Guide to Building a Private 5G Network: Best Practices

With the increased use of mobile devices and the emergence of new technology like autonomous vehicles, industries need to be prepared to meet consumer demand. The 5G movement has been gaining steam for a few years now, but it’s still very much in the early stages.

Early adopters of 5G will include government and enterprise. These initial users will offer insights into how the technology can be used, laying the groundwork for private 5G networks. The exponential benefits of the 5G network will be witnessed first in these larger entities before trickling down to the consumer market in subsequent years.

To ensure your enterprise gets a jump on private 5G deployment, you’ll need to build an infrastructure capable of supporting it.

What is a Private 5G Network?

Private 5G networks (referred to as non-public networks by 3GPP, the mobile telecommunications standards organization) are high-speed, high-capacity, and ultra-low latency networks that deliver gigabit speeds. These networks are usually built to interconnect private devices for internal enterprise use in industries such as manufacturing plants, governments, financial institutions, and hospitals.

Private 5G networks use licensed, shared, or unlicensed wireless spectrum and 5G cellular networking base stations, small cells, and other Radio Access Network (RAN) components to provide data connections at ultra-high speeds and transmit voice and data to edge devices such as routers, routing switches, integrated access devices, multiplexers, and more.

Why 5G Private Networks are Becoming Popular

Private 5G network adoption is gaining pace throughout the globe as regulators allocate more spectrum to enterprises, so they may develop and operate their own private 5G networks. This increased demand for private 5G networks has been driven by several factors, including concerns over security, latency, and bandwidth limitations.

As a result of these factors, many organizations are turning to private 5G networks to gain control over how data is transmitted across their infrastructure. According to Accedian, 76% of manufacturers plan to use private 5G by 2024.

This is a major shift for enterprises, particularly manufacturers that need 5G capabilities to build disruptive applications that power smart factories, digital transformation, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Another study, conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of Verizon in 2020, showed that among 700 business technology decision-makers, about 55% of business decision-makers have seen, read, or heard about 5G networks, and 80% agree it would create new opportunities for their company, industry (79%), and role (79%). In addition, seven in 10 believe 5G will help their company overcome the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic (69%).

Some industries, such as manufacturing, have already seen high levels of investment in 5G technology. This is because manufacturing companies can utilize these technologies to improve operational efficiency while reducing production and distribution chains costs.

Other industries, such as healthcare, also benefit from adopting private 5G networks because they secure patient privacy while ensuring critical medical information can be transferred quickly when needed.

Read more about Private 5G Networks: What is a Private 5G Network?

The Business Advantages of Private 5G Network

Private 5G networks provide enterprises faster speeds than 4G networks, reliable connections with minimal latency, enhanced control and protection from threats, and more. Other benefits include:

Faster and more reliable connections

Connections over private 5G networks can be faster than traditional internet access, allowing users to enjoy faster downloads and uploads with less buffering. The connection will also be more reliable thanks to higher bandwidth speeds.

Better security and data privacy

With a public 5G network, anyone can access your network traffic and intercept it. With a private 5G network, authorized users will be able to connect to it. This makes for better security and privacy.

Lower latency

Private 5G networks offer high bandwidth speeds; there is a low latency in sending messages between devices. In addition, a private 5G network with cloud and edge computing enables ultra-reliable low latency communication (URLLC) in enterprise apps by processing data at the source.

More efficient use of spectrum

Allocating spectrum resources efficiently is important when setting up a wireless network, whether a public or private 5G network. With most public 5G networks, users share spectrum resources. That means multiple parties might be accessing different parts of a single band at any given time.

In contrast, with private 5G networks, each party has its dedicated spectrum resources. That allows businesses to ensure their network performance doesn’t suffer due to competition for limited spectrum resources.

A better user experience

When it comes to speed, reliability, and security, having a good user experience is essential. And since private 5G networks offer all three—faster speeds, more reliable connections, and better security—they make for a much better user experience overall.

Also read: Why 5G Isn’t Just For Carriers

Challenges with Building a Private 5G Network

The promise of fast internet and near-limitless bandwidth is tempting for enterprises. Still, a few challenges may make it hard to get those networks built out effectively in time.

