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5G private networks; potential and challenges

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Dr. Colin Willcock

Chairman of the Governing Board, 5G IA

The vision for 5G goes well beyond the classical telecoms services supported by earlier mobile network generations. 5G is designed to be an enabling technology to digitise many industries such as media, agriculture, automotive and manufacturing. The application of 5G in these, so called, ‘vertical industries’ enables greatly enhanced integration, more efficient processes and provision of new and exciting services. Private networks are a key element in this 5G vision and are an integral part of 5G solutions for areas such as defense, smart cities, factories of the future and transport systems.

Private 5G networks have the potential to radically change many industries.

Creating a private network can be achieved in two main ways. The first is to deploy a separate dedicated network. The second, is to use a built-in feature of 5G (so called slicing) to provide a dedicated service based on an existing deployed general network. The challenge for the first solution is the need for dedicated spectrum. Spectrum is a scarce commodity and looking at the potential number of vertical industries involved, it is not realistic to offer each a dedicated spectrum band. For the second method that builds on existing public networks, the issues are rather that operators need to provide guaranteed service level agreements (SLAs) to private networks, provide additional levels of security (intelligent certified end-to-end solutions) and safeguard the privacy of the data for a private network. This enables flexibility on the exposure levels from the public networks to the private networks.

Private 5G networks have the potential to radically change many industries. Looking to the future, several enablers exist but not all technological issues have been fully addressed by the current specifications. The 5G IA is working through collaborative research projects with the key players from the telecoms and verticals to solve the remaining technical issues enabling private networks to ensure that 5G can fufill its full potential and achieve the 5G vision.

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