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What is a Private Cellular Network?

In a previous post, we discussed the rapidly growing adoption of private cellular networks as organizations look to capitalize on 5G technology. 5G promises to deliver far greater speed, capacity and availability than 4G/LTE networks. Even with 5G, however, carrier wireless services have drawbacks and limitations in certain business use cases.

Private cellular networks give organizations complete control, enabling performance, coverage and security to be customized to meet business requirements. Additionally, private cellular connections offer lower latency and more consistent service levels because the network is not subject to traffic spikes and throttling on the carrier’s network.

Deploying a private cellular network sounds complicated, but it’s not that much different than Wi-Fi. In fact, private cellular is in some ways easier than Wi-Fi because it uses an exclusive spectrum that’s not prone to interference from nearby devices and networks and offers greater coverage and range.

On the Right Frequency

A primary cellular network is built using small cells that work much like wireless access points (APs). However, cellular technology is less subject to signal attenuation than Wi-Fi, so you need far fewer small cells than APs to cover the same area. As a result, one small cell will provide two to three times as much coverage as one AP, making it cheaper to cover large facilities and outdoor spaces. Private cellular networks also tend to be more reliable than Wi-Fi due to the frequency range and built-in resilience.

Like Wi-Fi, private cellular networks use unlicensed spectrum, such as the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) in the U.S. CBRS is a 150MHz band established by the FCC for use by incumbent military and fixed satellite services (Tier 1), priority licensees (Tier 2) and unlicensed general access users (Tier 3). A network of sensors and a cloud-based Spectrum Access System protect Tier 1 users from interference and give Tier 2 users priority over Tier 3 users.

Flexible, Cost-Effective and Secure Connectivity

With CBRS, organizations can leverage cellular technology to create a high-performance, high-capacity network without the ongoing cost of a per-device subscription to a carrier’s public network. The organization has visibility into the devices that connect to the network and control over the services that are delivered to each device or user.

Private cellular networks allow organizations to prioritize latency-sensitive and mission-critical applications. They can support a wide range of use cases, from high-throughput augmented reality systems to low-power, narrowband Internet of Things (IoT) devices — all on the same network. It’s common for organizations to use private cellular for both human and machine-to-machine communications. 

Devices can connect directly to a small cell with a private cellular SIM card or to a cellular-capable router. Data is encrypted and user identities are authenticated and protected. 

Cloud-Based Management Made Easy With Private Cellular  Network

The Evolved Packet Core (EPC) is what allows cellular networks to carry both voice and data on an IP architecture, and provides the intelligence to route and prioritize traffic. While organizations can maintain the EPC on-premises, many vendors offer it as a Software-as-a-Service solution. Vendors may also provide cloud-based network management, device and SIM management, IoT services and analytics.

A gateway connects the private cellular network to the cloud and provides traffic management, packet filtering and other services. Organizations with multiple sites and mobile users can implement a backhaul router and firewall as an interface between the private cellular network and a service provider’s network.

How Rahi Can Help?

A number of vendors now offer end-to-end solutions with hardware, software and cloud-based services. Rahi’s network engineers can help you evaluate these products and determine the best design for your private cellular network.

Prathamesh Rahate is a Network Engineer at Rahi. Since joining in 2019 he has been involved with delivering Professional Service projects. Starting his career as a Network Support (NOC) Engineer working on network environments like Data Centre, Campus Network & Office Networks, he has now transitioned into a Solutions Engineering role. He is part of the Pre-Sales Engineering team at Rahi. Prathamesh holds a Master’s degree from the San Jose State University majoring in Computer Networks. An avid sports fan, he enjoys Cricket, Soccer and Basketball.

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