What is a private network?
Author: Keith Shaw
An organization investing in digital transformation may need to consider whether it makes sense to continue using traditional publicly accessible networks, or whether a private network could provide better performance and security.
There are a number of private network options that companies might want to consider, including a new class of secure private wireless networks that offer more potential to address the need for high bandwidth, low latency and greater capacity for mission-critical applications.
What is a private network?
A private network is a discrete, customized cellular network that is not connected to the public cellular network. Because it is private it can have dedicated resources (such as network infrastructure or spectrum) and secure limited access to only certain users. A private network can be as geographically small as a specific factory or as large as a utility grid.
Different types of private networks
Private networks can also include wired technologies such as Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), Layer 2 Ethernet (both E-Line and E-LAN), and Wavelength services. All of these options provide features that are important for many types of core WAN capabilities. It is also possible to create virtual private wireless networks by configuring the network so that only specific devices (fixed or mobile) can gain access to the segregated private WAN resources.
The newest private wireless network (private network) technology is known as private 5G. Private 5G has some new features that can provide a company with a customized 5G campus environment to be used for specific use cases, or for applications that need higher speed and capacity combined with lower latency than you would typically find on a public wireless network.
The benefits of a private network
Private networks let companies customize their network according to specific organizational needs and locations. They allow enterprises and public sector organizations to bring tailored 5G experiences to indoor or outdoor facilities, even if they are located outside a public 5G coverage area. Some of the ways a private wireless network could be customized include:
Many innovative applications, such as automated guided vehicles (AGVs) in a warehouse or factory environment or mission-critical hospital medical equipment, require near real-time network response. A private wireless network can address this need for dedicated bandwidth capacity and range, and consistent, always-on service.
Security and data sovereignty
With the ability to limit who can access your network, a private solution can offer more security than a public network. Further, because the traffic remains on-site, cyber threats such as man-in-the-middle attacks can be mitigated.
Dedicated on-premises servers also allow enterprises to retain control over their data so nothing leaves the premises unless authorized. This can be particularly important for organizations with operations in multiple countries facing different data protection and regulatory requirements such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Private network industry use cases
Across a variety of industries, organizations are benefiting from private wireless network deployments. Examples of private wireless network use cases include:
Ubiquitous, low-latency coverage for facility operations can help companies maximize their uptime and help save costs. Companies can use the network for quality-of-service (QoS) traffic prioritization, high-definition video for quality control and inspection, remote industrial robotics and AGVs, digital twins for simulation models, and remote maintenance and technical support through augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) applications.
Dedicated bandwidth and low latency can give companies smarter ways to control energy flow and support utility distribution applications. Examples of private 5G use cases include drone surveillance, worker safety applications, remote diagnostics of equipment, smart grids, automated power distribution, and machine learning for better data analytics.
Oil, gas and mining
Private 5G can help maintain a secure and robust network connection even in remote locations and harsh conditions. Application examples include autonomous and remote-operated drilling, surveillance videos and drone monitoring, high-precision positioning, seaport and terminal operations, AR/VR staff training and preventive safety alerts.
The high reliability and lower latency of a private 5G network can help support critical wireless device connections. Examples include supporting connected medical devices, AGVs for material movement, inventory control, data security, video analytics and safety, and staff connectivity.
A private wireless network can help stores avoid congestion issues to improve coverage, performance and security, and allow for the adoption of new digital initiatives. Application examples include proactive shelf restocking due to better inventory intelligence, responsive and relevant customer signage and visuals, automatic checkouts, and faster operational data insights.
Private network industry use cases
Organizations can choose to build out and run their own private 5G network, or they can receive additional benefits by working with a mobile network operator (MNO) or systems integrator.
Fully managed, monitored and maintained, a private 5G network can be a solution that helps businesses solve current IT challenges and gain operational efficiencies. The private infrastructure includes the installation of small-cell wireless transmitters and receivers that help minimize the competition for bandwidth. The system also uses an on-premises packet core that provides security and low latency for critical processes and applications. As an option, companies can store their data locally and use local computing capabilities, which are critical for applications that require low latency and maximum security and network isolation.
Private network customers have two spectrum options:
- Leverage the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band, a lightly licensed, shared spectrum that enables enterprises to deploy private LTE/5G networks dedicated to their organization.
- Work with an MNO such as Verizon that owns spectrum that can then allocate a portion of that spectrum for a given private network need.
For example, Verizon's private 5G network provides speed and bandwidth that is superior to CBRS for large enterprises and public sector customers, including college campuses, industrial and manufacturing sites, warehouses and other large areas. Private 5G leverages 5G Ultra Wideband and 4G LTE capabilities as an operational environment requires and also maintains the interconnection to a company's LAN, SD-WAN and enterprise applications. The service allows controlled authorized user access and device management to help secure the network.