Private 5G Networks are the catalyst for Industry 4.0 and the smart factories, power plants, and buildings of the future. As the list of 5G deployment options for private enterprises grows, so does the importance of accurate and efficient 5G network testing. VIAVI has developed an intuitive, cost-effective, and comprehensive 5G network test portfolio ideally suited for private 5G testing and assurance throughout the network lifecycle.
What is Private 5G?
Private 5G is the term used to describe a 5G cellular system built and operated exclusively for the private use of a company, individual, or government entity. Defined by the 3GPP as a non-public network (NPN), a private 5G network typically utilizes a smaller, more focused deployment to meet the specific reliability, availability, and service needs of the organization.
Legacy private networks featuring 4G LTE wireless provide enhanced coverage and customization options. By delivering ultra-reliable, low-latency communication (URLLC), private 5G networks change the equation by supporting advanced IoT, Industry 4.0, and mission-critical public safety applications. Improved access to spectrum, specialization of use cases, and network security concerns are additional factors fueling the private 5G market.
Who is Private 5G for?
With public 5G services expanding and improving, the logic behind private networks in a 5G world may seem unclear. Licensing private 5G spectrum, purchasing and installing complex network infrastructure, and monitoring network issues and KPIs can be complex and time-consuming.
Organizations that stand to benefit most from private 5G share common traits. These include high security and/or privacy requirements, unique service offerings, accelerated 5G deployment timetables, or some combination thereof. With new 5G capabilities continuing to unfold, many organizations simply want to position themselves for future operational advantages.
- The Manufacturing Sector recognizes the enormous potential of private 5G. Low-latency, high-bandwidth communication forms an ideal central nervous system for breakthrough robotics, material handling, and predictive maintenance innovations.
- Industry 4.0 is the term used to describe the 5G revolution layered upon existing automation and computer controls with unprecedented gains in precision and efficiency. Private network 5G in smart factories will minimize wired connections, streamline data collection and analysis, and improve safety for humans in the factory.
- Traditional Enterprises such as healthcare, education, and public transportation are other potential beneficiaries of private 5G deployments. These industries can use private network 5G to enhance logistics, coverage, and security. High profile data breaches have highlighted the importance of protecting client privacy and safety.
Applications for Private 5G
Industry 4.0 is moving autonomous robots, transport systems, and machine-to-machine (M2M) communication into factories, power plants, and distribution centers. Additional private applications for reliable high-speed, low latency connectivity are seemingly endless. Indoor venues are particularly compatible with 5G small cell technology and time division duplex (TDD) transmission, as bounced or reflected signals within a confined space bolster redundancy and increase channel capacity.
Stadiums and Malls are among the large venues that experience high connectivity demand during peak hours of operation. The advent of 5G will add more demand for streaming content, augmented reality, and other high-bandwidth applications to this burden. 5G private networks can meet these challenges, transforming large venues into “smart facilities” with enhanced capacity. The IoT and beamforming technologies can streamline facility operations and service delivery.
Oil and Gas refineries have long recognized the value of private networks, with many falling outside the range of commercial wireless networks. These sites encompass larger geographic areas and include many critical machines, sensors, and safety features. Private 5G networks for industrial IoT allow these vast, interconnected networks to be monitored and maintained securely in real time.
Smart Cities represent the utopian vision of a 5G-enabled future. Smart transportation systems will use low latency, vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technology to efficiently transport passengers between equally smart shopping, entertainment, and workplace locations. This idealized city is likely to employ a combination of independent small cell networks, private networks managed by commercial 5G network providers, and overarching public 5G networks.
What are the Requirements for Private 5G?
Private 5G networks can support critical communication channels that must remain operable even when unforeseen events occur. Depending on the application, requirements for private network 5G availability, reliability, interworking, and quality of service (QoS) may be more stringent than commercial network standardsarchitectural
- A transition from a cell-centric to beam-centric architecture, where static and dynamic beamforming plays a central role in performance, optimization, and location intelligence.
- Implementation of a service-based core network architecture (SBA).
- Virtual software defined networks (SDNs) to support network slicing and automated service delivery for the primary 5G uses cases: Enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), massive machine type communications (mMTC), and ultra-reliable low latency communications (URLLC).
O-RAN in Private 5G
3GPP standards for private 5G allow enterprises to define and build their own wireless networks. This creates a window of opportunity to move from proprietary RAN to Open RAN (O-RAN) architecture. Open RAN favors a mix-and-match approach that can combine best in class RAN elements from multiple private 5G vendors. Operators benefit from the inherent competition and innovation introduced by O-RAN.
The Role of Smalls Cells in 5G Private Networks
As the name implies, small cell technology utilizes small, short range, distribution nodes to create a cost-effective indoor or outdoor 5G wireless grid. The outstanding mobility, stability, and coverage of small cell networks can be leveraged by shopping malls, office buildings, universities, manufacturing plants, and many other private networks in a 5G world.
- Low Deployment Cost
Small cell hardware is designed to reduce complexity. Many small cell transceivers can be mounted easily to walls, poles, and other common objects. Backhaul options are also flexible, with fiber, cable, and microwave all viable. Microcells can consistently meet the capacity demands for a high number of users over a large coverage area.
