5G networks bring many benefits to smartphone users: for example, faster download speeds, larger capacity in congested areas, fewer connection interruptions, shorter waiting times for games and interactive applications, and the ability to perform augmented reality (AR)/virtual reality (VR) etc. Mobile office workers will benefit a lot from the use of 5G, but it is not clear whether companies can take full advantage of 5G functions to enhance the connectivity of their employees in office facilities or campus environments.
The standard products provided by network operators may not meet the needs, especially for mission-critical closed, remote or highly regulated environments, such as production workshops, warehouses, chemical plants, medical facilities, and docks. Many of these facilities may not have enough coverage for commercial 5G to meet their needs, such as large industrial buildings. Even if it can be covered, it may not be possible to obtain the higher level of network services required by the enterprise.
A viable alternative to 5G
However, the application of 5G in enterprises will soon become a viable alternative. 5G NR-U is one of the updated versions put on the market. It has a new radio license-free function, which is to provide all the functions of 5G to unauthorized users in a localized business environment, similar to those of network operators that provide consumer services. ability.
Network operators must operate their 5G networks on licensed frequencies, for which they must pay a lot of fees to relevant regulatory authorities. They must also deploy many radio towers and base stations to provide comprehensive coverage for all users who roam extensively.
The investment required for these communication equipment is high and the quantity is huge. This requires network operators with a large number of users to obtain revenue. But NR-U makes 5G private networks possible because there is no upfront cost of a license, so this business model does not require a large number of users. On the contrary, the reward of such services lies in how to make the business more efficient or provide improved mission-critical functions.
Just like WiFi 6, 5G NR-U currently uses 5GHz or 6 GHz unlicensed spectrum, and 60GHz frequency band may be added in the future. Its spectrum can be easily shared between WiFi and 5G unlicensed networks, because more than 1200MHz bandwidth can be used on the 6GHz band. The radio equipment required for 5G NR-U is much smaller than commercial 5G equipment because its power is restricted by unauthorized use regulations. Due to its lower working power, the access point radio equipment is smaller in size, so it is similar to WiFi in terms of coverage, power requirements and space requirements, and the final cost of configuring network equipment will be similar.
Dedicated 5G network and WiFi
The 5G function provides many functions that WiFi cannot provide. Since it will operate similar to the core of the 5G network that communications operators run in their business environment, it provides various management and security functions that are not available on WiFi. Connected devices must be approved to work on the network, just like people’s smartphones have SIM cards.
Network bandwidth and services can be uniquely deployed based on devices, users, or locations. This “network slicing” provides Internet of Things (IoT) and other network connection options that enterprises need.
5G provides extremely low latency options, which are essential for real-time needs, such as safety equipment or health monitoring equipment on machine tools. It also has the capability of directional antennas and formed signal beams (capability shared with the new generation of WiFi), thereby providing better coverage.
5G also has an excellent security model, making it difficult to be hacked, thereby preventing mission-critical equipment from being attacked or damaged. Future improvements will include precise location services, which are especially important for autonomous vehicles and warehousing/transportation applications or asset tracking solutions.
Finally, the industrial-grade reliability and latency potential built into the 5G specification (URLLC-ultra-reliable low-latency communications) makes it useful for mission-critical and time-sensitive applications (such as power plants, process equipment, chemical plants, machine safety monitoring, etc.) China has greater appeal.
Disadvantages of 5G
The disadvantage of 5G is that it does require quite important core network management facilities to function. However, today’s commercial deployments have virtualized many core network functions, and this function can also be easily used to configure and manage private networks.
The core functions of 5G NR-U are usually deployed as cloud-based services, except for those enterprises that require comprehensive firewall control over all network aspects. Indeed, it is expected that most private 5G networks will usually be managed as a service by commercial operators that already have expertise, and treat it as an additional revenue-generating opportunity.
It is expected that 5G NR-U equipment will be available later this year, and more equipment will be available in the first half of 2021. Similar to enterprise WiFi, major suppliers of WiFi (especially 5G infrastructure) will create network equipment that should be small and easy to deploy, similar to the currently available enterprise WiFi access points.
It is expected that most of the same suppliers that currently produce WiFi chips or 5G chips (for example, Qualcomm, Broadcom, MediaTek) will start producing 5G NR-U chips for OEMS of access devices, such as Cisco Meraki, HP Aruba, Netgear, Samsung and others WiFi equipment manufacturers and small access points produced by traditional 5G commercial equipment manufacturers such as Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung, and Huawei.
In the next 1-2 years, many companies will be able to take advantage of the inherent features of 5G NR-U. Some companies will decide to deploy and manage their own systems, but some companies will deploy outsourcing, and the most likely suppliers of this “5G as a service” model will be commercial operators (such as AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Vodafone) , DT and other companies).
Many companies are still using older and outdated WiFi networks, and hope to upgrade to the latest technology (WiFi 6) in the next 1-2 years. But when determining the best method, each company’s consideration of 5G NR-U in a specific situation should be evaluated.
Hope that WiFi (especially WiFi 6) can coexist with 5G NR-U, and neither is an excellent solution in all situations. Many enterprises are expected to deploy these two technologies. However, 5G NR-U does provide some unique features. If the operation of the enterprise can benefit from the above-mentioned features, it should be evaluated.