Everyone is talking about 5G – not least because it offers enormous levels of capacity thanks to port densities of up to one million clients per km². If you break that figure down into copper ports, that’s 20,833 switches (with 1 U and 48 ports) or 496 racks of 42 U each. Or, in football terms: a floor space spanning sixteen times that of Munich’s Allianz Arena stadium – including an almost fully occupied public area, where every single person actively uses their mobile phone.
You’d be hard pressed to find a production plant that would require such an immense client density in the first place. And yet, the spotlight has long been on 5G for being a key production and operations solution in connection with industrial applications: High bandwidths, low delay, no cabling, excellent mobility characteristics as well as flexibility and security are just some of the benefits that open up a multitude of new possibilities in a variety of scenarios.
But how do you implement innovative campus networks?
This blog entry introduces a framework for fixed-line providers or city-wide carriers and enterprises looking to implement private 5G that opens up a wide range of new options for all parties involved.
Private 5G campus networks
Bandwidth, low delay and good mobility – these crucial features and benefits are not automatically included when you turn on a 5G network. On the contrary, they require in-depth and bespoke radio planning and implementation.
- For instance, the client density per base station (gNodeB), the individual client’s bandwidth requirements and the delay of certain applications all play an essential role. To give you an example, imagine a robot that produces several gigabytes worth of data in motion data, or a sensor that controls a critical process and is therefore delay-sensitive, but produces only a very small amount of data.
- To ensure the necessary mobility, the planning process must also take into account uninterrupted handovers from one radio cell to another. Plus, as mentioned before, the prioritisation of applications using QoS mechanisms.
- An important point, and one that goes hand in hand with the parameterisation of the radio components, is the physical propagation and, at the same time, limitation of 5G networks. This is because regulators require every enterprise applying for a private 5G licence to keep an eye on the local boundaries of their “private” network. 5G networks must therefore be “tailored” to the enterprise premises, campus, building or even just a single floor without significantly crossing these boundaries. In addition, they must ensure that only company data is transmitted, excluding any transmission for third parties or in fact the public.
- And last but not least, control planes – one of the key points in any 5G mobile network – are very complex. Detached from the customer data, they use signalling to control functions such as mobility, QoS or even basic access, marking a decisive difference compared to wireless LAN networks in terms of quality, security and mobility.
The Xantaro 5G framework – a whole new alternative for fixed-line providers and enterprises
As we can see, implementing a 5G network requires a certain amount of expertise – a fact that can raise many questions within a company: “How are we meant to do this with an IT department of just five people?”, “What if it doesn’t function properly?” or “This is new technology for us that we don’t have any experience with. How is it supposed to work?” Questions such as these can cause considerable uncertainty and lead to the dismissal of any plans to implement “private” 5G, or they can convince the enterprise to purchase the network from a major provider that offers package solutions including planning and operation. It’s therefore not surprising that as of 09/2020, the total number of applications for private licences received by the German Federal Network Agency is at a meagre 78, and that only a total of 74 licences were granted.
Against the backdrop that many businesses buy their internet and telecommunication products from local carriers and fixed-network providers, Xantaro has now – based on its many years of experience and know-how in the implementation of mobile networks – developed a framework that allows providers to expand their product portfolio by including 5G and that way take a leap towards offering mobile communications for enterprises. The businesses in turn benefit from a single-service provider that can take a considerable load off their shoulders and guide them into using the new technology.
5G campus frameworks – the Building Blocks
The core of the framework consists of sharing responsibilities and competencies in a construct consisting of different parties. Except for only a few points, it is flexible and can be designed to become a made-to-measure fit.
1. The enterprise: owner of the private license
In the Xantaro framework, the required 5G license comes from the customer, who applies for it with the Bundesnetzagentur (German Federal Network Agency) based on the provider’s planning design. This means that the provider does not need a public licence, which would entail a series of legal requirements for expanding a large-scale network and accordingly high levels of investment. Quite the opposite: This way, providers can develop their business in an economically sensible manner with an increasing number of customers and without cost pressure. At the same time, each customer holds their own private licence and benefits from a certain degree of security.
