Private cellular networks: 5G and LTE

Wireless carriers are touting the rollout of their 5G networks, which promises speeds of 1Gbps to 10Gbps, one-millisecond latency and the perception of 99.999 percent availability. 5G represents a dramatic step up from 4G/LTE technology, which theoretically can reach speeds of 100Mbps or more, but generally does not achieve that level of performance in real-world deployments.

Perhaps more important than the speed of 5G is its capacity and reach. 5G has the ability to support burgeoning consumer demand for wireless bandwidth and bring much-needed services to locations that still lack access to advanced broadband. It is also a boon to businesses. Industries ranging from construction and manufacturing to public safety and healthcare can leverage the speed, capacity and coverage of 5G to bring advanced applications to virtually any location.

However, a new report from Juniper Research finds that private cellular networks are key to maximizing the value of 5G in business. Organizations can deploy enterprise-class 5G infrastructure and utilize unlicensed radio frequencies to gain real advantages over carrier wireless networks.

Limitations of Carrier Networks

A primary benefit of carrier networks is seamless connectivity for devices that require mobility. However, many business use cases involve devices that are stationary or remain within one facility. Sensors used in manufacturing, building automation systems, warehouse logistics systems and medical devices used in hospitals are among the many examples. 

Organizations have traditionally used Wi-Fi to provide wireless connectivity to devices without paying for a carrier wireless subscription. But while the latest Wi-Fi standards offer substantial improvements in performance, coverage and capacity, Wi-Fi still has a very limited range and signals won’t propagate well in certain environments.

Even with carrier 5G, performance will depend on the service provider and proximity to wireless infrastructure. Millimeter-wave (mmWave) technology uses frequencies above 24GHz to deliver high throughput, low latency, and greater capacity in high-density areas. However, mmWave has a very limited range, works best in line-of-sight connections and can be attenuated by precipitation. 

Carriers are implementing mmWave in indoor facilities and urban environments, typically alongside low-band 5G infrastructure. Nationwide 5G networks utilize lower frequency ranges to ensure reliable connectivity with the downside of lower performance. Ultimately, carrier 5G networks are expected to approach the speeds promised by the standard, but there will still be significant limitations from a business perspective.

The Importance of Coverage, Security and Control

Private cellular networks put the organization in control of the network architecture and how devices access it. This enables lower latency due to shorter distances between the network infrastructure and the devices that connect to it and lower traffic levels. Service levels are more consistent and can be customized to business requirements.

Users must be authenticated to access the network, and organizations have visibility into the connected devices. Sensitive data does not traverse the public network, increasing security and privacy. Organizations can extend cellular coverage to remote and offshore areas not served by carrier network infrastructure.

Juniper Research expects spending on private cellular technology to reach almost $12 billion globally by 2023, more than double the $5.5 billion projected for 2021. Interest in 5G will drive much of this investment. More than 60 percent of the base stations will be 5G as organizations seek to gain ultra-low latency and long-distance signal propagation. The research firm expects network hardware and related services vendors to dominate this market.

The continued rollout of carrier 5G networks brings greater performance and capacity for devices that require mobility. However, private cellular offers greater control, coverage, and security for many business use cases.

Indoor connectivity and access technology vertical is on the cusp of a paradigm shift with the advent of Private cellular – both LTE and 5G. A technology that helps alleviate issues around Coverage, Security, Control and Latency while co-existing and augmenting the traditional Wi-Fi ecosystems finds numerous applications with organizations who are looking for a solution that can deliver enterprise-grade coverage within buildings or across challenging venues like arenas for mission-critical services like voice and data communications.

Rahi has a wide range of networking solutions and can help you decide what works best for your business, contact us today to learn more.