Private 5G offers compelling benefits to a broad range of market sectors including Industry 4.0, transportation and logistics, retail, and healthcare. These networking benefits include faster speeds and ultra-low latency, alongside improved reliability, privacy, security, and availability. As enterprises innovate to create new revenue streams and reduce costs, private 5G is an important enabler towards their digital transformation with the added benefits of mobility.

These benefits have led many enterprises and other market participants (like neutral host providers) to look for solutions. Some providers have rushed to fill the need with out-of-the-box, do-it-yourself approaches.  While these might be suitable for some limited use cases, like very small deployments as an alternative to WiFi, the reality is that there can be significant complexity in deploying a solution that meets specific customer requirements.

Planning and deploying a best-in-breed, open private 5G network requires significant multi-vendor technology and integration skills. Even with the best team at hand, the challenges can be significant.

Here are the top 3 challenges to deploying a private 5G network:

1) Integration and testing

Best-in-breed, open solutions, by definition, provide the best performance but can be complex to integrate and test, given the number of platforms and technologies involved, including:

  • Virtualized Distributed Units (DUs) and Centralized Units (CUs)
  • Disaggregated and virtualized 5G Core Containerized Network Functions (CNFs)
  • Applications running on Multi-access Edge Compute (MEC)
  • Network slice orchestrator
  • 5G New Radios (NRs), also known as 5G Radio Units (RUs)
  • Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN) enabled xHaul routers

These multi-vendor components must be integrated end-to-end (E2E) to deliver the required application performance. In addition, several of these components (vDU, vCU, v5GC, and MEC apps) often need to be integrated on a common edge server to achieve performance and CapEx objectives.

When Neutral Host Providers (NHPs) sell coverage extension to Wholesale and Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) to deliver private 5G services, there is a need to integrate the NHP’s private RAN with a variety of MNO’s 5G Core architectures. Each integration is different and requires a specialized skill set to succeed.

2) Radio Frequency (RF) engineering and network planning

Meticulous RF planning is critical for ensuring the success of specific customer applications related to proper coverage and associated wireless network performance. For example, factory automation requires Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communications (URLLC), a stringent network performance requirement. In environments with autonomous vehicles, there can’t be gaps in radio coverage.  Floor layout and other industrial equipment can be a challenge to complete and efficient radio coverage that needs to be considered.

In healthcare, compatibility with hospital equipment is vital since poor performance or outages can be life-threatening. And, if proper planning is not done, it can result in over deployment causing higher CapEx costs or under deployment causing applications to operate sporadically or fail altogether.

3) End-to-end Quality of Service (QoS)

Part of fully integrating and testing the system is ensuring end-to-end QoS is considered in the design and architecture. The following issues need to be considered:

  • Where to locate DU relative to 5G RUs
  • Designing optimal hard and/or soft network slicing and forwarding policies considering end-to-end application performance or other customer SLA requirements
  • Multi-site organizations often have challenging requirements to ensure endpoints on the private 5G network can access resources across several locations. This requires integration with the SD-WAN or MPLS VPN edges at each site ensuring policies in each segment are configured to map flows appropriately to achieve E2E QoS, availability, and security requirements.

Overcoming these challenges can prove daunting for many IT organizations, resulting in many choosing to employ systems integration services to get ahead of the competition. By partnering with a field-proven systems integrator, enterprises, neutral host providers, and MNOs can benefit from ‘one hand to shake’ from design and integration through to implementation, testing, and ongoing support. Such a partner can also provide a managed operation service that proactively monitors and troubleshoots the network leveraging intimate knowledge of the low-level design of the network allowing you to focus on your core responsibilities/business.

Ciena’s Systems Integration Service brings together best-in-class solution elements from reference architecture partners selected for a particular scenario. This ensures efficient, open design, optimizing the solution for specific customer application requirements and avoiding vendor lock-in.

Private 5G presents an opportunity to accelerate and enhance the digital transformation of many market sectors. Private 5G delivers higher speeds and ultra-low latency alongside improved reliability, privacy, security, and availability. Together, this new level of network performance enables new use cases and applications, which allow market-leading organizations to differentiate themselves from the competition.

The promise of Private 5G is here, the next step is having the right partner to make it a reality.

Ciena 5G: Open by Design. Learn More