Enterprise Services with Private 5G - Key Enabler in Expanding Opportunities for Vertical Industries

As there is a lot of discussion around Private 5G (P5G), many people ask what can't be done with LTE and Wi-Fi, why do we need 5G. To answer this and encourage verticals to adopt 5G, Samsung researchers recently write a blog post on the topic. 

Quoting from the blog post: 

Unlike traditional public networks that services general consumers, a private network is intended for the sole use of a private entity, fully customized for its specific needs. There are several reasons why an enterprise or vertical customer deploys private networks. First, it can provide an optimized and tailored functionalities and services to meet the requirements of each industrial application (e.g. low-latency, reliable transmission and so on). Second, network can be fully and exclusively used, easily deployed, and independently managed by the enterprise. Third, the network is isolated from the public network, so, there is less possibility for sensitive data being leaked outside of the enterprise. Last, it guarantees coverage, especially for mines, agricultural lands, factories, or power plants, which are usually located far from urban area. Since it can be deployed at their facilities or location, they can have reliable network connectivity.

Historically Wi-Fi has been the preferred choice for enterprise wireless networks for a long time. Relatively cheap to deploy and maintain, it can provide speeds as high as 9.6 Gbps (with Wi-Fi 6). In addition, Wi-Fi networking products have matured with so many customizations over the years that it will take long before an alternate can match their might.

There are use-cases though in which Wi-Fi may not be suitable. Limited coverage and capacity, and lack of QoS assurance are some of the factors that make it not-so-suitable for many enterprises and verticals involved in mission-critical, public safety, defence and manufacturing space, and those requiring e.g. drones and AR/VR/XR based applications, where performance assurance is key.

LTE is another alternative which has gained traction in this space in last few years. It offers QoS centric design, superior coverage and higher level of reliability. With LTE, the throughput capacity of a cell also improved significantly and wide range of sectors started looking more positively at the proposition of private cellular networks for their factories.

A private LTE network can use licensed or shared spectrum and can cater to a wide variety of devices and applications. It can serve devices that require, say, 4K streaming services, and the devices that require low power and low data-rate, simultaneously; it can even be customized to provide different reliability and QoS to different services.

However, there are still some key requirements that the private LTE network cannot meet for enterprises. For example, the concept of private LTE network is not fully standardized one, which means the cost of deployment of the private LTE network can be relatively expensive due to lack of interoperable ecosystem. Additionally, LTE network does not provide specific features (e.g. reliable and low-latency transmission and management of millions of devices and connections) for various applications, such as mission critical services, factory automation services, etc.

3GPP introduced support of "Non-Public Networks (NPN)" in its Release-16 version of specifications, more commonly known as Private 5G. The technology supports URLLC (Ultra Reliable and Low Latency Communication), superior throughput capacity and higher device density as compared to the previous generation which makes it attractive for a number of new use-cases. To add to that, Network Slicing, Edge Computing and Control-User Plane Separation coupled with Network Function Virtualization offer a flexible, extensible and an agile approach to network design, which makes it far more interesting proposition to enterprises.

More importantly, Private 5G introduces native support of NPNs into its architecture and protocols thus avoiding fundamental problems with Private LTE (where support of NPNs was more of an afterthought), while also allowing co-existence with the public networks (PLMNs).

You can read the blog post here for complete details, including an explanation on Private 5G and the road ahead.

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