COVID, slow endpoint deployment could put the brakes on private 5G growth

Hiccups in the growth of industrial IoT endpoints and the lingering effects of the pandemic will undercut the rapid growth of private cellular deployments in the enterprise, according to an IDC analysis.


The pace of private 5G/LTE growth in the enterprise is likely to drop substantially below earlier estimates, thanks to Covid's aftereffects and slack growth in the development of 5G-equipped endpoints, according to a report issued today by IDC.

A December 2020 forecast predicted the size of the annual market for private LTE/5G wireless infrastructure to reach roughly $4.7 billion in 2023, but that figure has been revised downward to about $3.8 billion in the new report. That's still a sharp increase from 2021's $1.8 billion figure, but a substantial change, nonetheless.

Private 5G trials are still increasing, IDC said, which should translate to widespread deployment in the future, but commercial deployments of the technology continue to be limited to "a few high-end customers."

According to Brandon Butler, a research manager at IDC and one of the report's authors, earlier predictions were based on the idea that, at this point in the deployment of 5G networks, a robust ecosystem of 5G endpoint devices would have sprung up. That hasn't proved to be the case, and the report cited the paucity of embedded industrial devices, automated guided vehicles, and other important parts of the industrial IoT sector as being particularly impactful to growth rates.

"I think we were expecting to see a slightly bigger demand for that," Butler said.

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