- License Exempt Band
Private 5G networks built with small cell mmWave nodes can utilize unlicensed frequency bands between 57 and 71GHz. This 14GHz of free, continuous spectrum provides private network 5G with a path to cost-effective, high-bandwidth service.
Security in Private 5G
Although the private network option is often linked to improved security, this is not always the case. IoT deployments can increase the attack surface for potential bad actors. Multi-vendor Open RAN solutions can also lead to vulnerabilities related to standards interpretation and interoperability. The operations and assets of private 5G companies are deeply intertwined with private network performance. This makes value added security services essential.
The VIAVI TeraVM application emulation and security performance solution is a proactive option for private 5G network security. The TeraVM platform includes real-world threat emulation based on the latest Common Vulnerability and Exposure (CVE) repositories. Potential vulnerabilities are identified through advanced threat analysis and the reliability of secure access technologies can be validated.
Challenges of Testing a Private 5G Network
The diversity of 5G enterprise private network use cases make network testing both challenging and essential. An automated factory network might include sensors, M2M data exchanges, robotics, and other low latency applications. A university campus might include far fewer IoT devices but support more subscribers running high-bandwidth services.
The investment required to deploy private 5G networks can be substantial, so cost-effective testing in advance of go-live is needed to validate all mobility scenarios. Facility owners and designers of private networks can leverage the expertise of industry experts to ensure network performance and maximize ROI.
- Small Cell Deployments can be especially challenging, starting with the optimization of cell placement to ensure coverage and performance (throughput). Reliability is pivotal since any equipment failure can significantly impact QoS. Thorough network testing and coverage mapping are recommended practices to ensure small cell performance.
- 5G SA Core Testing is critical for ensuring private network reliability, particularly for Industry 4.0 and other industrial-scale use cases. The TeraVM 5G Core Test provides an effective method for validating the 5G core and SBA under simulated real-world conditions. 5G core emulation can also be utilized to stress test the network infrastructure to ensure KPIs can be met.
How Do You Test Private 5G?
Despite the smaller scale of private vs. commercial 5G deployments, private 5G network testing should employ the same level rigor throughout the network lifecycle. This begins with robust core testing and verification/validation of network coverage and functionality. Network monitoring software can be used to verify QoS after activation. Private 5G test practices should focus on establishing:
The private 5G market introduces an unprecedented level of exposure to critical assets, data, and control systems. This leads to a lower level of cybersecurity risk tolerance. Proactive security systems and robust monitoring and response planning is needed to safeguard the private 5G network ecosystem.
Private LTE 5G networks have evolved from convenient communication services for remote locations to critical data transmission pathways with enormous financial and safety implications. Initial network testing and ongoing monitoring must be adequate to ensure reliability under all foreseeable conditions.
5G private network performance can be impacted by factors including small cell layout, network timing/synchronization, core design, interference, and fiber hygiene. Validating and continuously monitoring network throughput provides a high-level barometer of overall performance.
The Private 5G Lifecycle
- Developing 5G Private
Private 5G and Open RAN give enterprises the freedom to design, build, and operate their own unique 5G networks. However, few organizations have the in-house expertise needed to go it alone. By partnering with telcos, private 5G network providers, and network testing experts, a more cost-effective approach to network development, including simulation testing in the lab, can be taken.
The VIAVI TM500 Network Tester is an effective tool for simulating traffic and end user behavior for a variety of private 5G use cases. A high number of UE’s per cell can be simulated to evaluate capacity.
- Deploying Private 5G
Depending on enterprise preferences for privacy, QoS, spectrum utilization (licensed vs. unlicensed), multi-site coverage, and RAN customization, several viable options are emerging for private 5G deployment.
- Standalone 5G private networks are completely independent of outside mobile network operators (MNOs) and maintain a self-contained core network and RAN.
- Shared RAN networks, also known as hybrid networks, establish independent services within the enterprise but leverage the RAN and spectrum of a public network. This option cedes a portion of user and network control to the MNO.
- Network Slicing options are based on utilizing a separate, virtual portion of the MNO’s network for private use. The customized network slice is isolated for private use by the enterprise only.
- Assuring Private 5G
5G private networks tie their business-critical services, throughput, and security to ongoing network performance. A high level of assurance is required to establish visibility and seamlessly correct anomalies. The complexity of 5G makes this task more challenging.
The VIAVI NITRO solution is a real-time, intelligent assurance and optimization platform that delivers end-to-end network visibility. By incorporating machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI), NITRO provides a targeted approach to 5G private network assurance with continuous insight into subscribers, services, and network performance.
How Does VIAVI Support Private 5G?
Enterprises of all sizes and types are recognizing the value of private 5G.
VIAVI has the advanced test solutions and expertise to ensure these new 5G networks are delivering optimal value and performance, prior to and after deployment. Simplified, intuitive workflows reduce testing complexity and time to market. VIAVI network test and assurance solutions support every scenario from turnkey hardware deployments to network slicing backed by SLAs, along with the growing mix of hybrid models in between.