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What is a Private LTE & 5G Network & Is It Right For Your Business?

9 min read
Mar 7, 2023 1:03:57 PM

The rise of 5G is revolutionizing how cellular IoT is applied to business operations, especially in manufacturing and industrial sectors. 5G offers the bandwidth, speed, and flexibility to connect devices and develop new business processes and solutions that may not be practical or economical with LTE. But as the number of connected devices increases, controls must be in place to protect your business’s data and assets. Creating a private network is just the solution. A private cellular network comes in more than one form, and you must consider which deployment option makes the most sense for your business. We’ll explain how private cellular networks work, what deploying one could mean for your business, and how Zipit can help you make the connection. 

What are private LTE and 5G networks?

LTE and 5G networks are cellular networks that use 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) and 5G to offer higher bandwidth than LPWAN and extend connectivity over a greater distance than Wi-Fi. A private LTE or 5G network gives an organization greater security control over its connected devices and data. 

In the past, private networks were limited to Wi-Fi or an LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Network). Both options are limited by distance and bandwidth, have high maintenance costs, and are incompatible with public cellular networks. LTE and 5G networks allow for more advanced IoT applications because they provide more extensive coverage, greater security, and lower long-term costs. They are also compatible with public cellular networks, which allows for roaming if a device connected to the private network leaves the coverage area.  

For instance, during a pandemic or natural disaster when temporary hospitals need to be set up quickly, neither Wi-Fi nor LPWAN is a viable option. The hospital staff working in these remote locations need access to patient files, scans, and lab results quickly and efficiently. 5G cellular technology makes this possible, but the data also needs to be transmitted securely. Establishing a private 5G network or a private LTE network would allow digital assets to be transmitted without the risk of data leaking outside the network. 

As opportunities to connect more devices increase with 5G and LTE, controls that dictate which devices can connect to a business’s network and a way to route traffic and keep data separate from the public network are needed. A private network gives an organization this level of control in one of two ways–the business can become its own carrier, or it can set up a private network through a cellular carrier.   

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How do private LTE and 5G networks work? 

All private wireless networks transmit data over wireless spectrum, using infrastructure equipment to carry data through the internal network and to edge devices. But there are two different ways to deploy a private network. 

  1. A business can purchase wireless spectrum and become its own carrier with complete ownership over the network and its infrastructure (Full Private). 
  2. Or, a business can use a cellular carrier to leverage LTE or 5G through the public network but set up a private network through the carrier to route traffic and separate data from the public network (Shared Private). 

Types of private LTE or 5G networks 

Full-private wireless networks

In a full-private network, an organization owns the wireless spectrum. It’s up to the organization’s internal IT department to deploy and maintain the connectivity and infrastructure. In the past, LTE relied solely on licensed spectrum, owned and operated by a Mobile Network Provider (MNO) like Verizon or AT&T. New regulations allow businesses to deploy cellular systems independently of MNOs by purchasing spectrum on the 3.5 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) from the FCC. But this option only makes sense for a small minority of large enterprises. 

With LTE, a full-private network isn’t practical because 4G isn’t fast enough for large-scale IoT applications. 5G, on the other hand, is fast enough, but it’s extremely expensive. The enterprise must purchase the spectrum and the cellular infrastructure. For some large enterprises, supplying their own connectivity for priority access to the network and monetizing the connectivity by distributing it to subscribers makes sense. But for most businesses, a full-private network is not beneficial, feasible, or necessary. 

Shared-private wireless networks 

If your business needs a private wireless network for greater security and control, a shared-private network is the best choice. With this type of private wireless network, a business pays a cellular provider for connectivity but governs its own network and controls which devices connect to the internet, where the traffic gets routed, and how much data devices are permitted to use. A shared-private network is a great option for a school that needs to regulate student devices, a company whose employees need to access secure data within the office or from home, or a hospital that needs to transmit medical records securely. 

To deploy a private network, businesses need hardware and software to connect to and manage the network. 

  • Edge devices, like smartphones, routers, and gateways, connect to the network infrastructure via Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards or modems. 
  • SIM cards identify the private cellular network and allow data within it to be communicated across devices. With smart SIM cards, devices connect to the private cellular network when they are within range and will automatically switch to a public cellular network when out of range. Learn more from our Guide to IoT SIM cards.
  • Lastly, a business needs a platform to manage traffic and data plans. 

Zipit Wireless provides global and multi-carrier SIMs along with a subscription billing platform to simplify your connectivity. Contact us for more information or find out if a single global IoT SIM or a SIM from multiple carriers is right for you.

Benefits of private LTE and 5G networks

1. Greater control and security

A private network gives your business control over who and which devices connect to the network and what and how data is transmitted. Greater security does not mean that data doesn’t leave the network but that an organization can choose where this data is processed. 

Learn more: Edge Computing vs. Cloud Computing: Why IoT Expansion Requires Both

2. Greater customization

Private LTE and 5G networks open possibilities for more specific and advanced IoT solutions to meet your business’s unique needs. These networks link devices and streamline processes within your organization so it can operate more efficiently with more intelligent insights. 

3. Faster troubleshooting 

A private wireless network could enable your business to respond quickly to problems with real-time data through your IoT devices. For example, a Bosch factory in the UK uses 5G to increase productivity and proactively problem-solve with sensors that allow for preventative maintenance with real-time feedback and data analytics. 5G technology is the only way Bosch can accomplish this at such a large scale. 

