Democratization of 5G paved the way for some enterprises to embrace 5G to build their own private mobile network and for good reasons: lower TCO, control, security and a means of ubiquitous connectivity for digitally transformed enterprises. To this conjecture, three 5G deployment trends are shaping the future of connectivity for enterprise private wireless networks. That is not to say that wired networks will be diminishing at enterprises. Definitely not, in fact enterprise 5G wireless networks are complementary to wired network infrastructure. It is neither a contender to existing wired networks nor the WLAN technologies such as WiFi. The 5G brings improved mobility, coverage, reduced latency, faster connection speeds and enormous connectivity to disparate devices. Prior to the democratization of 5G, enterprises solely relied on traditional telecom service providers to extend their public mobile network to enterprises. Such design is inflexible to the growing needs of the connected business due to lack of manageability and control, relatively higher TCO and security issues that stem from the use of public networks.
Increased global competitions and workplace virtualization created a new reality for doing business. In it, improving productivity and actionable intelligence are the need of the day. More a business can access and utilize operational, business, and transactional data the better it would be to retain competitive edge, innovate and improve productivity while effectively managing risk. This ever-increasing need for a digitized business ecosystem requires a pervasive connectivity from fusion of devices to technologically enabled workforces, business processes and operations. The private 5G is a game changer for enterprises, specifically manufacturers who need 5G capabilities to implement the transformative applications that drive smart factories, digital transformation and the internet of things (IoT). Additionally, 5G enables manufacturing facilities to be built without wires or cables – a time consuming undertaking that impedes mobility. With Private 5G, Enterprises can integrate smart devices, collaborating robots, swarm intelligence (a collective of AI powered devices), AGV (Automatic Guided Vehicles), augmented reality for predictive maintenance and digital twins etc. Industry leaders such as Bosch, Ford, Fujitsu, General Motors and Mercedes Benz are banking heavily on private 5G [1, 2]. Additionally, private 5G is also making headway in healthcare, logistics, transportation and smart facilities industries globally .
Private 5G Trends
The concept of private mobile networks is not new, and many deployments across industries have been using 4G technologies. With democratization of 5G and availability of spectrum, especially as regulators are offering enterprises the opportunity to purchase spectrum, private mobile networks are gaining momentum. There has been a global momentum towards 5G mid band spectrum as countries started to allocate spectrums from 2.4GHz to 4.2GHz. In the USA, 3.5GHz to 3.7GHz mid band spectrum is known as CBRS (Citizen Band Radio Service). The deployment of CBRS is growing in the USA and similarly, mid band spectrum usage in enterprises is also seen gaining traction in Europe and Japan. For example, 88 private 5G licenses in the 3.7 GHz-3.8 GHz band are granted in Germany alone to some of the country’s premier manufacturers.
However, private 5G deployment around the world has a mixed bag of technologies including mid band spectrum and edge cloud. Let’s consider the private 5G deployment at Associated British Ports (ABP) which used mid band spectrum of 3300–3800 MHz in a shared access license model coupled with edge cloud. Similarly, there are many deployments in which the OpenRAN concept is also utilized for private 5G. This variation of deployments can be grouped into three categories: Midband Spectrum Solutions, OpenRAN and Cloud Native.
5G Mid Band Spectrum and CBRS Type Solutions
There has been a global uptake on 5G mid-band spectrum-based solutions specifically sub 2 GHz to 4.2GHz. The entire mid-band spectrums and other 5G spectrums use TDD (Time Division Duplex) technique for transport. Further details about 5G spectrum, 5G mid band spectrum and their deployment considerations are available at https://timing.trimble.com/blog/private-5g-mid-band-spectrum-is-a-game-changer-for-connected-enterprise/ .
With regulators offering more spectrums to private enterprises, mid-band spectrum has become a choice for deployments. The following table shows typical 5G mid-band spectrum allocation in different countries.
Typical deployment of 5G midband spectrum solutions includes CBRS in USA, LSA in Europe and extension of 5G xhaul in Japan. The following diagram shows how CBRS and LSA (Licensed Shared Access) type deployments in USA and Europe respectively.
