AN INTRODUCTION TO PRIVATE LTE AND PRIVATE 5G
With the growing need to increase efficiency and competitive ability, enterprises are implementing a wireless-first strategy. Cellular technologies like LTE and 5G are the perfect fit as they are architected to deliver broadband wireless service with controlled quality of service, robust security, resilience, reliability and mobility. The recent availability of Open Spectrum (lightly licensed or unlicensed LTE/5G spectrum for enterprise use) and enterprise-level Private LTE solutions have made this technology a viable option for all enterprises.
WHY PRIVATE LTE/5G?
Increasingly, organisations' demands for wireless communication is so great and diverse that there is a clear need to augment their existing Wi-Fi and PMR (walkie-talkie) networks. They are embracing private cellular for their business critical and security critical workloads while keeping their existing investments in Wi-Fi networks for guest access (including Wi-Fi offload) and less dependable business and personal communications'
WHAT IS A PRIVATE LTE OR 5G NETWORK?
A private LTE or 5G network uses the same technology that is used by mobile operators to provide a private (local) wireless network. It looks and feels just like Wi-Fi but uses the much more secure and performant LTE and 5G technology. The diagram below shows the four main components of a Private LTE or 5G network.
The four key components to deploy a private cellular network are described in more detail below:
- A Control Centre which is the brain behind the network and controls which devices are allowed to connect to the network and directs how traffic should be prioritized, routed or segregated;
- An Edge Node that acts as an on-site traffic router and gateway to and from the radio network. The Edge Node is usually sited in the same campus as the radio network (or an aggregation point of several campuses) to keep traffic local to maximize security and performance;
- Radios that radiate a signal in specially earmarked private LTE/5G frequencies on a campus (often called small cells, access points, CBSDs); and a
- Spectrum license authorising transmission of radio waves into the private area. In most countries this is a fixed term licence issued by the regulator to a particular licensee. In some jurisdictions, like CBRS in the USA, this is an electronic authorisation that is dynamically managed by a cloud-based Spectrum Access Service (SAS).
In a private LTE context, we call the Control centre and the Edge node together the Connectivity Platform.
CHOOSE YOUR NETWORK INTEGRATOR
There are a wide variety of LTE radio’s available to choose from depending on the coverage area and power output sought. For convenience its useful to think of private LTE radios in three categories:
- Indoor Low-power – these typically have the look and size of an enterprise Wi-Fi access point and operate at the same power levels although due to the advanced characteristics of LTE/5G radio technology, they are generally quoted as providing 3-4 times the coverage of Wi-Fi (source: Heavy Reading, Private LTE Networks, July 2017);
- Indoor medium power – These are at the higher end of the power spectrum but still designed for indoor use typically on factory floors, warehouses and non-carpeted areas. They operate at power levels that are higher than Wi-Fi but much less than a mobile operator base station. Wide-area trials have shown that an LTE radio can cover the same area as 10’s of Wi-Fi access points; and
- Outdoor High Power – these operate at the highest power levels allowed in liberalised spectrum and can be compared to the low-power end of a mobile operator’s radio. A single radio can provide several kilometres of coverage and support several hundred concurrent users. If using mobile operator spectrum, then power levels can be turned up significantly higher and tens of kilometres in radius can be covered from a single radio.
Network integrators can design, configure and install radios based on manufacturer’s coverage estimates, a coarse field survey and a radio planning tool. For CBRS deployments in the USA these integrators must be Certified Professional Installers (CPIs) able to configure the radios to connect to one of the Spectrum Allocation Server (SAS) providers.
Athonet has interoperated with all commercial vendors of LTE radios and selected 5G radios. We can refer enterprises to partner network integrators for full end-to-end network deployment.
CHOOSE YOUR DEVICES
Once the radio network is connected to the Connectivity Platform, your Private LTE/5G network is live and ready for use.
If you are deploying in the USA under CBRS then you will need devices in Band 48 which include the Apple iPhone11, Samsung Galaxy Note 10, Motorola Push-to-talk devices, Google Pixel 4 and a number of industrial routers, modems and bridges from Cradlepoint, Multitech, Sierra Wireless, Telit and others.
In the UK, France, Japan, Netherlands and Sweden, much of the spectrum made available for Private LTE is on existing LTE bands that work with most existing LTE devices. In Germany, Sweden, Finland and the 3.8-4.2 GHz band in UK, the private cellular spectrum is on new 5G related bands for which devices will be available. Meanwhile, in Germany in particular, existing LTE Band 43 devices may be deployed in the private cellular spectrum.
Athonet’s network integrator partners can support enterprises in selecting the best devices for each specific application.
MOST REQUESTED APPLICATIONS
Some of the most popular applications on private LTE and 5G networks are listed below. Athonet’s partners are available to provide these as part of a bundle package:
- PMR/TETRA walkie-talkie replacement with broadband LTE service (Push-to-talk and push-to-video)
- Wireless phone (DECT) replacement for voice/video communications and integration with VoIP (IP-PBX) functionality
- IoT with reliable, secure, two-way communications with a diversity of bandwidth and power options
- Easy-to-deploy video surveillance via fixed, mobile or bodycams
- Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, for expert control of remote facilities; data visualisation at construction sites, mines, oil & gas and other complex environments; and
- LTE arterial links to connect up Wi-Fi hotspots in hard to reach area
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