As we start a new year it’s a good time to assess where we are with private 5G (P5G) and its adoption in the enterprise and what we can expect moving forward. To this end and with great timing, 5G Americas just released a new white paper titled “Enterprise Evolution with 5G Adoption” for which I had the pleasure of being the lead author. The goal of this paper is to digest and simplify some of the more complex aspects of P5G to help enterprise decision makers understand what they’re facing and make informed decisions. While potential of 5G continues to impress enterprises, its complexity poses difficulties for adoption in the enterprise. In the past few years, we’ve witnessed a good deal of progress towards simplification of P5G for enterprise, but there remains much more to be done as outlined in this paper.
An impressive multi-vendor and multi-provider team of experts contributed to creation of this white paper, thus presenting a balanced perspective across industry stake holders. Together we’ve taken an in depth look at P5G adoption in the enterprise by revisiting enterprise requirements for private mobile networks and evaluating several topics that are critical for enterprises and under development by the industry.
While initial discussions on P5G were mostly based on enterprise requests for improvements over Wi-Fi, in the past several years it has become clear that increased demand for improved wireless will compel co-existence of P5G and Wi-Fi in complementary modes in order to satisfy wireless use cases that require high throughput and low latency as evolving in many verticals.
Most P5G deployments to date have been technology proof-of-concept trials that showcase powerful 5G capabilities in an ideal setting. However, as production-grade networks in complex real-world environments are designed and planned, discussions are moving from technology highlights into more practical and business relevant aspects of deployment such as integration of P5G into existing enterprise networks, co-existence with other enterprise network elements, and ultimately acceptable total cost of ownership (TCO) for operation of a P5G network.
Specific questions that we try to address in this new paper include:
- How virtualization of RAN may benefit a P5G installation for an enterprise
- What is considered “roaming” in private cellular networks and how it applies to enterprise use cases
- How P5G networks can ensure consistent implementation and enforcement of enterprise security policies
The paper considers these questions in the context of dominant P5G deployment models including standalone, hybrid cloud, and macro slice, while keeping a laser focus on what is most relevant to the enterprise user and operator.
Figure 1. Dominant P5G deployment scenarios *
RAN Innovations on the horizon
Radio Access Network (RAN) disaggregation and virtualization, which evolves the traditional RAN architecture into a more flexible RAN with lower overall cost, is a hot topic in all public and private cellular evaluation discussions. The topic is complex and requires understanding of how a cellular radio system works. Our paper provides a condensed summary of virtualization methods for RAN, highlighting important aspects of the evolving architectures and comparing traditional all-in-one RAN models with emerging disaggregated RAN models while focusing on areas that are most relevant to enterprise use cases.
Figure 2. RAN virtualization *
Mobility spanning diverse networks
With the expansion of enterprise wireless networks and increased complexity of enterprise use cases, mobility between different wireless network domains is another topic that frequently comes up during enterprise evaluations of P5G networks. Many customers ask about enabling mobility across Wi-Fi and P5G networks, and/or allowing the same device to connect to public and private cellular networks, as well as the possibility of operating their own private cellular network to replace existing mobile network operator (MNO) managed distributed antenna system (DAS) installations. All these topics involve dynamic changes to connectivity control of a device, as defined by device or subscriber “identity”, across diverse administrative domains that may be controlled by different providers. In public cellular networks these connectivity control changes come under the general topic of “roaming” which has been centered on public cellular use cases, but which is fast evolving to support private cellular use cases as well.
The paper goes into detail to explain general mobility, roaming in public and private cellular domains, handoff between Wi-Fi and P5G networks, and neutral host topics based on emerging standards such as multi operator radio access network (MORAN) and multi operator core network (MOCN). Many of these topics are currently under development and standardization. The paper outlines areas of work to clarify what’s possible to implement today and what needs further work.
Figure 3. Enterprise mobility use cases across public and private cellular networks *
Network security remains paramount
Security of enterprise networks and methods of insertion of P5G into an enterprise security domain that is managed and controlled by the enterprise IT is yet another topic of continued development. Device and subscriber identity and access management across diverse private networks, implementation of Zero Trust security requirements in a complex multi-zone enterprise, and emerging global security standards that enterprises are requesting conformance to, are among the security topics that we discuss in this paper.
Figure 4. NIST Zero Trust security model is the basis for many P5G security architectures
We hope the paper “Enterprise Evolution with 5G Adoption” clarifies questions that continue to linger in many enterprise evaluations of P5G. Here at Cisco, we’re developing multi-access wireless solutions that incorporate P5G and Wi-Fi technology together to address enterprise pain points in the most optimal manner. We encourage you to learn more about what P5G can do for your organization.
Also be sure to catch our recent Cisco Knowledge Network webinar, “Evolving Enterprise Networks with Private 5G”, recording available on demand here to learn more about the evolution of P5G and its benefits to the enterprise.