Since 5G mid-band spectrum is using TDD for uplink and downlink, synchronization is a must. The diagram above shows a typical CBRS and LSA type deployment using Trimble’s Thunbderbolt® GM200 as grandmaster clock and boundary clock for such deployments. If switches deployed for the fronthaul are PTP (Precision Time Protocol) unaware, boundary clock (T-BC) would be important and should be considered for each building in an enterprise campus setting. If you are interested to learn more please visit this url for further details: https://timing.trimble.com/blog/private-5g-mid-band-spectrum-is-a-game-changer-for-connected-enterprise/ .
The OpenRAN is a Telecom Infrastructure Project (TIP) initiative to bring together service providers and vendors to define disaggregated 5G solutions. The forum is a big proponent of 5G democratization and uses O-RAN specifications to define the 5G OpenRAN products. The idea here is to create a vendor agnostic solution through separation of hardware and software for 5G fronthaul as depicted in the diagram below.
The deployment of OpenRAN must follow O-RAN Sync plane configuration specification and divided in four specific configurations: LLS-C1, LLS-C2, LSS-C3 and LSS-C4.
- LLS-C1 Configuration: This configuration specifies network timing distribution from O-DU to O-RU via point-to-point topology between central site and remote site.
- LLS-C2 Configuration: In this configuration, one or more ethernet switches are allowed for network timing distribution from O-DU to O-RU between central sites and remote sites. The interconnection among switches and fabric topology (for example mesh, ring, tree, spur etc.) are out of scope of this configuration and subject to deployment decisions.
- LLS-C3 Configuration: In this setup, network timing distribution is done from PRTC/T-GM to O-RU between central sites and remote sites. One or more Ethernet switches are allowed in the fronthaul network. Interconnection among switches and fabric topology (for example mesh, ring, tree, spur etc.) are deployment decisions which are out of the scope of O-RAN specification.
- LLS-C4 Configuration: In this configuration local PRTC (Primary Reference Time Clock) provides timing input to O-RU.
A further detail about these configurations are available at https://timing.trimble.com/blog/how-do-you-synchronize-democratized-5g-ran-infrastructure/ .
Cloud Native 5G
Public cloud vendors are showing significant interest in penetrating the enterprise 5G market. With increased democratization of 5G and innate technological support of 5G NFV (Network Function Virtualization) model, 5G user plane and control plane can now be easily virtualized and implemented in the public cloud. Some public cloud solutions e.g. AWS wavelength, Google Anthos and Microsoft Azure have developed low latency cloud solutions through local zones. This tuned up edge cloud settings are considered potential for cloud native 5G. Moreover, cloud native 5G is a natural progression of democratized 5G. The following diagram shows how network disaggregation initiatives of “Open Networking” have paved the way for 5G democratization. This concept is further enhanced through innate support of 5G technologies for virtualization as depicted in the figure below.
The virtualization technologies also transformed from its early days and trends towards microservices has become de facto. Cloud native 5G thus combines multitude of technologies such as OpenRAN, 5G NFV and microservices architecture to achieve optimal performance for the cloudification. The following diagram depicts typical deployment of cloud native 5G.
Though cloud native 5G technology promises a more dynamic setup for enterprise 5G, it has yet to address latency and sync plane challenges. It is anticipated that this technology will mature by 2022. There have been some partial deployments of cloud native 5G.
1. McClean, T., 2021. Private 5G Networks Are On The Rise, Fueling The Industry 4.0 Drive. Forbes. Available online at https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2021/08/09/private-5g-networks-are-on-the-rise-fueling-the-industry-40-drive/?sh=5c1d6d09679e .
2. NEC, 2021. The Growing Case for Private 5G Networks. NEC Insight. Available online at https://www.nec.com/en/global/insights/article/2021030002/index.html .
3. Stewart, J, Nickerson, C. & Lewis, T., 2020. 5G Mid-Band Spectrum Global Update. analysys mason.
Author: Dhiman Deb Chowdhury