2. The provider: a central technical operator
Providers functions as the technical operator that plans a bespoke 5G solution, supplies the technology and, depending on the situation, either also handles operation, service and maintenance or purchases those services. For the customer, they are the central point of contact – both for existing products such as internet as well as WANs and for the new 5G technology. This increases customer loyalty and protects providers from losing customers to large-scale 5G providers.
3. Xantaro: the central interface between customers and partners
In our framework, we see ourselves as a general contractor for providers, whom we accompany – either directly or in a partnership-based model – through every phase.
- We advise providers on how to become familiar with 5G and offer assistance for concepts and engineering.
- We support them throughout the project, from the planning stage to the allocation of private licences for businesses, and we supply the required technology.
- We assist the implementation and integration both at the provider and at the enterprise end, including 24/7 support, maintenance and even concrete operational support.
All services are flexible and can be purchased individually or over a defined period of time. This allows providers to develop the whole project on their own, to take charge of things at a later stage or to outsource them in parts or completely. In addition, our 5G infrastructure, IP transport and security solutions and services are technologically integrated.
4. The technology: scalable and flexible
Our 5G framework grows with the requirements it is faced with. With our pay-as-you-grow model, solutions from 25 to over 20,000 clients including SIM cards are available at an attractive price. Since it comes in a licence-based model, an extension is possible at any time. The radio network, too, is set up in a scalable manner and can be expanded successively as client numbers increase. To this end, providers plan the technology depending on the enterprise’s campus structure and provide an individualised solution tailored to the customer. The core solution is cloud native. The integration can take place with central or decentralised control planes (based on virtual systems in the mobile packet core) in any data centre infrastructure. Both data and voice services can be provided. In addition, roaming between different enterprises sites is also possible using the provider’s wide area network or SD-WAN.
Investment by the provider
In our model, the basic costs for providers consist in the theoretical design and in providing the product in the business support systems plus marketing. Planning for the implementation of 5G is done individually within a project, which ends with the allocation of the frequency to the enterprise. The project framework must also determine all costs for required services and technology, to ensure that the customer receives a network design that fits their exact needs. Once the contract with the customer has been signed, the next steps are straightforward for both parties: The network is installed, the invoices are issued and all running operations are handed over.
Any further investment for providers depends on the network design: While the data plane always remains local, i.e. with the enterprise, to ensure that no user data leaves the campus and latencies can be kept to a minimum, the control plane can be implemented and operated in a number of scenarios:
- as a central control plane provided by the vendor in a public cloud; with access and administration by the provider or the enterprise
→ This requires no up-front investment.
- as a central control plane in the provider’s data centre; with access and administration by the provider or the enterprise
→ This requires a certain level of basic investment.
- as a decentralised control plane within the enterprise network; with access and administration by the enterprise or the provider
→ This generates certain costs per enterprise.
In other words: There are incremental costs for providers, which can be passed on without delay based on a customer contract. We therefore also recommend passing on the licensing model used by most 5G vendors for their core network software, which usually covers five years and is calculated upfront, to the customer – especially since a 5-year contract is a reasonable option for enterprises due to the cost of implementing 5G. As a consequence, this model – which also happens to be part of the 5G products of most major mobile phone operators – also affords a certain degree of security for both sides.
IN CONCLUSION: What works – and what doesn’t?
Which functions can providers offer their customers?
- 5G and, where required, 4G services in a 3.7 GHz private frequency band,
- both data and voice services,
- stand-alone, isolated radio networks linked to the enterprise campus,
- individually planned radio networks, tailored to the enterprise needs; a basis for a frequency allocated by the Bundesnetzagentur (German Federal Network Agency),
- a central or decentralised control plane,
- hosting of the 5G solution on the provider’s premises,
- roaming between different enterprise sites
- and unilateral roaming to all major mobile providers, allowing clients to continue making calls or transferring data even after leaving the private 5G network.
Which functions can’t be offered?
- roaming between private 5G networks belonging to different enterprises (unless they jointly applied for their frequencies), since radio networks can only be used by the enterprise concerned,
- products for public consumers, as this requires an official, regulator-issued 5G licence (no public transmission over private networks; they remain isolated on the radio side) and
- a set-up of gNodeBs in public areas outside a campus.
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