4. Lower latency

5G networks produce even lower latency than 4G, and private LTE or private 5G networks produce the least amount of latency if the data processing happens on-site. 

5. Better coverage at remote or underground locations 

Private LTE and 5G networks offer a wider range of coverage at a higher bandwidth than any other solution. Even underground or in the middle of nowhere, devices can transmit and receive data. 

6. Greater flexibility

Because private cellular networks use the same technology as public networks, devices can switch to the public network when out of range. A construction company, for instance, can continue to monitor and control equipment from the site after it’s traveled out of the network. 

Learn more: 7 Examples of IoT in Construction

7. Greater reliability

On the occasion that the private network is down, a smart SIM card allows devices to use the public network as backup. 

Learn more: Wireless Backup Internet for Business: An Introductory Guide

8. Greater long-term profitability

Although private LTE and 5G networks have a high upfront cost, they automate processes that improve productivity, which, in turn, reduces the cost of production. Nokia, a Finnish telecommunications and consumer electronics company, deployed a private LTE network at a base station factory. IoT analytics provides real-time data from mobile robots that automate operations. Nokia reported that the private networks increased productivity by 30% and reduced delivery costs by 50%, which saves them millions of euros each year. 

9. More widespread connectivity  

Another benefit of private LTE and 5G  is that the connected devices are in the same network as the corporate network, so remote devices at a satellite office or on a remote job site look like they are on the same network in the corporate campus. These devices can be monitored from the corporate campus. For instance, a farm in the UK uses a private network to control tractors and drones remotely to harvest and care for crops. Private 5G for oil and gas corporations allows them to monitor the condition of oil and gas remotely to ensure safety, prevent expensive repairs, and reduce downtime. 

10. More data accessible

According to IBM, “the amount of data from devices being generated in our world is higher than ever before, yet most of this IoT data is not exploited or used at all.” Private LTE and 5G allow more data to be processed and communicated faster via IoT devices. 

Future benefits of private 5G networks 

Private 5G operates like 4G but with significant performance advantages, like faster data transmission, lower latency, greater connectivity for more devices, and greater reliability. The 3GPP Release 16 allows for 5G support of private networks. With future releases within the next decade, 5G will replace LTE as the standard for private networks. 

3GPP Release 17, which focuses on additional applications for 5G outside of the industrial sector, completed its release in March 2022. The planning of release 18 is underway for advanced 5G, which will enhance network performance, further extend use cases, and provide intelligent 5G solutions through AI and extended reality. 

Current and future advancements of 5G include:

  • 99.999% reliability 
  • Responses in one-thousandth of a second 
  • The ability to connect up to 100,000 devices, compared to 10,000 with LTE 
  • The ability to connect 1 million sensors per square km
  • More extensive remote video monitoring 
  • Broadband speeds up to 20 Gbps 
  • Priority application for bandwidth to critical functions with network segments, which allows companies to be strategic with which operations have priority access
  • 5G CoMP (coordinated multi-point) to send data via an alternative path when an object blocks the signal 
  • Reduction in future construction costs by removing the need for wired connections 
  • Ability to reconfigure cheaply and easily 
  • Options for greater mobility with production processes

With the aid of a private 5G network, Rush University Medical Hospital will be able to upgrade to faster to more reliable network coverage in the hospital’s 100-year-old building, which was designed before the internet and has no space for additional wiring that would cost them millions. 

Mercedes is another company capitalizing on what a private 5G network can offer. They’ve created plans for a TecLine facility with a mobile instead of a linear production line. This will open new opportunities for personalization as autonomous systems can pick products and transport them to different stations within the factory. 

Read more about what 5G and IoT mean for connectivity or learn what changes we can expect from IoT within the next 5 years

Is a private LTE or 5G network right for your business? 

A private wireless network is beneficial for any business looking to preserve the integrity of its data. For some businesses, this means deploying a shared private wireless network, where connectivity is provided by a cellular carrier. A full-private network is only feasible for large organizations that can manage the connectivity and infrastructure internally and need a connectivity solution for high-traffic areas and heavy data transmissions, like logistics and transportation hubs, airports, hotels, construction, factories, warehouses, mining, utilities, or military.

However, controlling the flow of traffic to and from your IoT devices doesn’t necessarily require deploying a cellular network. If your business already has LTE or 5G connectivity, you can choose where the traffic from IoT devices gets routed. You can direct the flow of traffic from devices to an endpoint, like the cloud or a data center, restricting access to the open internet and keeping your data secure. For example, a medical device transmitting data to a local hospital should not send that data over the open internet. Instead, data from the medical device should get routed to the hospital directly, within its private network. Zipit can assist businesses in routing traffic from devices to a private network with IoT SIM cards that send data directly to an endpoint and preserve its integrity. 

Now that 2G and 3G have been sunset in the US, learn how your business can make the transition to 4G and beyond

How can Zipit help with private LTE and 5G connectivity? 

If you’re interested in connecting devices and streamlining business operations on a secure LTE or 5G network, Zipit Wireless can provide the core to your connectivity by managing the contracts and integrations with carriers and providing your business with a simple and seamless solution for SIM cards and subscription billing. 

Learn more about Zipit Wireless IoT connectivity and SIM cards or contact us to learn how we can help your business deploy a private wireless network.  

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