Cisco touts consumption-based Private 5G play

Delivered as a service to reduce risks for enterprises despite lukewarm channel takeup for similar products

Cisco has disclosed further details for a dedicated 5G network-as-a-service that customers will pay for based on what they consume – a week after Hewlett Packard Enterprise released its own package.

Announced at Mobile World Congress, Cisco said its Private 5G for enterprises will be delivered via a global collection of service providers and system integrators. Cisco will still own the kit and those third parties will manage it on-site for customers, the sales pitch being that it reduces technical, financial, and operational risks for enterprises.

Private 5G offers organisations their own, dedicated 5G network that can provide the advantage of connectivity over a much wider area than a typical enterprise Wi-Fi deployment. It can also be useful for a range of use cases from factory floor to supply chains, university and enterprise campuses, and hospitals.

Cisco's Private 5G will integrate with current enterprise systems, including existing and future Wi-Fi versions, and corporate IT teams will have access to one management portal to administer policies and identities across both Wi-Fi and 5G intended for simplified operations.

"Cisco has an unbiased wireless strategy for the future of hybrid work. 5G must work with Wi-Fi and existing IT environments to make digital transformation easy," said Jonathan Davidson, EVP for Cisco's Mass-Scale Infrastructure Group.

Furthermore, the networking giant maintains that its pay-as-you-use subscription model for operating Cisco Private 5G means that customers will save money with no upfront infrastructure costs, and will be able to ramp up services as they need.

For organisations interested in a Private 5G deployment, the process involves a Cisco integrator performing a site survey to determine the necessary networking and radio coverage to support the customer's intended use case.

For its partners, Switchzilla said that its Private 5G scheme will allow them to deploy a service faster and with less expenditure. Partners will also be able to "own label" the Private 5G they roll out to customers and enhance it with their own solutions.

Cisco believes that the as-a-service approach to its Private 5G rollout is a key differentiator, but HPE last week announced its own Private 5G, available under its GreenLake consumption-based pricing model. HPE's Private 5G is likewise being offered through partners such as telecoms operators, and is also designed to integrate seamlessly with corporate Wi-Fi networks.

HPE was out of the as-a-service gates much earlier than any of its hardware rivals, telling us back in 2018 that all its portfolio would be available as-a-service from this year. Yet the jury remains out among the channel about whether to get behind this strategy.

Some, including Europe's largest reseller Computacenter, questioned the notion that organisations really want pay-as-you-go pricing for enterprise IT infrastructure, or converting capex costs into opex costs, as it is often called. Computacenter CEO Mike Norris said the customers demanding a subscription model was a "lie" created by vendors' marketing machines.

Dell, Lenovo, HCI software player Nutanix, HP, and others have all launched their own as-a-service bundles. Cisco itself also vowed to sell everything as-a-service. Everyone is chasing the cloud model.

If HPE's experience is anything to go by – as of December just 1.125 per cent of its global partner base had signed up to sell in this way – then other hardware vendors may also have quite a sales challenge on their hands. ®

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