From The Editor | November 13, 2023

The Power Of Private 5G Networks

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By John Oncea, Editor

GettyImages-1187729700 Rohde - 5G FWA

Private 5G networks provide faster speeds, higher capacity, greater reliability, and improved security than public 5G networks. They also can allow customers to scale their cellular wireless services quicker than before. So, what’s not to love?

Nearly 45 years ago, my dad took me to a Cleveland Browns game played on a fairly typical mid-November Sunday afternoon: 50 degrees at kickoff with 12-mile-per-hour wind. The day began with a quick goodbye to my mom followed by a two-hour drive (with a stop for breakfast) before arriving at Cleveland Municipal Stadium along with 80,372 of our closest friends.

Behind my childhood hero Brian Sipe, the Browns beat the visiting Miami Dolphins 30-24 in an overtime thriller. We celebrated, jumped back into the car, and made our way home, getting there about 12 hours after the day began to share stories of the epic victory with the rest of the family.

What we didn’t do, given that this was 1979, was take and post any selfies, call from the stadium to let friends know about the fantastic game we were seeing, or anything else that would require the modern technologies we have at our fingertips today.

Of course, today fans can do all that and more, live as the games we love unfold in front of us. Still, it’s not perfect.

Many stadiums rely on “isolated Wi-Fi networks designed to serve administrative offices – reserved away from fan and visitor connectivity within the venue,” writes Celona. “This approach can leave fans struggling to obtain an effective internet connection when on guest Wi-Fi and fails to take advantage of the full Wi-Fi spectrum for guest connectivity at times of increasing number of fans in the venue.”

This has led to the creation of smart stadiums, venues that “use 5G and IoT technology to provide a better experience to fans, improve physical security within the venue, and enable new services that benefit the venue owner” by streamlining maintenance, improving profitability, and providing premium fan services all on the same smart stadium platform. Fans are benefiting as well by experiencing live events – sports, concerts, etc. – with the same quality of connection as they have at home.

“Smart stadiums are a fairly new concept but are becoming more popular and accessible thanks to the improving wireless connectivity capabilities enabled by increasing public 5G availability and also via the availability of new private 5G solutions,” Celona writes.

Let’s take a look at the last part of that last sentence – the availability of new private 5G solutions – as it applies to, not just stadiums, but to all industries.

Private 5G, 5G For Money

Private 5G is a wireless network technology that provides connectivity specifically for private network use cases including private businesses, third-party providers, and municipalities. Private 5G is a viable alternative to Wi-Fi, along with other wireless options such as public Long-Term Evolution (LTE) and public 5G.

Private 5G networks allow organizations to take control of private and secure connectivity for back office and staff applications in a smart stadium. With a private cellular network, administrators can create service-level objectives for multiple applications and device types to ensure security and other crucial services remain online, even in a sold-out stadium. Private 5G networks provide deterministic latency and throughput for critical use cases and can easily provide pervasive wireless coverage across any environment in which they are deployed, resulting in improved performance.

“In the past,” writes TechTarget, “private organizations typically couldn’t build their cellular networks for private use because the costs for licensing and purchasing carrier-grade equipment were too high. This changed when the Federal Communications Commission introduced (FCC) Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), a 150 megahertz band of spectrum that operates in the 3,550 MHz to 3,700 MHz range.”

According to the FCC, CBRS uses a three-tier priority concept with the following licenses:

  • Incumbent Access installations reserved for government and fixed satellite installations
  • Priority Access for purchased and reserved channel access
  • General Authorized Access tier, which is unlicensed and free to use where available

Enterprise private 5G primarily uses the General Authorized Access tier where they can acquire spectrum easily and freely, as well as eliminate a major cost hurdle that traditionally plagued private cellular use cases.

“A private 5G network functions identically to public 5G. Endpoints must be cellular-capable – and CBRS-compatible – and connect to the private wireless network via physical Subscriber Identity Modules or embedded SIMs,” TechTarget writes. “This gives private 5G operators tremendous control over which devices can connect to the network.”

In typical scenarios, a private 5G network is linked to a company's local area network (LAN) similar to Wi-Fi. Once connected, the private 5G endpoints can interact with other devices on the private 5G radio access network (RAN), as well as other IP-enabled devices on the corporate LAN or wide area network.

Where Private 5G Is Making A Difference

We’ve already touched on how private 5G is improving the stadium experience, but the technology is much more than just that. According to TechTarget, private 5G is being used in industrial plants, manufacturing plants, and warehouses rife with interference that requires reliability and complete indoor and outdoor coverage. Healthcare clinics and hospitals are leveraging it to protect sensitive data and allow for the seamless mobility needed to connect hundreds to thousands of wireless endpoints.

Modern smart buildings, much like smart stadiums, use private 5G to integrate large numbers of IoT devices and face difficulties, such as signal propagation, as are school and university campuses that require large indoor and outdoor deployments for staff or student use.

Finally, private 5G is a viable option for cities and metropolitan looking to improve the performance of smart city IoT, emergency responder data access, and private citizen use.

The demand for private 5G isn’t happening in a vacuum, notes iBwave, which goes on to write that five underlying trends will continue to create more demand for private 5G networks and wireless cellular networks. These include:

  • Private networks moving from 4G to 5G
  • The role of mmWave in private 5G
  • Moving from proof-of-concept to large-scale deployment
  • Private networks for public venues like stadiums, hotels, and airports
  • Combining private 5G with Wi-Fi in enterprises

Private 5G And The Future

Private networks are becoming increasingly popular in all industries. Since 4G LTE, private network implementations have been gaining momentum, and the recent allocation of 5G spectrum to businesses, as well as advances in network slicing and technological benefits such as ultra-low latency, reliability, QoS, speed, scalability, and vast bandwidth that 5G provides, have further accelerated this trend.

Some analysts predict strong market growth for private 5G, with projections of 20% to 30% market growth per year until 2030, taking a market size of $2.6 billion in 2022 to a predicted $129.6 billion by 2032.

Medium adds, “The rising need for fast, low-latency connectivity is one of the key factors driving the market for 5G private networks. These advantages can be provided by private 5G networks since they are less prone to congestion and interference than public networks. A 5G private network also can provide greater security and network control, which may appeal to enterprises and organizations that handle sensitive data.”

All that said, we’re still in the first quarter of the private 5G ballgame. However, the early successes have demonstrated that private 5G is capable of meeting corporate and government demands, as well as satisfying consumer demands for quicker and secure mobile data access. As tales of these successes continue, look for increased implementation of private 5G across all industries.