Private 5G networks offer CIOs intriguing options, and SI opportunities

Credits: Dreamstime

Public 5G networks are often said to offer the ultra-reliable low-latency communication (URLCC) needed for applications as diverse as industrial control, driverless vehicles, and virtual reality-but not all public 5G networks are created equal.

In some situations, it may be necessary to build a private 5G network to reap the expected benefits as a CIO – or call on one of the growing number of system integrators willing to build and manage it.

Connected manufacturing systems-called Industry 4.0-rely on low latency to synchronize machines and help them respond to their environment. Delays can mean damage to the product or plant.

Virtual reality applications require fast response from servers to avoid nausea-inducing lag between users ’movements and what they see. For those riding in a driverless car, delays in the transmission of information can have worse consequences than illness.

Most network operators offering 5G service today use a 5G NR (New Radio) interface with a relatively older 4G network core, a combination better known as “5G NSA” (non-standalone), that transmits of control signals on the 4G network as data travels through 5G.

Although the Enhanced Packet Core (EPC) of many 4G LTE networks is relatively fast, it is not as fast as the new 5G Packet Core which is specifically designed for 5G SA (standalone) networks, and only 5G SA networks can deliver of features such as sub-10ms latency and the “slicing” of networks into the logical separation of services.

Network operators want to fudge the differences, so it may not be clear which flavor of 5G the local operator offers, but according to a report by the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA), while 67 operators are investing in 5G BY June 2021, only a handful will offer commercial 5G SA services, including T-Mobile in the US, China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom, and China Mobile Hong Kong.

Some others use it for fixed wireless access or claim launches that the GSA cannot verify.

It will be private

For businesses looking to launch 5G coverage on a large campus or an installation such as a port, refinery, or manufacturing plant, private 5G can be an attractive proposition.

Unlike WiFi, 5G has the scope to cover a large site from only a few locations, and the possibility of building a private 5G network means CIOs don’t have to wait for their national network operators. to go around to launch 5G SA in their area.

Private 5G networks can operate on the unlicensed spectrum, as does WiFi, or even on the licensed spectrum if regulatory authorities consider them in the national interest. This may be the case for ports, for example.

Its disadvantage is that, without a network operator operating things, someone will need to oversee the planning of tower locations and the installation and ongoing management and maintenance of equipment, something where most in businesses will not be ready.


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