Spectrum Is King

Enterprises and carriers must have insights into 5G spectral performance to better understand throughput and latency of frequency.

Looking up at skyscrapers depicting radio wave lines traveling between them

Mobile communications rely on parts of the electromagnetic spectrum to transmit signals wirelessly. This spectrum includes different frequency bands, each with its own unique characteristics. Low- and mid-band spectrum has supported the evolving capabilities of mobile services over the years, but with the introduction of 5G, higher radio frequencies—commonly referred to as millimeter-wave frequencies—are now required.

Although 5G promises to deliver unprecedented data speeds to users, these higher frequencies weaken very quickly over distance. So, while they can be highly effective in a sports stadium, manufacturing facility, or subway station, they are less so when the signal must travel further. To ensure that 5G can deliver both fast and stable service, it will be necessary to move between bands. That’s where dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS) comes in.

The Importance of Dynamic Spectrum Sharing

DSS is antenna technology that allows for the parallel use of LTE and 5G in the same frequency band. With this technology, the spectrum demands for 5G and LTE are determined in real time, allowing network operators to divide available bandwidth dynamically to ensure the speed and stability of the connection.

The net effect of LTE/5G DSS for end users is that when they are using their 5G smartphone or Internet of Things (IoT) devices within the range of an antenna, they can surf in the 5G standard. Those users with 4G phones in the same physical area can use the 4G standard. In this way, one antenna can service two networks.

Solving the Last-Mile Dilemma

As many enterprises look to expand the use of IoT and other advanced services to power smart factories, healthcare facilities, and other technology-dependent industries, the ability to deliver 5G over the “last mile” will be critical. Delivering service to end users inside densely packed buildings can be complex and costly. In many cases, this presents a challenge for carriers, who often bear the expense of providing the necessary infrastructure at each site.

When the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) opened the band of spectrum from 3550 to 3700 MHZ for commercial use as Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), a new opportunity to solve the last-mile dilemma was introduced; previously that range of spectrum band was available only to the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). Combined with LTE/5G DSS, CBRS allows for a single band for in-building deployment that can allocate bandwidth dynamically as required.

Some Enterprises Going Private 5G

Because this newly allocated band of frequencies is commercially available, carriers and enterprises can leverage this technology, and it opens a window of opportunity for private 5G deployments. With private 5G, there is an opportunity to reinvent business models that have been static for decades. As a result, hundreds of enterprises are acquiring CBRS Priority Access Licenses (PALs) to build private 5G networks to meet their need for guaranteed quality of service and exceptional data privacy and security.

Among the options available, enterprises can use unlicensed or licensed spectrum leased from a mobile operator. The 5G small cells, 5G core, and multi-access edge computing (MEC) can all be on-site. Enterprises can choose to build the system themselves and self-manage, if they have the in-house knowledge and expertise, 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, leveraging the mobile operator’s radio access network (RAN) or the entire mobile operator network by using 5G network slicing. Enterprises can still leverage small cells on premises for coverage, and the edge/MEC can be on premises, hosted, or in the cloud.

Gaining Insights into 5G Spectral Performance Is Vital

With an increasing volume of IoT devices and the distributed nature of edge networks, enterprises, and carriers should consider a real-time visibility strategy to support 5G-enabled services. How these entities address concerns over spectrum allocation, interference, and the potential of exceeding capacity will inevitably determine the success or failure of any deployment.

To realize both cost savings and agility, 5G networks must have orchestration. NETSCOUT Smart Data and the unparalleled visibility it offers can help organizations validate 5G models and continuously optimize network performance in response to traffic fluctuations, enabling a new level of orchestration and automation.

NETSCOUT’s Automated Analytics solution leverages artificial intelligence, machine learning, and ultra-high-definition Smart Data to provide actionable, real-time, end-through-end network service intelligence to inform the orchestration layer for automation. This solution provides the visibility to continuously deliver timely and valuable end-through-end insights across RAN, core, and edge, enabling end users to explore real-time scenarios, create custom KPIs, and drive informed business decisions.

Private 5G holds tremendous business potential for both enterprises and the carriers who support them, but the complexity involved will necessitate what NETSCOUT calls Visibility Without Borders.

Learn more about our 5G solutions.