Juniper Research has made a surprisingly optimistic forecast for the private cellular networking market.

The analyst firm predicts that enterprise spending on private networks will reach almost $10 billion worldwide by 2028. That compares to $1 billion in 2023.

Manufacturing is expected to be the single biggest sector, accounting for 35 percent of the. It is followed by energy and public services, which will account for 20 percent and 16 percent respectively.

“The manufacturing market demands more frictionless coordination of automated processes and devices, thus requiring high levels of orchestration via software-defined networks,” said Juniper Research, in a press release. “This complexity means that manufacturing will be a key use case for the more rapid adoption of 5G private networks, due to its infrastructure supporting high-device density operations and ultra-low latency.”

For telcos to reap maximum reward from this opportunity, they need to offer private networking as a managed service that includes tech support and other value-added services, said Juniper, which will establish a closer relationship with customers and generate larger recurring revenues.

Juniper also predicts that network slicing is emerging as a key technology that will enable operators to efficiently manage spectrum on behalf of private networking customers, ensuring consistent quality of service.

Based on Telecoms.com’s experience of the Future Enterprise Networks event in London this week, there are a few other focus areas for telcos that want to maximise the private networking opportunity.

Christoph Bejina of Alcatel Submarine Networks – which has its own 5G network at its Calais campus – said better security compared to Wi-Fi was a significant factor when it came to adopting private networking. With cybersecurity so high on the agenda for large enterprises these days, telcos  need to give this equal billing alongside new use cases.

Some telecoms luminaries cited price as an ongoing barrier to adoption, particularly for SMEs, while others said that education about the benefits of private networking is still a sticking point.

Despite these hurdles, other stats published this month suggest that private networking is gaining momentum.

According to figures from ABI Research last week, the number of private cellular networks in operation has surpassed 1,000 worldwide. The analyst firm is particularly upbeat about the lack of publicly-disclosed launches, because it suggests that enterprises don’t want their rivals getting wind of it because they believe that private networking gives them a competitive advantage.

Nevertheless, even with growing adoption, Juniper’s $10 billion spending forecast stands out as being more bullish than others.

Dell’Oro – which focuses on hardware shipment revenue rather than the entire private networking market – in February predicted that cumulative spending on LTE/5G small cells for private networks will top $1 billion by 2027.

Can both of these predictions be on the money, and if they are, what will that other $9 billion be spent on?

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