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How is a Private 5G Network Different from a Public 5G Network?


How is a Private 5G Network Different from a Public 5G Network?

With the arrival and growth of 5G comes the rise of private networks.

  • Ashish Bhatia

    Sr. Technical Account Manager, Networks Business, Samsung Electronics America

With the arrival and growth of 5G comes the rise of private networks. Already, a presence of 5G private networks is expected to flourish with powerful features, including low latency, fast speeds, and high reliability. Let’s take a high-level look at the differences between public and private networks.

Public Networks

A public 5G network is what most people think of when they hear the term “5G”. To use it, one must be in an area with a 5G network, with the spectrum usually owned by a mobile network operator (MNO). Ofcourse, the user must also have a device capable of communicating with that network. In the public 5G network, the service and management are the responsibility of the MNO.

Difference between Public and Private Networks

A private 5G network, also referred to as a non-public 5G network, is like a public network. They both use the same underlying network solutions, including hardware and software, the same encoding schemes, and the same spectrum (in some countries spectrum could be different but let’s assume it is the same for the sake of comparison). However, they differ in several ways. The primary difference is that the public 5G network is intended for use by the public, with tens of millions of subscribers on a given nationwide network. A private 5G network is dedicated to the use of a single enterprise or organization, and many times, a single location, although “location” here can be as small as a building or as large as a port.  Examples include college campuses, manufacturing facilities, hospitals, transportation hubs, and military bases - places with critical infrastructure or mission-critical applications.

Types of Private 5G Networks

Private 5G networks can be divided into two broad categories: independent and dependent. In an independent network, the enterprise or organization is responsible for selecting which spectrum to use (licensed, unlicensed, or shared), procuring, or leasing the spectrum, installing network solutions (Radio Access Network and Core), managing the users, and maintaining the network. The enterprise has a choice either to own and operate private 5G networks with an in-house IT team or to collaborate with system integrators and managed service providers to deploy and manage their private 5G networks. Regardless of the choice, the enterprise will have an extra layer of data safety, since all of the data stays onsite. Moreover, the enterprise can control their network settings like utilizing ultra-reliable, low latency communications (URLCC) for business applications, including control of autonomous vehicles or industrial automation; and high-precision positioning in factories. Also, the enterprise can decide whether to allow connection to a public network for roaming purpose or allow external users to access the private network.

A dependent private 5G network is built and maintained by an MNO. The MNO could either dedicate spectrum to the enterprise or use network slicing technology, which is an advanced technology that creates multiple virtual networks in a single physical 5G network. The MNO installs and maintains the network and manages user access based on a mutually agreed business model. Though data is not always kept on the business site and control of the enterprise may be minimal, the operator-owned and operated private 5G networks offers many benefits to enterprises.

The Choice: Public or Private?

Public networks provides all the standard features of 5G, such as faster throughput and lower latency. However, enterprises, which choose to operate their business in public networks, must know that the networks lack control over network settings.

If the enterprise decides they want to use their own private network, they must decide on proceeding with an independent or dependent network. This decision will come down to three primary factors: cost, spectrum, and capabilities. For an independent network, the CAPEX is large, as the network must be built. There must be sufficient spectrum available to run the network. This can be quite complex – should the enterprise buy their own spectrum (perhaps for remote sites like a mine) or license it from an MNO? Should they use unlicensed (e.g., Wi-Fi) which is free but comes with no guarantees of reliability or freedom from interference, or participate in shared spectrum (e.g., CBRS), which allows them to either purchase licenses or use free of charge but could be subject to others with licenses taking priority and access. Finally, a company choosing an independent network must have a capable IT department to install and maintain the network.

With a dependent private network, the CAPEX is minimal but there are ongoing monthly fees, usually on a per user basis. But no special IT experience is necessary, spectrum is allocated by the MNO, and user access is handled by the MNO.

Both independent and dependent private networks have higher security over a public network as only verified users can access them. Depending on the purpose and investment size, enterprises or organizations should decide what type of private networks are the best for their businesses and applications.

Samsung has Answers

Samsung Networks has a variety of 5G network solutions for enterprises and MNOs to spur private 5G network evolution. The complete line-up by Samsung includes RAN - both outdoor and indoor solutions - Core and managed services. Samsung’s Compact Core (Link) will help accelerate businesses to adapt private networks of all kinds by offering simplified deployment and operations on top of single-server hardware features, as well as a simultaneous support of both 4G and 5G. RAN from Samsung delivers high performance and wide coverage in diverse spectrums. Especially, Samsung’s advanced Massive MIMO radios (Link), which now provide connectivity for millions of users in Japan, Korea, U.S., and more, have incorporated 3D beamforming functions and have the capability to support wide bandwidth. Moreover, Samsung’s fully virtualized RAN (Link) brings flexibility and efficiency to enterprises and operators by liberating them from static and hardware-bound network operations.

In the coming years we expect to see further growth in 5G networks and Samsung has the capability and commercial experience to assist any enterprise or operator that wants to take their communications private or expand business into the private network market.