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Private 5G Networks

[Iowa State - Forbes]


- Private 5G Networks

Cellular technology requires expensive licensed spectrum to operate. The large national carriers in the U.S. - such as AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon - have the ability to buy spectrum, build nationwide networks and lease network access for individual customers.

In the past, private organizations were often unable to build their own cellular networks for private use because the cost of licensing and purchasing carrier-grade equipment was too high. That changed when the FCC launched Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) in 2015. CBRS is a 150 megahertz spectrum that operates in the 3,550 MHz to 3,700 MHz range.

CBRS uses a three-tier priority concept with the following licenses:

  • Existing access installations reserved for government and fixed satellite installations;
  • Priority access to purchase and reserve channel access; and
  • Generic Authorized Access Layer, license-free and free to use where available.


- Private Cellular Networks

Multi-faceted ports, airports, high-density factory floors with thousands of connected devices are just a few of the businesses that benefit from the reliable, always-on service of private 5G (P5G) networks. Customizable from scratch, private networks are designed to be highly secure and flexible. Additionally, they enable basic 5G capabilities such as advanced service flexibility and network slicing. This can be critical in a multi-operational environment, such as a large port with multiple businesses, each with different characteristics and SLAs. 

Private cellular networks are designed to cater to enterprise companies that require the highest availability and performance. Many aspects of the private cellar model were designed in response to the limitations of commercial carriers and other wireless technologies.

A private cellular network is a local area network that uses licensed, shared or unlicensed wireless spectrum and LTE or 5G technology to create a private network configured to support the specific requirements of an enterprise within a specific geographic area. 

These private networks use company-owned infrastructure and backend software to provide targeted cellular coverage and application-specific service levels. Private cellular networks are often used alongside existing Wi-Fi, enabling businesses to provide more reliable and low-latency networks for mission-critical applications and machines.


- Private and Public Cellular Networks

The main difference between private and public cellular networks is that private organizations control all aspects of their cellular networks. By contrast, public cellular access provided by commercial operators relies on shared infrastructure and resources used by millions of other customers. 

Private cellular networks work just like public networks, but on a smaller scale. Thanks to advances in cellular technology, any organization with an IT department can design, build, and manage its own private cellular network.

Unlike commercial carriers, private cellular networks have complete control over their cellular resources and budget. This provides businesses with significant advantages over commercial service contracts, including overage fees and data limitations.

As convenient as public cellular networks may seem, they often lack many of the control features and services businesses are looking for. For example, public cellular networks provide full coverage but cannot integrate with internal applications.


- The Key Benefits of Using a Private Cellular Network

Private 5G allows the characteristics of each network to be tailored to the specific requirements of vertical industries. While use cases such as healthcare and public safety seek to optimize performance in terms of latency and reliability, other verticals such as gaming and mobile broadband focus on bandwidth and mobility.

Some of the key advantages of private cellular networks include:

  • Improved security: Private cellular networks give administrators complete control over how and where their data is processed and routed. This isolates sensitive information from devices within the network and ensures that your data is not mismanaged or vulnerable by third-party service providers.
  • Purposeful Coverage: In private networks, cellular infrastructure is tailored to suit enterprise customers in different industries and conditions. Organizations can use a combination of small cells, rooftop antennas, and indoor and outdoor access points to meet their unique coverage and performance requirements. 
  • Guaranteed Service Level: Businesses often have dozens of different applications, devices, and sensors that play a vital role in serving customers. Private cellular networks enable administrators to ensure that each application gets the exact resources it needs, right down to the exact latency and throughput requirements. 
  • Ultra-reliable Connection: Cellular networks provide seamless handoff between access points, which makes the technology ideal for large areas and devices on the move. For example, when you're on the highway, you probably never notice when your phone switches from one cell tower to another. 
  • Unmatched Scalability: Private cellular networks are designed to cover a wider area with less hardware and hassle. While this may not impact small businesses, it can significantly increase the speed at which businesses can deploy new services and reach customers.


[Milan, Italy]

- Private Wireless, Wi-Fi and Network Slicing

Currently (in 2022), private wireless networks can do a lot of the same things as the latest generation of Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi 6, and network slicing has a little future ahead. Most experts agree that in the short term, private 5G networks and Wi-Fi will coexist and complement each other. 

5G will be a better choice for emerging technologies such as time-sensitive networking and V2X communications. The potential for these use cases grows exponentially with 5G, which can handle things like transient fault detection on assembly lines or computer vision on cameras. 

If you want to go from wired to wireless, 5G will be the way to go. But most agree that Wi-Fi will still have a place in the enterprise, and the two technologies need to coexist in harmony. Some work needs to be done to determine the points at which these two technologies will meet. 

Today, Wi-Fi using access points and SSIDs has a different configuration than private SIM-based 5G using antennas. You need points in the network to configure on the same node, or struggle to put both technologies in the same radio or in the same box. 

For private wireless spectrum, businesses can use Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) with Priority Access License (PAL) or General Authorized Access (GAA), or they can choose to use mmWave spectrum from operators.


- Challenges for System Integrators

The configurability of private 5G networks is compelling, but it also introduces complexity throughout the network lifecycle. System integrators play a key role in private 5G ecosystems by developing private network templates for a wide range of enterprises. Many companies also offer network-as-a-service (NaaS) offerings that allow customers to outsource network management, operations, and maintenance after activating a private 5G network.

The variety of use cases for private networks means that the network must support a variety of endpoints, each with different requirements. For example, automated smart factories will be equipped with sensors, M2M data exchange, autonomous robots, V2X, etc., while university campuses will need to support fewer IoT-type devices, but more human users talking, texting, and “TikTok-ing” ' on their device.

There is no magic formula, it has to be designed to work. For complex private 5G networks to be successful, design, deployment and monitoring must be performed seamlessly to ensure the network is fully operational as planned, while consistently meeting important SLAs.  

Spectrum clearing becomes critical as frequency bands that previously contained other services are reallocated to private networks. Signal analysis, timing and synchronization verification, antenna calibration, fiber certification, and coverage and performance testing are the most important steps to support high reliability and quality of service (QoS).



[More to come ...]

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