Hannah Broadhurst, Director 5G and Private Networks, Westcon-Comstor explains how distribution can play a vital role in helping partners build a 5G business as vendors look to reach enterprise customers via the channel.

Next-generation private wireless networks present a significant opportunity for enterprise customers. With the technology set to accelerate adoption of innovative solutions including AI, IoT, cloud and edge computing, 5G will allow organisations to radically transform their operations and their industries.

Indeed, research from Deloitte indicates that over the next three years, 5G and Wi-Fi 6 are expected to more than double in importance, becoming the most critical wireless technologies for organisations. 57% of Line of Business (LoB) executives report that their organisations are currently in the process of adopting 5G and/or Wi-Fi 6, including planning, testing and piloting. Another 37% plan to adopt these technologies within the next year.

This is reflected in forecast spend on 5G and private wireless systems. Enterprise CapEX and OpEX spending on Private LTE and 5G networks is set to reach $7.3 billion annually in 2026. This presents significant product and services opportunities for channel partners too. Leveraging their highly valuable relationships with enterprise customers, partners are the key to 5G vendors and Telcos’ success in the enterprise. It is also a chance for partners to further cement their trusted adviser status by delivering the technology that will underpin their customers’ digital transformations.

The needs of the enterprise are complex, and partners will need an understanding of network design and management as well as system integration. From survey and design through to property negotiation and structural analysis, partners will be instrumental in laying the foundation for 5G. There are also ongoing opportunities to offer services such as remote device management and security.

Beyond the ecosystem of products, such as IoT devices, cameras and sensors, that will use the 5G network, there will be a significant increase in third-party applications and user requirements. There will, therefore, be a huge value placed on system integration to deliver customers’ desired business outcomes. System integrators can drive revenues from building and operating best-of-breed 5G private networks using third-party systems and devices from multiple vendors. Partners will also have the opportunity to build a services practice, especially in industrial and vertical applications. To maximise the opportunity at this early stage, partners should be building knowledge and competency around specific use cases and verticals. “Similar to the IoT infrastructure market, understanding vertical-specific needs can be a differentiator in both solution design and channel focus,” notes IDC.

Vendors, meanwhile, should be exploring go-to-market partnerships to take advantage of the early-stage market. They should also focus on growing relationships with systems integrators to accommodate the needs of mission-critical and industrial customers, and partnering with VARs and distributors to drive traction across traditional enterprise and SMB customers.

Role of distribution

Distribution will be the lynchpin to ensuring the fast and efficient delivery of 5G solutions – alongside technology and standards, 5G will be a logistics battleground. Enterprises simply won’t put up with lengthy delivery times historically seen in the service provider space.

Distribution will be instrumental in identifying recruiting, training and enabling partners to rapidly deliver 5G solutions and services. This includes helping to overcome the challenges caused by a lack of specialised advanced wireless and 5G skills among partners in this expanding arena.

Moreover, distribution can build a whole supporting ecosystem of solutions and services. These can be defined by vertical and developed into fully rounded business propositions. Distributors will play an important role in helping partners craft their messaging to ensure their end-customers fully understand the benefits that 5G can bring and advise them on the infrastructure needed to successfully implement the solutions.

Enormous potential

5G holds enormous potential for channel partners. And while many organisations are shifting to advanced wireless to enable innovation and gain competitive advantage, we have barely scratched the surface. While a quarter of the global population currently has access to 5G coverage, this will increase to 60% by 2026.

The good news for channel partners is that Deloitte notes that three-quarters of adopters are willing to consider new providers for wireless implementation and management services – this is important as the playing field for providers will be wide open.

Together, distribution and channel partners have the opportunity to tap into new lucrative revenue streams while enabling their enterprise customers to transform their organisations and stay ahead of the competition.

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