In my previous blog Deconstructing the 5G opportunity for Cisco Partners, I describe what 5G will bring to Cisco Partners and its customers, and the great opportunity it represents. In this blog, I’ll discuss the complexity of the electromagnetic spectrum and how some countries are at the forefront of allowing enterprises to allocate spectrum real estate to provide private 5G networks.
First, why is the spectrum so vital for wireless networks? Almost everybody in the world knows about the proliferation of WiFi access points, and in some businesses, having Internet access to their customers via WiFi is critical. I remember visiting a tourist island in Europe some time ago, and in all restaurants, I saw a board in front of their entrance, not listing their menu, but welcoming patrons inside as they offer “free” WiFi. We now use WiFi without asking who the provider is or questioning the significant limitation they have on security and interference. WiFi spectrum is there for everybody to use.
Spectrum in different bands offers fewer problems, more security, but they are not free, and the government allocates the usage by allowing Service Providers to rent them for a fee. What’s more, almost every country in the world has regulations on how to use the electromagnetic spectrum for wireless communication. In the case of 5G, we are starting to see changes in some countries. Germany has opened a portion of its spectrum for enterprises to rent at a meager price. This action will enable these enterprises to jump into the digital transformation of their operations at a better cost using 4G LTE and 5G. Other Countries like the US, UK, Australia, and Japan are taking similar steps with the promise that their countries will be at the far edge of competitiveness. I anticipate there will be more countries adding to the list, which will give enterprises the ability to create their own private 5G.
The idea behind the private 5G network is to use advanced wireless capabilities like throughputs, low latency, reliability, and strong security as local area networks to provide high-quality services. To deploy Private 4G LTE and 5G, Cisco partners need to understand the importance of the spectrum. In my opinion, there are two distinct situations arising here: 1) countries where the spectrum will be licensed just to Service Providers and 2) countries with the licensed, unlicensed, and shared spectrum.
In countries with a licensed spectrum, partners will need to work closer with Service providers to reach enterprises and use SP allocated frequencies to build Private 5G networks, and the wireless and wireline technologies that customers need.
In countries with the licensed, unlicensed, and shared spectrum, the situation can be slightly different. In the US, apart from partnering with SPs, partners can offer the “recently” cleaned Citizen Broadband Radio Service Frequencies, better known as CBRS or C-Band. CBRS will allow enterprises to deploy 5G radios for a critical application that requires broader coverage, no interference wireless, and low latency and higher throughput. 5G higher security through SIM authentication is a crucial benefit for customers. Businesses can leverage 5G technology to scale their digital automation initiatives like computer vision sensors, automated mobile robots (AMR), voice and video communication tools that require real-time computing and low-latency industrial automation equipment.
But is CBRS an unlicensed band? The answer is yes and no. It depends on the user tier. There are three tiers of users on CBRS:
- Incumbents: These span the 3550-3700 MHz band and include military systems, especially on the US coastline. This tier of users is protected against interference from the other two tiers.
- Priority Access Licensees (PAL): PAL licenses in the US were awarded last year on open bids. The licenses are based on a county-by-county basis. A PAL license covers a 10-megahertz channel within the 3550-3650 MHz band. PALs can accept interference from the Incumbent tier but are protected from the General Authorized Access tier.
- General Authorized Access (GAA): These are unlicensed users across the 3550-3700 MHz band. There is no protection from interference from other tiers or other GAA users.
It’s clear that everyone is thinking about 5G, and there are shortcuts some governments are giving businesses so they can use the technology to stay competitive. The idea of connecting assets, suppliers, distribution, and customers started a few years back with IoT. Today, the ability to collect and analyze the data generated by enterprises is shaping the new economy. 5G will be another tool in the arsenal of companies to increase the level of data gathering and the ability to build secure flexible platforms cost-effectively will be the key to accelerate the pass to a real digital economy.
The platform needs to start on the edge, where IoT compute devices will flood the market and many 5G appliances. The need to use wireless or wireline on the operational field will need to be assessed on a cost-effective basis and the decision to use 5G and/or WiFi 6 will depend on the cost and limitation of each technology. Yet regardless of whether one uses wireless or IoT edge computing devices, the reality is that the flow of data will increase exponentially, creating a significant toll on the IT infrastructure. There is no one better than Cisco and our partners to consolidate an end-to-end flexible secured platform that will pave the way for our customers to achieve the value of their Digital Transformation journey.
Some countries are making it more affordable to use innovative solutions like 5G. We at Cisco believe that 5G will open new customer opportunities to achieve efficiencies that were never thought possible. We welcome private 5G networks to the Cisco toolset of solutions that are reshaping the understanding of networking.
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