Sunday, 27th September 2020

5G – implementing the next generation standard to private networks

Excitement for the arrival of 5G has been building for a number of years. It was almost a decade ago that the first commercial LTE (Long-Term Evolution – a 4G upgrade) network was launched in Sweden, and it took mobile operators another three years to launch it in the UK. By Dipl. Ing. Karsten Kahle, Corning Services, responsible for the SpiderCloud-E-RAN system.

In 2019, the world is a very different place, underpinned by the movement of massive quantities of data each day, both individually and industrially. The new 5G standard is critical to supporting the continued development of the data economy.

This is as true in private 5G networks as it is within public. Implemented effectively, it can allow for deployment of Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities across superior ranges and with significantly low ranges. Within industrial environments, applications with extremely high availability and low latency are also possible, as well as applications with high bit rates driven by the use of new technologies such as augmented reality of Ultra-HD video.

5G for local applications

As technology infiltrates industries across almost every conceivable vertical, 5G will become a cornerstone of a full range of new applications. Take the Smart Cities phenomenon, for example. The use of data and new technology is enabling better control of urban areas across many areas, from sustainable waste management and infrastructure planning to parking and traffic control. In manufacturing, ‘Industry 4.0’ is driving new implementations of automation, artificial intelligence and robotics within the industrial process. However, as you look closer at the many applications (Graphic 1), it becomes clear that these are often limited to local, non-public areas, such as private properties, grounds and commercial buildings. In these cases, it is not necessary to have connections provided by mobile network operators.

The UK Telecoms Regulator Ofcom proposes offering local licenses for private 5G networks

At the 5G World Summit at London’s ExCel in June this year Mansoor Hanif, the CTO of the UK telecoms regulator Ofcom, presented the body’s latest proposal for offering local licenses for such applications: a licensing scheme with frequencies in the range between 3.8 GHz to 4.2 GHz that would open prime 5G spectrum to be used for local applications by owners, tenants or leaseholders. Ofcom is currently assessing the consultation responses and, this summer, aims to announce its decision with precise guidelines for applying for the license bands. The allocation of a frequency band for local use enables private users to set up and operate their own private mobile radio network.

As the allocation of frequencies is independent from technology, the private operator is free to choose whether to build on the established and powerful LTE technology or to enter the emerging 5G technology immediately.

Increase of data supply within buildings

One of the major considerations for 5G is that it occupies a transmission frequency that is significantly higher than legacy network standards. This can be problematic, as the higher a transmission frequency is, the less able it is to penetrate obstacles. For mobile networks, this means buildings and commercial structures.

With studies showing that more than 80% of mobile phone traffic is generated inside buildings, there is a danger that users will encounter increasing issues with connectivity as 5G becomes more prevalent. Even before 5G implementation, around 75% of mobile phone users complain of poor mobile phone services indoors.

Data usage will only increase from here, which means that there will likely be an increased demand for solutions that tackle this problem. In future, it could be virtually impossible to supply buildings with the highest network frequencies from the outside.

In-house solutions could become indispensable

With external solutions expected to reach a breaking point, we can conclude that an in-house supply with mobile radio will be indispensable in the future. Systems that can perform this function are available. For example, Corning’s SpiderCloud-E-RAN (Enterprise Radio Access Network) can already provide an in-house mobile network via LTE, with 5G soon to follow.

The technical organisation for this type of solution is found through the implementation of components: the Radio Node, Services Node and Evolved Packet Core (EPC) LTE component.

1.The Radio Node

This is a radio base station the size of a standard WLAN access point. It operates in the designated frequency range for private mobile communications networks and can simultaneously serve up to 128 active subscribers, while the number of registered subscribers can be many times higher. A radio node is supplied with PoE+ via the structured building cabling. The connection between Radio Node and Services Node can be made both on LAN/WAN infrastructures and via the Internet.

2.The Services Node

The Services Node manages and coordinates the connected Radio Nodes. For example, the handover, i.e. the transfer of the connection from one radio cell to the other, takes place between the Radio Nodes of moving objects. The Service Nodes also deliver connectivity to the higher-level EPC or to the Internet, as well as the coordination of the encryption of the transmission on all sections.

3.The EPC

An Enterprise EPC also belongs to a private mobile network. Several Services Nodes, with their Radio Nodes, can be connected to this network. The EPC service is used for SIM card authentication and for authorising subscribers and services, as well as for checking and ensuring data integrity. Quality of service parameters (QoS) are also assigned here and their compliance is monitored.

Optimal reception performance within the building

The SpiderCloud E-RAN system is also referred to as a self-organising network (SON), in which individual radio nodes recognise and measure each other in order to permanently self-optimise the radio parameters. This ensures the best possible reception within the building.

Since the system is a distributed mobile communications system, individual buildings can be supplied with mobile communications via in-house cabling, several buildings on a campus via WAN connections, or individual buildings distributed over a larger area via WAN connections or the Internet.

This system can be set up by owners or tenants of properties. In the course of the trend towards outsourcing, however, more and more companies are being commissioned to provide these services for customers.

A new business model for local carriers and infrastructure operators

Local carriers and infrastructure operators can host the two central components – the Services Node and EPC – in one location and only have to set up the Radio Nodes at a customer's premises, which are connected to the Services Node via WAN routes. This opens up possibilities for a new business model. Private network operators can expand their portfolio and increase their value chain by providing infrastructures for private mobile communications. The private mobile network is a logical extension of the fibre-optic infrastructure and enables supply not only to the building, but also to the mobile device. The operation of the infrastructure is an essential building block for the benefit of the local carrier.

The security and integrity of the data is critical, which is why the high security measures for mobile networks are defined in the LTE / 5G standard. The possibility of very granular allocation of QoS classes allows a uniformly high user experience across all services.

Furthermore, the customer's private applications can be hosted in the carrier's data centres and made available to the user directly via the fibre optic infrastructure and the private mobile network. This leads to an all-in-one solution for the customer provided by the local carrier.

A 5G landscape changes more than just quality of signal

In conclusion, it is, of course, no surprise that 5G is going to change the landscape for mobile networks and infrastructure providers. However, looking closer at the technical impact of the new standard, it also becomes clear that there are going to be obstacles, and with them opportunities, for those same stakeholders. As public networks are rolled out, and private networks become more prevalent, we will see who can seize these opportunities.

By Craig Stewart, CTO at SnapLogic.
By Steve Miller-Jones, VP edge strategy and solution architecture at Limelight Networks.
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