Cost

The cost of building out a 5G network can be prohibitively high depending on an organization’s size and location. It could cost hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to set up one cell site (also known as an access point).

Spectrum availability

To build a 5G network, you need spectrum. However, the cost and regulatory requirements around obtaining spectrum vary by location, so it’s important to understand how much spectrum you’ll need before moving forward with any plans.

Integration

Integrating new technology into existing systems can be challenging. Integration should go smoothly if you plan to use pre-existing infrastructures, such as fiber optic cables or coaxial cables. However, integration might be more challenging to implement if you plan to use newer technologies like millimeter-wave radio frequencies, which allow for faster data transfer.

What Should I Consider Before Starting My 5G Project?

There are several factors you should take into account before beginning your project.

  • Determine whether your enterprise needs its own 5G network.
  • Decide whether you want to build a dedicated 5G network or buy space on an existing carrier’s network. If you decide to build your own, make sure there’s enough room in your budget for both equipment and maintenance fees; otherwise, look into subscribing capacity from a provider.
  • Think about how much spectrum you need; remember that different bands have different capabilities and limitations.
  • Identify any government regulations that might affect your plans.

How to Build a Private 5G Network

To build a private 5G network, you’ll need 5G equipment such as base stations, mini-towers, and small cells. In addition:

  • You’ll need an antenna that can send and receive millimeter-wave signals.
  • You’ll want a radio access node to process those signals and send them to your core network.
  • You’ll need a high-capacity core network capable of handling those wireless connections.

To build your private 5G network, it’s helpful to understand how mobile networks function and how small cells work. You’ll also want to consider whether or not you plan to use licensed or unlicensed spectrum; enterprises need to purchase spectrum from the government, mobile network operators (MNOs), or third-party spectrum providers. Licensed spectrum is generally more expensive than unlicensed spectrum, but it provides better quality and reliability.

And finally, if you decide to build out a private network using an unlicensed spectrum, ensure your equipment supports carrier aggregation (CA). Carrier aggregation allows multiple pieces of hardware from different vendors to operate together as one large wireless system.

Best Practices for Building a Private 5G Network

While there are no hard-and-fast rules on what constitutes best practices when building a private 5G network, private 5G networks will be a critical building block of your enterprise network strategy. However, to realize these benefits, you need to follow best practices when designing and deploying a private 5G network.

Consider cost versus speed

When deciding how much bandwidth to purchase from network service providers, you might want to start by looking at how much data your employees use on average. This will help you determine how much bandwidth you will need over time.

Then, choose a vendor who can provide flexibility, scalability, and support throughout implementation and beyond. In short, don’t choose solely based on price.

Consider your needs

There’s no point in building a system if it doesn’t suit your needs. Before deciding whether to build out your network, make sure you understand precisely what you want from it.

What kind of services will you offer? How much data do you expect to transmit? Are there any regulatory considerations?

Make sure you have all necessary permits

Depending on where you plan to deploy your new network, you may need to obtain additional permits for construction or installation. Be sure to check local regulations and contact relevant authorities before starting work.

Choose your equipment carefully

When building a private 5G network, not all equipment is created equal; some systems are better suited for specific environments than others. Make sure you choose equipment that meets your specific requirements, such as range and reliability.

Prepare for maintenance

While maintenance might not seem like a big deal when you’re just getting started, having backups in place and knowing how to use them can mean everything when something goes wrong. Take time to prepare for potential problems before deploying your network, so you’re ready when something does go wrong.

Test your network regularly

When building a private 5G network, it’s important to test your network regularly, especially once deployed. In addition to ensuring functionality, testing also gives you valuable insight into how users interact with your network and allows you to address issues before they become a major problem.

Read next: Best 5G Network Providers for Business 2022

Aminu Abdullahi
Aminu Abdullahi
Aminu Abdullahi is an award-winning public speaker and a passionate writer. He writes to edutain (educate + entertain) his reader about business, technology, growth, and everything in-between. He is the co-author of the e-book, The Ultimate Creativity Playbook. Aminu loves to inspire greatness in the people around him through his actions and inactions.

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