Wi-Fi, public 5G or private network: What's an enterprise to do?
12/16/2020 | 12:32pm EST
Wi-Fi, public 5G or private network:
WHAT'S AN ENTERPRISE TO DO?
By Catherine Sbeglia
D E C E M B E R 2 0 2 0
F E A T U R E R E P O R T
Wi-Fi and cellular technology continue to advance almost in parallel to each other in the form of Wi-Fi 6 and 5G, both of which share a number of advanced features, resulting in more options, and there- fore, more flexibility when it comes to connecting an enterprise and its assets. With flexibility, however, comes complexity, and many enterprises are left wondering what the best solution to meet their specific needs might be.
One of the important features that 5G and Wi-Fi 6 share is an improved version Multi-User MIMO (MU-MIMO) that lets devices respond to the wireless access point at the same time and allows the access point to talk to multiple devices at once, and beamforming for improved signal power, which results in significantly higher rates at a given range.
Both technologies also make use of the channel access method Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA), which allows for the division of a wireless channel into a large number of sub-channels, with each one carrying data intended for a different device.
Another shared feature, 1024
quadrature amplitude modulation mode (1024-QAM), enables throughput increases for Wi-Fi 6 by as much as 25% over Wi-Fi 5, and in the case of 5G, this feature was part of 3GPP Release 15, and it allows 5G to achieve higher peak data rates and spectral efficiency in favorable scenarios.
Further, nearly every sector, from healthcare and education to manufacturing and utility, is undergoing massive digital transformations aided by the implementation of tools like Artificial Intelligence, In- ternet of Things (IoT) sensors and automation. Such tools put pressure on existing networks and require more advanced connectivity.
Historically, the enterprise space belonged to Wi-Fi. However, Wi-Fi has some well-known challenges around reliable coverage and se- curity, leaving the door wide open for cellular technology to fill in the gaps in the form of private wireless networks, either powered by 4G LTE or 5G.
Cellular technology is capable of much more than what we are using it for today, which is primarily providing nationwide mobile con- nectivity. When used inside of an enterprise's facility, cellular tech- nology, particularly 5G, which was
architected to support high data rates and the low latency necessary for IoT applications, can be an extremely reliable and secure solution to connect critical assets if it is deployed and managed correctly.
Of course, not every enterprise will opt for a private wireless net- work, and even fewer will choose to have every single application run on a private network. Instead, many will continue to use Wi-Fi, as well as a public cellular network, in some areas of their facility's network. In other words, in most cases, 5G private networks will not fully replace Wi-Fi and, in some cases, they will not replace public cellular either.
There are a number of key considerations to keep in mind when choosing which technology to deploy and where to deploy it. Decision makers within an enterprise must ask themselves what they are looking to do with their connectivity and what kind of latency, reliability and security their assets and applications require.
The basic DNA of a private network
Most IT teams within an enterprise are exceedingly familiar with the architecture of a Wi-Fi network, but because the concept
F E A T U R E R E P O R T
of installing private cellular networks inside an enterprise is a relatively new one, there may be a bit of a learning curve. Telit's Regional Product Marketing Director Safi Khan said to think of a private network as a miniature version of the large, public networks deployed by carriers for nationwide use.
"A private network is basically shrinking that scale down to squeeze all of that functionality into a single server or a single box," he continued. "The DNA is the same."
A private network, just like a typical cellular network is based on 3GPP standards, but because it doesn't have to provide large-scale support, all that is needed is a core network implemented into a signal server. In this way, a private network is a light-weight implementation of the core network design. When it comes to the radio access network, or the physical layer of the network, public networks have a macro cell and then small cells around it, which Khan said is also true for a private network.
"In a private network, you have the same concept, but again companies like CommScope, Ericsson and all those infrastructure vendors who provide large equipment to
the big operators are now offering
scaled-down,private version of the infrastructure," he said.
