By: Stuart Strickland, Wireless CTO and Fellow, Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company.
Although Wi-Fi will undoubtedly remain the dominant wireless technology for enterprise networks, over the coming years we can expect private cellular to gain a significant foothold. It will be deployed to serve an increasing number of use cases, particularly where wide coverage areas, deterministic behavior, or securely segregated traffic are required.
The success of enterprise private cellular will depend on both the availability of private shared spectrum and the integration of enterprise-grade management capabilities to make it significantly easier for organizations to deploy and manage private cellular networks on their own.
What’s changed in private 5G?
Enterprise interest in private cellular networks is driven by a convergence of factors more compelling than any specific characteristic of 5G technology. These factors finally make it possible for enterprises to operate a genuinely private cellular network on their own terms, independent of operator control, scaled appropriately for their needs, integrated with existing corporate networks, and delivered by trusted suppliers on familiar terms:
- Regulatory advances have created a framework within which private shared spectrum is now becoming widely available for enterprise use and outside of cellular network operator control. The foundations for this model, which first emerged in the United States with the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), are quickly becoming a global norm.
- The growing international availability of harmonized private cellular spectrum allows equipment manufacturers to offer private cellular offerings that are aligned with the rest of their enterprise networking portfolios.
- These two factors are driving innovation within the networking industry to create common tools and control systems for the deployment and day-to-day management of combined Wi-Fi and private cellular networks.
Such developments have led to enterprise network supplier announcements such as the HPE acquisition of Athonet’s cloud-native private cellular core network. The Athonet solution will be fully integrated into HPE’s enterprise networking portfolio and the Aruba Central network management system to provide customers with the option of supporting private cellular as easily as Wi-Fi networks are managed today.
Enterprise Use Cases for Private 5G
From conversations with our customers across the enterprise landscape, we’ve identified five primary use cases for augmenting enterprise Wi-Fi with private cellular:
- Large coverage areas, particularly outdoors. Effectively covering expansive areas with the cabling required for Wi-Fi has been a challenge for enterprises that operate locations such as airfields, transportation complexes, or large Industrial IoT (IIoT)-enabled manufacturing facilities.
In these environments, the higher throughput capacity of a densely deployed Wi-Fi network is less critical than covering a relatively wide area cost-effectively. In this context, the greater range of a private cellular network often makes sense.
- Challenging radio environments. For situations where continuous communications are vital but the environment is dynamic, like warehouses where shelving systems are constantly evolving or other large buildings with hard-to-reach pockets of airspace, a private cellular network deployed in conjunction with Wi-Fi can minimize coverage gaps.
- Rapidly-moving client devices. While Wi-Fi was developed for client devices moving at pedestrian speeds, many wireless IoT devices move more quickly across large areas and require continuous exchange of telemetry and control data. This makes more deterministic handovers between radio nodes essential. Whether for industrial, healthcare, or warehouse robotics, augmenting an enterprise Wi-Fi network with private cellular is a reasonable option.
- Back-of-house communication in enterprises with significant public traffic. Enterprises with high-security or latency-sensitive business operations that simultaneously provide public wireless access for guests can use private cellular to segregate public-facing connectivity from business operations.
- Filling public cellular coverage gaps. Many enterprises experience significant gaps in coverage from the public cellular networks. At most of these venues, traditional methods for filling public cellular gaps, such as Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS), are not economically feasible. Private cellular networks deployed for other purposes can be leveraged to fill these gaps in public network coverage.
What private cellular can learn from enterprise Wi-Fi
Enterprise networking suppliers familiar with solving enterprise challenges, rather than promoting a specific technology or hardware option, can offer significant advantages. With a private cellular solution from an enterprise networking provider, you can expect:
Sustained enterprise expertise. Enterprise networking equipment manufacturers have spent decades working with enterprise IT departments to meet the unique connectivity needs across every industry and vertical.
Policy-based security proficiency. From an identity perspective, cellular is fundamentally different than Wi-Fi because it relies on granting network access based on the client device’s SIM card, rather than applying access policies specific to a user’s role.
To maintain and further develop enterprise frameworks for role-based identity and access management, traditional networking solution providers will apply their considerable expertise to ensuring that private cellular and enterprise credentials are aligned.
Streamlined and Unified AIOps management. As cellular networks have their own set of connectivity protocols and operating requirements, distinct from those of enterprise wired and wireless networks, the most comprehensive solutions will empower IT departments with familiar tools for automated, unified, and centralized administration.
The most advanced options will wrap cellular management into the same AIOps-enabled administrative layer as your accompanying wired and wireless infrastructure, such as with Aruba Central, to minimize IT overhead while delivering seamless user experiences.
Flexible deployment and strong partnerships. Like today’s enterprise wired and wireless networks, the most advanced private cellular solutions will offer the flexibility to manage them in-house or by working with a managed services provider, enabling enterprises choose the deployment model that fits best.
Further, a comprehensive private cellular solution from a leading supplier can better achieve sustainability initiatives, ensuring responsible retirement of assets and reducing carbon footprints.
Learn more about private cellular solutions and how to leverage them in your enterprise.
Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.