expect to exceed their planned spend.
These challenges, said the study, were driving a re-evaluation of 5G densification strategies. Overall, 60% of telecoms operators and public and private sector organisations have a clear network densification strategy, but US-based organisations are more advanced.
Additionally, the study showed that to remove issues associated with 5G, the overwhelming majority of telco, public and private sector experts – 92% – were likely to work with neutral hosts. Such companies deploy and operate connectivity infrastructure and lease it to telecoms operators and public and private sector organisations.
Boldyn was confident that once understood, neutral hosts emerge as a credible alternative to “traditional” densification approaches, due to their ability to overcome these hurdles. It said the key benefits of neutral hosts were cost effectiveness, sustainability, time efficiency and simplicity.
“Our industry has made great progress in rolling out 5G networks globally, and confidence in its performance by business customers has rocketed,” said Boldyn Networks Group chief strategy officer Justin Berger. “But to create the truly interconnected communities of the future, it is essential that we close the gaps in 5G connectivity – indoors, outdoors, in urban, suburban and rural environments. That’s what network densification is all about.”