Private cellular networks provide secure, reliable, cost-effective connectivity compared to public cellular and Wi-Fi solutions
For years, organizations and governments have had limited private wireless network options for factories, office buildings, transit centers, or other large areas. Security limitations and a propensity toward interference make Wi-Fi a poor solution, while public cellular networks don’t allow for traffic prioritization of applications, devices, or users, and can become costly when supporting data-intensive applications.
Recently, enterprise businesses have turned to private cellular networks (PCNs) based on LTE and 5G technologies. These networks provide businesses with the benefits of public cellular and Wi-Fi — such as coverage, security, capacity, control, and mobility — that are needed to support sophisticated IoT applications.
Although the cost of private 5G and LTE lends itself to a healthy return on investment (ROI), it is still important for businesses to take time to understand how these private networks operate and the specific benefits they offer over Wi-Fi and other wireless technologies.
Similar to a scaled-down version of a public cellular network, private 5G and LTE networks are dedicated cellular networks built allowing enterprises to use licensed, shared, or unlicensed wireless spectrum to transmit data to wireless endpoints including smartphones, laptops, tablets, and routers.
Just as anyone can set up and maintain their own Wi-Fi network, many companies — particularly in the U.S. — can create and operate their own private cellular network. The only requirements are spectrum (including shared CBRS spectrum in the U.S.), appropriate network infrastructure, and compatible endpoints capable of connecting to this equipment.
Private Cellular Networks often call for greater initial investments than Wi-Fi, but based on the ROI, enterprises continue to turn to PCNs to provide connectivity for a large number of users and devices, or over a vast geographic area where existing wireless infrastructure fails to meet the needs of the business.
- Compared to Wi-Fi, PCNs can cover larger areas outdoors, underground, and within buildings or other facilities where coverage has traditionally been a challenge.
- 5G and LTE network security standards provide enhanced security — especially for sensitive data — in addition to the lower latency and higher bandwidth that come with cellular.
- Thanks to remote management capabilities, enterprise IT teams can create and apply application- or user-specific service level agreements (SLAs).
Exploring private 5G use cases across industries
Organizations worldwide require easy-to-manage networks that provide reliable, secure connectivity within buildings, in remote areas, and across large areas for many devices and/or users. Private 5G networks will undoubtedly become the preferred alternative for many of the world's largest organizations, especially for industrial areas such as manufacturing plants, logistics hubs, and ports.
Private 5G for warehouse logistics and light manufacturing
Manufacturing facilities can connect information technology systems to their equipment via a PCN, enabling the deployment of automated guided vehicles (AGV), remote machines, manufacturing process and quality control monitoring, predictive equipment maintenance, and other IoT applications.
In stark contrast to legacy wired and wireless connectivity, warehouses and online retailers using PCNs can achieve new levels of quality control across indoor and outdoor coverage areas. Warehouses can deploy supply line tracking and other IoT applications without incurring network outages or costly maintenance costs and scale as needed.
Private 5G for smart cities and buildings
Smart cities and municipalities pose an interesting challenge and opportunity for Private 5G and LTE use cases. They are large, complex areas requiring reliable connectivity across an array of modern and legacy assets. The key challenges smart cities face include surveillance cameras, smart lighting, intelligent traffic control, IoT technologies, public Wi-Fi access, EV charging stations, etc. Private 5G networks are projected to overcome these difficulties to unlock the potential of IoT and become a driving force for the smart city and future investments.
Private 5G for education
PCN use cases are becoming more prevalent in K-12 and higher education, including at-home connectivity for distance learning throughout communities. Higher educational institutions also can be a smaller smart city archetype with autonomous buses and smart buildings such as classrooms, offices, dormitories, and public spaces. Once a PCN is established at an educational site, the city can leverage that same network for other uses such as telehealth, waste management, and intelligent traffic control.
Private 5G on campuses
Universities, hospitals, military bases, hotels, businesses, and apartment buildings, as well as other campuses, venues, and facilities that require connectivity for a large number of people or devices can benefit from the speed, security, and capacity of a PCN. As mentioned above, campuses operate similarly to smart cities, addressing comparable issues such as IoT connectivity, smart lighting, security, and public Wi-Fi.
Private 5G in large public venues
Large public venues including airports and stadiums frequently require robust coverage both inside and outside their facility to support the connectivity needs of their retailers, security teams, IoT devices, and hundreds to thousands of visitors. PCNs can securely deliver that connectivity.
Private 5G for utilities
Private 5G and LTE networks enable utility companies to connect their IoT applications to devices like smart meters, transformers, battery-based energy storage devices, other types of grid infrastructure, and vehicles used by their mobile workforce more effectively and affordably.
Private 5G for mining, oil, and gas
PCNs offer mining and energy extraction enterprises the reliable connectivity they demand for industrial IoT (IIoT) applications that connect to mission-critical equipment such as drilling machines, rugged handheld devices, and other tools — even when the equipment is underground or on a remote worksite.
How can organizations take advantage of Private 5G?
If your organization is already operating under a private LTE network, you can successfully convert that existing network into a private 5G network using the same spectrum while benefiting from many of the speed, latency, and other performance advantages characterized by 5G.
When implementing new PCNs, enterprise businesses that develop and prioritize clear private 5G use cases, key performance indicators, and infrastructure requirements will achieve the highest return on their investment.