Take these steps to deploy private 5G and LTE for network control and security
In a world that yearns for simplicity, we instinctively gravitate towards unified experiences. Just as you might seek convenience in having all your essential tools within arm’s reach, the same principle applies when constructing a private cellular network, also known as a private wireless network. Rather than navigating through fragmented solutions from multiple vendors, harnessing the power of a single comprehensive package promises a much more streamlined experience.
Sounds simple, right? Well, the process for building a private wireless network hasn’t always been that easy; equipment often is pulled together from different vendors, creating a disjointed experience that makes deployment and management difficult. With an end-to-end private cellular solution, enterprises can mitigate these issues for better network control and security of their Wireless LAN (WLAN).
So, how does an organization set up a private wireless network? First, let’s back up and discuss what it is, how it differs from a public wireless network, and the steps an enterprise can take to build one.
What is the difference between private and public wireless networks?
The difference between private and public wireless networks boils down to three primary factors: ownership, accessibility, and intended use. Let’s dig into it a bit further.
For years, Wi-Fi — which can be run on either public or private cellular networks — has been a tried-and-true method for connecting WLANs. While this technology is an effective solution for providing broad network access to many users at a time, it has limitations surrounding coverage, reliability, and security.
Although it works well in smaller indoor areas such as coffee shops and offices, it may not provide adequate coverage for large outdoor areas. Performance is also impacted due to channel saturation as more users and devices connect to the same network, or as users move around in a space where multiple access points are present.
As a result, more organizations are being pushed to consider private cellular networks.
Public wireless networks
Public wireless networks are owned and operated by service providers (AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile in North America, for example) and provide broad network access to the public. The provider manages and controls the network infrastructure, meaning users have limited control over network settings.
Regarding network security over public networks, some providers implement measures such as encryption, and organizations can implement many different technologies to help defend against breaches. However, piecing together several security solutions can be very hard to monitor, manage, and scale.
Private wireless networks
A private wireless network built on 5G or LTE is owned and operated by an individual or organization. These networks are not open to the general public and are instead dedicated to internal applications. This means the enterprise has total control over the network infrastructure, security, and configuration.
Private 5G networks provide high-performance, high-capacity connectivity for WLAN based on licensed spectrum, unlicensed spectrum, or shared spectrum, such as Citizens Broadband Radio Service, or CBRS, in the U.S.
Why have a private wireless network?
There are several reasons why an enterprise might consider private 5G or LTE for their LAN, whether it be for a campus, warehouse, manufacturing plant, or smart city:
- Control: When managing an extensive enterprise network, having control of the policies, security, and data is essential. A private cellular network provides exactly that by giving IT teams seamless visibility across the network.
- Coverage and reliability: In particularly large areas, private wireless provides the coverage and reliability needed to operate mobile applications. The deterministic nature of private cellular provides seamless handoff between access points as users and devices move, minimizing the risk of downtime.
- Security: A private network requires private Subscriber Identity Module (SIM)-enabled devices, meaning only permitted users can access the network, thus increasing security.
- Cost efficiency: Unlike public cellular networks, which operate on a metered basis and require businesses to pay for data plans, private cellular networks allow unlimited data usage without incurring additional expenses. This is especially useful for data-intensive applications like on premises HD video streaming, which would otherwise accumulate ongoing data charges.
- Easier scalability: With the right private cellular solution, businesses can avoid deployment complexities. Additional access points and network infrastructure can be easily deployed to accommodate expansion, including transitioning from 4G to 5G, providing seamless coverage and support for a larger number of connected devices without impacting performance.
- Additional applications: Private cellular networks can be easily integrated with Wi-Fi infrastructure to extend coverage and capacity and enable more applications in the future.
Learn more about the parts that make up a private 5G network on our private cellular technology webpage or explore our white paper to see how organizations benefit from implementing private networks.
How do I set up a private wireless network?
Building a private wireless network requires establishing a robust network infrastructure — a process that requires completion of several critical steps:
#1 Determine the use case: A business looking for a private network solution, such as Cradlepoint NetCloud Private Networks, has likely already identified operational barriers within its network. Once that’s done, it’s important to clearly define the use cases for a successful build-out.
#2 Create a radio frequency (RF) design: Using an RF planning tool, such as the one that comes with NetCloud Private Networks, will help determine the placement of cellular access points and map out the private network architecture to show what devices are needed and where they will go depending on the use case.
#3 Put together a proof of concept: Designing a proof of concept helps organizations gain confidence in their private network solution by testing it out before investing entirely.
#4 Obtain the equipment: A private cellular architecture requires several key components, ideally all from the same vendor to remove complexities and simplify management:
- A cellular core: This critical piece of the private network (also known as the evolved or converged packet core) is often referred to as the “brains” of the private 5G or LTE core. This is where policies are set to determine which devices can access the network and how traffic moves throughout the network.
- Cellular access points: Cellular access points (CAPs) provide network access for SIM-enabled edge devices such as cell phones, tablets, barcode scanners, surveillance cameras, and more.
- Private SIMs: Private SIMs, which can be either a physical SIM card or embedded eSIM, enable authentication to the private 5G or LTE cellular core before connected devices such as cell phones, security cameras, inventory scanners, and more can join the network.
- Endpoints: Enterprises need CBRS-compatible routers to fully harness the advantages of a unified private network. These routers can also be used to set up local Wi-Fi networks to connect with additional device ecosystems.
- Network management tools: Cloud-based network management tools, such as Cradlepoint’s NetCloud Manager, give IT teams real-time network visibility and control through a single pane of glass. This means they can configure, monitor, and troubleshoot the network from anywhere.
#5 Build it out and conduct a post-deployment verification: As soon as all components are acquired, it’s time to proceed with building out the network by deploying CAPs, edge devices, clients, and other relevant components. Following the build-out phase, conducting post-deployment verification is essential to test network performance and determine whether expansion is right for your business.