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What is private 5G?

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Private 5G refers to a mobile network that is technically the same as a public 5G network, but which allows the owner to provide priority access or licensing for its wireless spectrum. This can be beneficial when deploying private wireless networks at facilities where coverage, speed, and security capabilities are needed beyond those offered by Wi-Fi and other network technologies.

Some aspects of private 5G are identical to the public 5G networks provided by commercial mobile network operators (MNOs). Like all 5G networks, private 5G augments or replaces 4G LTE as the next evolution of wireless mobile technology providing lower-latency, higher-throughput connectivity. 5G networks promise gigabit speeds—or data transmission speeds of up to 10 Gbps. Public and private 5G service also vastly reduces latency and can expand coverage to remote areas.

This reduced latency and increased reliability makes private 5G especially interesting for industrial applications. An example could be a large manufacturing site, where reliable connectivity is needed inside the shop floor, but also outside. Think of autonomous guided vehicles moving parts from one shopfloor to the other. With private 5G, they can connect reliably, and machines can be instrumented with more sensors quicker and cheaper without the need for re-wiring.

The key differences between public and private 5G relate to priority access and isolation. Typically, the public 5G networks available through MNOs offer equal access rights to all users, sometimes leading to network congestion. A private 5G network offers the private operator greater control. Unlike public 5G, a private 5G network can be reconfigured by its operator to allow different levels of priority access when certain network activities are deemed more business-critical than others. In short, certain network activities can get priority in private 5G, while less-critical activities can be deprioritized or offloaded to a different network.

Private 5G networks also allow operators to completely or partially isolate end user devices from MNOs’ public networks. This is a valuable security feature that reduces threats by limiting exposure to public interfaces when necessary, such as with personal data, intellectual property, or other sensitive activities.

It is important to note, however, that compatible edge devices can switch between private and public 5G networks when this is desired (i.e., when isolation is not necessary for security purposes). For instance, some organizations may want heavy construction equipment to switch to a public 5G network to maintain connection when it roams beyond the coverage area of their private 5G network.

Many organizations are deploying private 4G LTE (short for Long Term Evolution) and private 5G networks for use cases which require coverage, security, and public cellular network compatibility not offered through Wi-Fi.  In both 4G LTE and 5G networks, edge devices transmit data via radio waves to radio access network (RAN) transceivers, which carry the message to the core network. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is one of the more prevalent use cases for both private 4G LTE and private 5G networks.

4G is the mobile technology with the widest global use, having entered the market in 2010. It’s largely responsible for integrating smart devices into everyday use. With average download speeds of up to 100 Mbps, 4G networks allow downloads of high-definition video files, 3D gaming, music streaming, virtual reality, and a host of other services. The distinctions between public 4G LTE networks and private ones are the same for 5G, as described above—relating to priority access and isolation.

While private 5G networks are an evolution of 4G LTE networks, they can still both function together as part of an organization’s private network. It’s possible to have a private cellular network that uses 4G LTE and 5G technologies because they operate across separate frequency bands, minimizing potential interference even in the same area. This is an additional advantage offered by 4G LTE and 5G networks over Wi-Fi. Unlike 4G and 5G, Wi-Fi uses unlicensed spectrum and frequency bands that can get congested in densely populated areas with limited bandwidth.

Both 4G LTE and 5G networks are compatible with public networks as well, allowing for deployment in hybrid multi-access edge computing (MEC) environments. Multi-access edge computing is an evolution in cloud computing that uses mobility, cloud technologies, and edge computing to move application hosts away from a centralized datacenter to the edge of the network, which results in applications that are closer to end users and computing services that are closer to the data created by applications.

5G is moving more and more to a software defined implementation. That trend is called network function virtualization (NFV). It started with 4G and got broader use with 5G. Instead of using specialized hardware, commodity servers are used. An example is RAN functions which are not implemented with a special and expensive hardware device at the base station, but with a standard server and software running on it.

A network can be considered a "full private" 5G network if the organization owns the spectrum used for the network as well as the infrastructure such as network base stations. This option provides the greatest control and makes it possible to completely isolate network users from the public 4G LTE and public 5G networks provided by MNOs.

It’s also possible to define a network as either a "private shared" 5G network or a "hybrid private" 5G network. In these cases, 5G’s capabilities allow distinct network slices which comprise different control and user plane functions, giving the operator as many partitions of a public network as they want. Traffic can be routed to a private network or a software-defined virtual private network on shared infrastructure

5G is moving more and more to software defined implementation. Red Hat Edge platforms fully support that trend. A software defined private 5G solution can be implemented at the edge with Red Hat® OpenShift® Container platform. You just add the antennas. The same platform can be used for other edge computing applications, e.g. predictive maintenance.  

Red Hat’s approach to edge computing for telecommunication service providers is focused on creating a reliable, low-latency network with computing environments close to mobile and fixed users.

Red Hat OpenShift and Red Hat® OpenStack® provide support for distributed cloud deployment models, infrastructure partitioning, multitenancy, and networking and virtual private networks (VPNs).

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