CW TEC 2021 explores future of 5G private network

5G private network

Cambridge Wireless (CW) kicked off on Wednesday its yearly conference “CW TECH 2021,” with a means to explore the up-and-coming trends of 5G private network from the engineering front.

The British nonprofit aspired, through its two days virtual conference, to move past the marketing messages and learn more about the tactics in the rising technology field.

The first day of CW TEC 2021: Engineering 5G Private Networks, tackled topics such as radio network planning, open RAN, and network architecture for private networks.

Speakers during the first panel noted that enterprise clients have a diverse range of needs making every private network different.

For example, factories may have very strict latency requirements, ports might require universal outdoor coverage, hospitals may have stricter data management needs than other enterprises — and some sites might be filled with greenery, creating a challenge for radio planning. 

Spectrum is no longer exclusive for MNOs

During his keynote address, Nokia Enterprise’s CTO, Steve Evans explained the needed requirements to provide 5G private network, starting with “5G devices, second the spectrum and finally a core.”

Evans further noted that listed elements have long been available but were not provided all together at the same period. “Getting the right spectrum and the right frequency to the right sectors is essential,” the CTO stressed.

The spectrum seems to be one of the main elements in this process, which is a range of radio frequencies in the sub-6 GHz range and the millimeter-wave (mmWave) frequency range that is 24.25 GHz and above.

In other words, the 5G spectrum refers to radio frequencies that carry data from user equipment (UE) to cellular base stations to the data’s endpoint. “We can’t do anything without spectrum,” Mike Kennett, Head of Regulatory Affairs at Freshwave,  network service provider bringing together mobile operators, local and central government, and real estate providers, highlighted during his keynote.

However, spectrum has long been reserved for Mobile Network Operators MNOs) but is currently available for enterprise usage.

“Many companies today understand the benefits of spectrum, and they are not willing to wait for governmental solutions, as they are able to spend money to get the best quality to get their own,” Evans added.

Cores as well used to be extremely expensive, but thanks to a myriad of optimizations that occurred during recent years making them affordable for enterprises.

The “rosy” scenario of 5G Standalone

Speakers during the event discussed two types of 5G networks, non-standalone (NSA) and standalone (SA).

The difference is that to enhance the version of NSA a 4G radio is required to work in conjunction with an 5G radio. However, using the SA all traffic from the 5G radio only goes to a 5G core, Evans explained, adding that “all 5G services in the U.K. today run as NSA.”

Evans considered 5G SA as a better option since NSA is more expensive due to its needs for two radios 4G and 5G. “5G standalone devices are growing significantly, life with 5G SA is rosy for now,” the CTO noted.

In parallel, Julie Bradford, managing consultant at Real Wireless considered that 5G non – standalone networks are already deployed but major architectural changes are coming with standalone 5G networks.

The advantage of the current 5G NSA is that it does not require network operators to update their cores at the same time as their radio network, so customers can benefit from the high-speed connectivity that 5G offers sooner rather than later.

Nevertheless, with 5G SA, enterprises will have access to the all-important 3GPP Rel 16 features.