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What You Need for a Private LTE Network

Roger Billings

How does Private LTE work? These devices and services are necessary to use a Private Cellular Network instead of Wi-Fi for wide-area wireless LAN

The possibilities for Private LTE and shared spectrum such as Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) in enterprise networking are deep and wide — especially as a secure, consistent, high-performance, and cost-effective alternative to WiFi in large areas such as school districts and campuses, shipping ports, warehouses, manufacturing plants, and even Smart Cities. However, many companies ask the same initial questions:

Private LTE architecture involves an ecosystem of partners and equipment that is much more than just a cloud-managed LTE router, although this is a crucial component of a larger solution. Beyond the endpoint, organizations have various hardware; on-premises servers, applications, and services; and public cloud services to consider. Below we will cover each of the components that make up a PLTE network, but first, let’s make sure everyone understands how PLTE works.

How Private LTE Works

Private Cellular Networks, which include PLTE and Private 5G, are scalable, secure, and cost-effective wireless broadband networks that no one but your organization can use. Your private network can be based on licensed spectrum; unlicensed spectrum; or shared spectrum, such as CBRS.

With a PLTE network, you can control everything: who connects to which devices and data, where and how the micro towers and small cells are set up and aligned, how the traffic flows, Quality-of-Service parameters, and more. There’s no competition with neighboring users for bandwidth, and in many cases your organization doesn’t have any recurring payments to carriers

So, what kinds of devices and services are required to stand up a Private Cellular Network? There are several key components to Private LTE architecture.

User Equipment (UE) or Customer Premises Equipment (CPE)

Typically, enterprises need a router that complies with the FCC Part 96 authorization for CBRS. This authorization ensures that a router will comply with any changes in frequency that are coming from the citizen broadband radio service devices (CBSDs) due to actions from the spectrum allocation server (SAS).

Citizen Broadband Radio Service Devices (CBSDs)

These are the small cells that actually produce the radio waves. Many technology partners produce CBSDs, which are similar to WiFi access points but have a much longer range — thus requiring far fewer pieces of hardware.

Element Management System/Server (EMS)

The EMS is the management system for the PLTE network. Usually this is provided by the CBSD vendor, but it also can be delivered by the enhanced packet core (EPC) provider. This management system can either be managed by the end user organization or offered as a service by a managed service provider (MSP).

Enhanced Packet Core (EPC)

EPCs provide IP data routing to other UEs or the local network on the back end. All traffic from the PLTE network has to go to the EPC for routing. Providers can offer either cloud-based or on-premises EPCs, depending on the end user’s preferences. Some even provide a hybrid cloud and on-premises solution. This is a critical piece to consider because the applications that run on the PLTE network may only need to stay on the private network and not go to the cloud.

Spectrum Allocation Server (SAS)

The SAS is used to control the power and frequencies used by the CBSD radios. The U.S. Navy has priority on all CBRS channels. Those who purchase priority access license frequencies in the FCC spectrum auction have priority acces to their channels whenever the Navy isn’t using them.

Finally, the general populace can use any frequencies that aren’t in use. The FCC will be auctioning off up to seven 10 MHz channels per county for priority access, with a single entity only able to purchase up to four PALs. The remaining eight or more 10 MHz channels will be available for general access.

What is CBRS? The citizens broadband radio service is Band 48, which businesses use for Private Cellular Network deployments.

Managed Service Provider (MSP)

In a PLTE scenario, an MSP can be leveraged to set up and operate the UE, CBSD, EMS, EPC, and SAS on behalf of the end user.

UEs such as Cradlepoint’s cloud-managed Private LTE routers provide the reliability, security, high performance, and cost-effectiveness needed in these multifaceted PLTE deployments.

This Private Cellular Networks white paper examines the benefits of Private LTE vs. Wi-Fi and public LTE.

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