2022 trend: Enterprise 5G networks

By | December 25, 2021

Wireless networking has transformed the way enterprises do business and serve customers, but until now, virtually all enterprise WLANs use short-range unlicensed Wi-Fi as for connectivity. However, as organizations become more distributed and require expanded wireless range, capacity and security, they run into the limits of Wi-Fi technology that require more equipment and complex designs to overcome. Even then they still can’t deliver the range, convenience and portability of a cellular LTE or 5G connection. In this column, I detail how the situation is about to change via the nexus of Private 5G radio spectrum and a new class of managed network services.

Until recently, the problem for organizations hoping to tap the capabilities of cellular networks has been the unavailability of unlicensed or so-called lightly-licensed radio frequency (RF) spectrum. In  2015 the US FCC and other regulatory bodies worldwide set a path towards wide enterprise accessibility to high-quality mid-band spectrum by establishing the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), which the FCC says “created a three-tiered access and authorization framework to accommodate shared federal and non-federal use of the band.”

Although CBRS has been designed to reduce the hurdles to enterprise adoption, it doesn’t eliminate them entirely, making it difficult for all but the largest, most sophisticated IT organizations to implement. Enter AWS Private 5G.

The design, integration and operational overhead of private 5G is a severe impediment to most organizations, making it ripe for a managed service. AWS seized the opportunity at re:Invent 2021 by introducing a Private 5G product that provisions the necessary “small cell radio units, servers, 5G core and radio access network (RAN) software, and subscriber identity modules (SIM cards).” Configured via the AWS console, the service automates network setup and capacity scaling to accommodate new devices and increased traffic.

The column details the capabilities of AWS’s new service and ideal usage scenarios. In sum, the era of Private 5G connectivity is near. Despite the hype around faster phone connections, 5G evangelists have long contended that enterprise applications would be the long-term beneficiaries of the abundance of internal technical improvements provided by 5G. Although adoption is necessarily slower than the consumer market, as Martin Banks summarizes here, “over the next five or so years, it will be a rare business that is not affected by 5G and what it can provide.

A chief enabling capability for these business applications is private 5G connectivity using mid-band CBRS spectrum.

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