Therefore, if a customer wants cellular coverage inside a ware- house, they can install a small cell to cover the entire area. That small cell would then connect to a serv- er - located inside a cabinet inside the enterprise - that contains the core network. Then, all of the devic- es that the customer wants to talk to the network would require a SIM.
The changing ecosystem: 'Selling a solution, not a network'
Overview of key players
Private cellular networks are seen by many as a major opportunity to set up bespoke networks in support of industrial internet of things projects and in service of applications where data sovereignty
is paramount. While enterprises can build their own network with dedicated spectrum that they either own or lease, that is not the only way that private 5G networks are being configured.
According to Karim El Malki, the CEO of Athonet, the past few years have witnessed an underlying paradigm shift when it comes to who is involved in delivering network connectivity to enterprises.
"We're going from a world where it used to be telecommunications was a sector that was mainly focused on giving people phones, so it was
very consumer-centric vision," El Malki explained. "Now, we've moved into an area with 5G where it's not about the consumer anymore. It's the enterprise, the industry, the hospitals, the airports."
As a result, what used to be within the "realm of big telco players" - the average consumer - is now moving towards the big enterprise, and
"We've moved into an area with 5G where it's not about the consumer anymore. It's the enterprise, the industry, the hospitals, the airports."
Karim El Malki, CEO, Athonet
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therefore, there is no guarantee that telcos are equipped to serve the growing private network mar- ket, leaving a wide opening for new players. Furthermore, those who traditionally served the enterprise space - theWi-Figuys - now have additional competition.
"The Wi-Fi players have been good at giving the enterprise what they really want, which is a product that is simple and gives them what they need," provided El Malki, adding that the telecom sector has always been more complex and less transparent in comparison, making it slightly less desirable for an enterprise IT team that wants near-complete control over its network and data.
Simple, though, will no longer cut it for those enterprise who are finding that the number of devices and assets that need reliable connectivity continue to grow.
We are left with a growing demand for the coverage, security and predictability of cellular connectivity, but with the ease and control that is reminiscent of Wi-Fi. It is precisely this emerging balance that has led to new players entering the market to offer private cellular networks, whether 4G LTE or 5G.
Big names in cloud computing,
such as Google and Microsoft, are already well position to sell private wireless networks because they are already actively deploying edge clouds into enterprises to run IoT and other applications.
System integrators (SIs), whose have a much narrower focus in the sense that they tend to work with specific verticals, are also major players in this space. Due to the level of vertical specialization that they bring to the table, SIs are often highly trusted by enterprises and are thought to have deep understanding of a particular cus- tomer's needs.
Telecommunications equipment vendors, like Nokia, are working closely with system integrators and according to Stephane Daeu- ble, Nokia's head of enterprise solutions marketing, there is an understanding that a single company can't tackle every single segment.
"We've decided to focus on a set of industries and the other one's are handled by partners," he explained further. "We've developed a lot of vertical skillset and understanding."
Nokia's recent partnership with Germany-based industrial IoT specialist MYNXG, which offers networking integration for the
industrial sector, is a solid example of how equipment vendors are working with system integrators. MYNXG recruited Nokia to deploy a private 5G campus network at its development center in Nuremburg to explore using the technology as
platform for industrial-grade net- working and integrate with its own IoT platform offering.
MYNXG will use the 5G setup at its new industrial IoT interopera- bility test center to develop new solutions for mission-critical indus- trial IoT, as well to test equipment and sensors for a range of OEM and customer projects.
The firm has integrated 5G, based on Nokia's plug-and-play Digital Automation Cloud (DAC) offer, into its MYNXG IoT platform, which works with sundry applications for condition monitoring for shop floor equipment, product life cycle and process automation, supply chain asset management and access con- trol to sites, processes and data.
In addition, because vendors like Nokia recognized the need for pri- vate networks early on, Daeuble said that they also focused on part- nering with those on the industrial device side of things to ensure that there were enough devices and
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Extreme Networks Inc. published this content on 15 December 2020 and is solely responsible for the information contained therein. Distributed by Public, unedited and unaltered, on 16 December 2020 17:32:04 UTC