5G equips communication service providers with the ability to serve a multitude of use-cases with lightning fast connectivity, enhanced mobility, flexibility, reliability and security. The global pandemic has highlighted the importance of evolving networks and the major role digital technology plays. From smart phones to smart factories the unique combination of ultra-high speed connectivity and ultra-low latency, 5G is all set and ready to transform the communication landscape and the way we perceive it.
Transforming the connected ecosystem and enabling societies to take the leap with other next generation technologies such as; Internet of Things (IoT), network slicing & machine to machine communication, 5G is pushing the boundaries of connectivity to break new ground, spurring innovation for a smarter, safer and sustainable future.
With commercial 5G networks live around the globe and continue to roll out in many regions, the development of private networks over 5G — something that started in LTE — will create the infrastructure needed to expand the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), as well as enable greater capacity for critical radio communications, campus environments, sports venues and enterprises.
Private networks generally consist of a wireless local area network (LAN) that uses 5G technologies to deliver dedicated bandwidth, providing massive connectivities to support defined automation and IOT needs. One significant driver behind the growth of private 5G networks is the release of unlicensed spectrum for industry verticals, enabling deployment of private 5G networks without going through a mobile operator. This development is expected to give rise to new classes of business-to-business service providers, changing the competitive landscape for today’s network operators.
Capturing new opportunities
Generally, an enterprise turns to a private network to guarantee coverage, gain network control, ensure data security and meet performance profiles. Private networks can take several forms.
Beyond the traditional model of operator-run networks, private 5G networks can be deployed and managed by infrastructure vendors, including traditional, large infrastructure vendors, as well as suppliers with cloud and software backgrounds.
Findings by ABI Research estimate that the total market value unlocked by 5G could reach $17 trillion by 2035, fueled by vertical enterprise services. Savvy CSPs are recognizing the greenfield market opportunities that can be created in enterprise markets. Not only can mobile operators lease their own spectrum to support private enterprise networks, they also can develop private wireless networks that are then sold to enterprise customers.
Unlike networks that provide mobile network services to the general public, private 5G networks are deployed on the company’s premises, such as; across a campus or in a factory. Such networks have high quality of service (QoS) and security requirements, helping to isolate the network against problems that occur in the public mobile network. As such, private networks can improve performance, security, privacy and safety for the enterprise, while also making it easier for the enterprise to manage availability, maintenance and operations.
Stage for future operations
Private mobile networks also provide enterprises with opportunities to optimize and redefine business processes in ways that are not possible or feasible on wired and Wi-Fi networks. Already, several test cases have emerged demonstrating how private 5G and IoT networks can contribute to improvements across a range of sectors, including manufacturing, healthcare, transportation, oil and gas production, mining and utilities. For instance, Ford is building a private network to test connected cars on a private LTE/5G network located in a parking lot of its Dearborn, Michigan campus. And in the healthcare sector, Norwegian CSP Telenor is partnering with Oslo University Hospital to trial the use of 5G for remote-controlled medical procedures.
As enterprises and network operators continue developing trials for private networks, the need for service assurance and business-to-business SLA management becomes vital at every stage of development. Historically speaking, testing and service assurance has been primarily manual, reactive and time-consuming, especially in relation to service activation, change management, service quality monitoring and fault isolation.
Private 5G networks that use coordinated shared spectrum will require improvements in RF planning, network design, installation, test, management and operation. As such, private network operators would be well-advised to automate workflows and service assurance. Doing so not only provides immediate benefits for existing, hardware-based 4G networks, it also sets the stage for future operation of new virtualized and cloud-native 5G networks.
5G for business
5G networks present a number of exciting opportunities; not only for mobile operators, but for enterprises as well. Yet it’s important for enterprises to consider the level of technical skill needed to set up and service a private 5G network. Ultimately, those enterprises that fully understand the benefits — and challenges — of private 5G networks will reap the rewards offered by this next-generation technology.
About the Author
Sameh Yamany, PhD, is Chief Technology Officer at VIAVI Solutions where he drives technology innovation and execution for the company.