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How to establish enterprise 5G partnerships and when

 

How to build a private 5G network

If an enterprise decides to build its own 5G infrastructure, it’s best to assemble the 5G service requirements for the needed devices and then set them aside for use when picking technologies and partners for its own 5G network. The roles of integrator and support provider are critical, and someone inside the enterprise will be the default choice if the role isn’t assigned to a partner.

The differences in 5G from previous wireless networks may affect the existing enterprise network, meaning VPNs and even the data center network. If the organization’s applications are expected to generate more traffic, the company will need to trace the workflows from the edge to the data center to ensure the networks have enough capacity for the workflows in transit. In most cases, data center networks will be fine, but VPN capacity may need to be added in sites where 5G could increase traffic significantly.

While a network slice provides an almost-private 5G network, it won’t be fully private unless an organization builds its own network. To build a 5G network, enterprises have to address four specific areas:

  1. spectrum for the radio network;
  2. 5G infrastructure to provide the required features and interfaces;
  3. small cells or microcells to transmit and receive; and
  4. interconnected facilities to link the private 5G network to the public mobile network, if required.

Spectrum. Spectrum for 5G is country-dependent, but shared, unlicensed or allocated spectrum also may be available. Unlicensed spectrum is useful only for local 5G — such as a campus or facility — so if an organization’s needs go beyond smart facilities and industrial control, enterprises probably need a spectrum license. Often, it’s easier to get spectrum from a local operator than to bid for it in public auctions sponsored 5G infrastructure: Using a major vendor. Enterprises building their own 5G private networks have two choices for acquiring the rest of their infrastructure: use a major 5G vendor or assemble a private 5G network. With the first option, enterprises go to one of the major 5G vendors used 5G infrastructure: Assembling a private network. With the second option, enterprises assemble the private 5G network from the specific elements, like small cells, infrastructure and interconnect. For most enterprises, a good starting point is to work with one of the big public cloud providers — or web-scale companies — such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft. These companies may be willing to play the role of integrator and even provide support.

All these web-scale providers offer a range of 5G feature-hosting services, or soon will, and they may have experience in working with hardware suppliers and any operations tools they don’t provide themselves. If the web-scale providers don’t offer support for hosting the 5G radio network portion of 5G, look into the Open RAN Alliance (O-RAN) and the vendors that support it. A web-scale company may be happy to work with an alliance member for the radio-network piece.

Equipment and cells. Enterprises that want to start with equipment and software of their own can first go to the network equipment providers with whom they already have relationships. Some vendors, like Cisco, have specific enterprise 5G capabilities and will provide integration partners that can assist with building a private 5G network. Enterprises need to hire people with 5G infrastructure experience if they’re doing it themselves or obtain integration services from an experienced source. It’s best to use the company’s known vendors to get recommended sources. As with the public-cloud-hosting option, companies can look at the O-RAN supporters for the radio-network piece.

Interconnect facilities. Interconnect facilities are built onto 5G infrastructure. These facilities can be a part of the 5G service, obtained for the enterprise’s infrastructure, negotiated with an operator, or something that looks like a large IP private branch exchange that has a voice network link. The most important additional requirement for private 5G networks is to have enough call policy controls to keep the private 5G network secure. Companies that don’t need comprehensive security probably won’t decide to build their own 5G networks in the first place.

 

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