5G Private Networks : Challenges, Opportunities and More

A brief overview of opportunities and challenges the new open radio access network technology brings for mobile network operators and the startup ecosystem.
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Min Read
September 27, 2021

5G is one of the hottest trends and startups around the whole globe are busy exploring new innovative business applications and technologies that rely on the spreading 5G coverage. Besides public 5G networks that are, for example, used in telecommunications and for private internet usage, especially the use of 5G private networks is interesting for the entrepreneurial environment. This is because the networking of machines, sensors and other devices is still mostly realised via poorly scalable LAN and WLAN technologies. However, companies are increasingly upgrading such in-house networks to 5G technology - especially because they want to benefit from the scalability and low latency guaranteed by 5G.

Executive Summary

  • Due to ultra-low latency, connectivity, reliability and speed, 5G is extremely valuable to industries such as automotive, logistics, healthcare and entertainment.
  • With Network Slicing, a public 5G network can be separated into network partitions that can be considered “virtual” private networks. Individual attributes can then be assigned to these network partitions. 
  • Wi-Fi 6 will only be a true alternative to 5G until 5G has become the predominant standard in mobile communications.

The benefits of 5G for industries

5G is not just the next step in mobile communications; it is a quantum leap compared to 4G and brings improvements that many industries can benefit from:

  • Ultra-low latency
    5G has latencies in the milliseconds, creating ideal circumstances for the communication between and automatization and remote control of machines.
  • Connectivity
    With 5G, millions of devices can be connected per square kilometre. Ideal for the collection and processing of huge amounts of industry data, as is necessary for the optimisation of manufacturing processes or monitoring of all relevant assets.
  • Reliability
    5G is a lot more reliable than other standards, which is extremely important in safety related applications like robotics for medicine.
  • Speed
    Enormous amounts of data can be transferred within seconds instead of minutes or hours, making 5G valuable for entertainment and streaming services among others.

Overall, there are clear benefits to the use of 5G and incorporation of new technologies for companies. However, public 5G networks cannot cover all requirements of the industrial world. Thus, companies are starting to discover 5G private networks as a possible alternative to traditional wireless enterprise networks such as Wi-Fi 6.  

The benefits are also increasingly recognised by startups that are working on solutions based on 5G technology. In our Wayra 5G Tech Lab , the innovation lab of Telefónica, we create a space for these startups to develop and test visionary 5G applications to make them market ready.

As does the startup Unmanned Life that enables the seamless orchestration of autonomous robotics, such as drones, with a software platform. Only with the promises of 5G technology, like low latency, reliability, failure-safety, and the quick transmission of high data volumes, it is possible to operate and orchestrate a big number of drones that move in an extensive range. 

Another startup, which leverages the Wayra Tech Lab as an innovation and test space for their 5G application is VROMBR. As a startup in the field of remote reality VROMBR offers an online video game, in which real cars can be controlled in real-time via a smartphone to drive on real tracks - This only becomes possible due to the short latency and high performance in Wayra's private 5G network.

5G Private Networks

A 5G private network is exactly what the name suggests – a 5G network that is private instead of public and its deployment can take place in two forms: 

  • Form 1 is to build a physical, isolated 5G network that works independently from the public network and is comparable to traditional private Wireless LAN networks.

  • Form 2 is the usage of a virtual private 5G network based on the public 5G network through so-called Network Slicing. With the help of Software Defined Networking and Network Function Virtualization, the existing public network infrastructure can be divided into partitions. The created slices are flexible regarding access, localisation, data speed, latency and reliability. Thus, companies will in the future be able to simply use a network slice for their individual application instead of building up a complex wireless network Infrastructure.

5G private networks have another benefit for industry clients: Although they are separate from the public 5G infrastructure, a handover of the connectivity to the public 5G network is easily realizable (once public 5G is largely available). That is especially important in logistics where assets need to be connected outside of a company’s premises.

5G vs. Wi-Fi 6

Wi-Fi 6 does have its perks and is therefore considered an alternative for 5G. That is, partly, due to the low cost of Wi-Fi 6 since cheaper modems are available and it works in an unlicensed spectrum (meaning companies don’t have to purchase expensive licenses to use Wi-Fi 6). The downward-compatibility of Wi-Fi 6 is another plus– no need to switch out old devices, while new devices can profit from decreasing latencies and increasing download speed.

Therefore, Wi-Fi 6 will for now be ahead. Especially in areas where high performance is no factor, such as company networks with old standard devices that are not 5G-ready, like printers and laptops.

However, Wi-Fi 6 won’t be ahead for too long. By the time 5G will be the predominant standard, every new device that enters the market will need to be 5G-ready and required 5G modems which are currently still pretty expensive, will get cheaper. That surely won’t happen within a year, but it is just a matter of time.

With the establishment of public 5G networks, the increasing number of 5G-capable devices on the market and the continuous reduction of the cost factor for a private 5G network through technological advances such as network slicing, it is only a matter of time before WLAN networks are replaced by 5G private networks.

5G in the Wayra Tech Lab

In our Wayra Tech Lab, we work with tech startups that have innovative ideas and will drive industries forward. Whether it’s IoT, Drones, Robotics, Virtual Reality, Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning or Manufacturing Process Automation – Wayra equips startups with access to 5G and supports with industry experts. All aiming to drive innovation so that new solutions which leverage 5G can enter the market.

Since we see the benefits of 5G every day, observe the establishment of public as well as private 5G networks and notice the speed at which 5G-ready devices enter the market, we have no doubt that 5G private networks will soon have taken over the place of Wireless LAN networks.

To learn more about 5G related terms, please visit our Glossary page.
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Written by
Leonard Michalas
Written by
Leonard Michalas

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