By Matthias D’Autremont and John English
Currently, more than 69 countries have deployed 5G commercially, while 500 private 5G/LTE networks have been implemented—a number that is growing rapidly. Fueling the growth of 5G private networks is the availability of 4 times more licensed (radio) spectrum and 15 times more unlicensed spectrum. The cumulative spending on 5G is expected to reach $9 billion by 2025, enabling enterprises to add $8 trillion to the global economy in doing so. Of the projected 14,000 total 5G private networks, 40 percent are expected to be for small and medium businesses by 2025.
Why Do We Need Private 5G?
Private 5G is not your father’s mobile network. Indeed, 5G is to businesses what 4G or 3G mobile networks were to consumers. Enterprises will not likely replace WiFi with 5G in “carpeted areas,” but rather will deploy it as a complementary solution in areas where there is a need for broader coverage or more mobility, or where device density or signal interference is an issue. Indeed, WiFi and cable replacement is a fast-growing category because of 5G’s relative cost, flexibility, quality of service, and strong security capabilities. Hundreds of entities are acquiring priority access licenses for Citizens Broadband Radio Service to build private 5G networks for many industries, such as smart factories of the future where the only things that don’t move are the roofs and the walls.
Private 5G is not your father’s mobile network. Indeed, 5G is to businesses what 4G or 3G mobile networks were to consumers. - Read more at @NETSCOUTNot only does private 5G also enable new opportunities for remote control in construction and for related autonomous vehicles, but it also can drive the reinvention of business models that have been static for decades. Think, for example of utilities building private 5G networks with smart meters and wireless sensors that protect their electric grids, or transmission towers that double as weather towers with live stream video.
Then there are 5G-driven productivity gains, such as enabling AR/VR usage for field technicians. Recently, Lufthansa noted that their ability to use 5G for remote aircraft diagnostics was a vital reason that the company could operate during the pandemic!
There are many more private 5G categories and use cases such as airports, transportation, stadiums, smart warehouses, and military, which are all being transformed by private 5G networks.
What Makes Private 5G Different?
The key enabling technologies of 5G have been well-advertised:
- Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communication (URLLC)
- Enhanced Mobile Broadband (EMBB)
- Massive IoT (MIoT).
What does this look like in action? Let’s look at a couple of examples:
Looks like we may need more popcorn in the future!
Moreover, massive advancement in device densification enabled by massive IoT, MIMO, beam forming, SON, carrier aggregation, small cells, and Open RAN/Virtual RAN lets 5G support 10 times more services while consuming far less power than 4G. (It also enables many new IoT use cases.) Another key to private 5G business enablement is network slicing, which essentially enables 5G LANs or WANs which creates a true multi-tenant network.
Flexibility of Private 5G Networks
There are many potential deployment scenarios and permutations for enterprise 5G, but they all fall into either a private or public category. For example, if an enterprise needs guaranteed quality of service and exceptional data privacy and security, they may opt for a completely private on-site design, leasing unlicensed or licensed spectrum from a mobile operator. The 5G small cells, 5G core, and multi-access edge computing (MEC) can all be on-site. If they have the knowledge and expertise, companies can choose to build and manage the network in-house, or they can partner with a systems integrator, network equipment provider, or mobile operator.
On the other hand, if enterprises need lower cost 5G solutions that can be operational quickly but still deliver low latency and good security, they may opt for a hybrid approach that uses 5G network slicing to leverage the mobile operator’s RAN or the entire mobile operator network. They can still leverage small cells on-premises for coverage, while the edge/MEC could be on-premises, hosted, or in the cloud.
While 5G network slicing is still in its infancy, communication service providers are likely starting with a handful of fixed slices for applications that require URLL and EMBB, massive IoT, gaming, and video. But in a few years, network slices will be orchestrated in near real-time down to the individual enterprise level. If successful, 5G slices may eventually be as common as network domain names! It’s also possible to achieve many of the same goals of 5G slicing now, through a distributed small cell or Open RAN architecture, which is less complicated than network slicing.
The bottom line: there are a myriad of 5G private network deployment options to fit virtually every application, budget, operational skillset and data security requirements.
Explore our interactive smart city to learn more about the benefits of private 5G.
D’Autremont is a chief solutions architect at NETSCOUT.
English is a marketing director at NETSCOUT.