IoT Blog

Should You Build a Private 5G or LTE Network?

5g, Connectivity, IoT, Innovation

Grant Kyle

Grant Kyle

Director, Strategic Partnerships

Just a few years ago, private cellular networks would get a passing mention as part of a talk in a conference session or a single paragraph in a report or white paper, but now the topic commands its own conferences, white papers and webinars as it’s moved from the proof-of-concept stage to producing business case results for industries and governments.

Organizations still face many questions however as they consider whether they should deploy a private LTE or 5G network, including how these private networks work and what are the specific advantages they offer over Wi-Fi and other private networks.

This blog will help answer these questions, along with providing information on additional resources organizations can use to understand if a private LTE or 5G network makes sense for their organization.

What are private 5G and LTE networks?

Private LTE and 5G networks (referred to as “non-public networks” by 3GPP, the mobile telecommunications standards organization) are networks that use licensed, shared, or unlicensed wireless spectrum and LTE or 5G cellular networking base stations, small cells, and other Radio Access Network (RAN) infrastructure to transmit voice and data to edge devices, including smart phones, embedded modules, routers, and gateways.

LTE is a 4G cellular networking technology that offers secure, reliable, and fast connectivity. 5G offers many performance advantages over LTE, including faster data transmission, lower latency, and the ability to connect to more edge devices. To learn more about 5G, read our previous blog, A Closer Look at the Five Waves of 5G.

How do private LTE and private 5G networks work?

Technically, private LTE and 5G networks work the same as public LTE and 5G networks operated by Verizon, AT&T, Vodafone, and other Mobile Network Operators (MNOs). Edge devices use wireless spectrum to transmit data to nearby cellular base stations, access points and other network infrastructure. The infrastructure then carries this data to the enterprise’s internal network over a secured wired connection. Using this secured connection, data from the edge devices can be sent to various cloud services and applications.

The difference between public and private LTE and 5G networks resides in who has a license or priority access to the wireless spectrum, and who owns and operates the network’s base stations and infrastructure.

To learn more about how a private cellular network works and what the different types of private cellular networks are, read our Beginner's Guide to Private Cellular Networks.

Have any organizations deployed private LTE or private 5G networks yet?

According to the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) in their February 2023 Member Report, there are at least 1077 organizations in 74 countries that have deployed LTE or 5G private cellular networks.

Examples include:

What makes private LTE and private 5G networks better than private Wi-Fi networks?

There are various pros and cons to consider when comparing  Wi-Fi vs. private LTE and private 5G networks.

Private LTE and private 5G networks typically require a higher up-front initial investment than Wi-Fi networks. They also require edge devices that have been certified for the wireless spectrum used by their private cellular network and SIM cards for access to the private network.

However, private LTE and private 5G networks offer many advantages over Wi-Fi networks. For example, these types of networks deliver better wireless coverage than Wi-Fi over large geographic areas, underground and inside buildings or other facilities. LTE and 5G networks are also more secure than Wi-Fi because they encrypt data by default. Further, private LTE and 5G networks are easier (and thus less expensive) to administer and maintain than Wi-Fi networks.

In addition, because Private LTE and 5G devices use the same technology as public cellular networks, For example, a company could still monitor and control an automated forklift after it has crossed the street and moved out of range of its private 5G network, as long as it has the capability to   switch to the MNO’s public 5G network.

There are other benefits to using the same network technology as public cellular networks. Companies that are in the process of building a private LTE or 5G network can start off using a public LTE or 5G network to provide connectivity at their facility, and then switch over to their own private network after it is fully deployed. In addition, with private LTE and 5G networks, organizations can use public networks as a “backup” if their own private network goes down, as long as their devices have smart SIM cards or dual SIM cards.

What are some private LTE and private 5G use cases?

Some examples of private LTE and private 5G network use cases include:

  • Utilities: By providing utilities with secure, flexible, reliable connectivity over a wide geographic area, private LTE and 5G networks enable utilities to more easily and affordably connect their IoT applications to smart meters, transformers, battery-based energy storage systems, and other types of grid infrastructure, as well as to vehicles used by their mobile workforce.
  • Mining, Oil, and Gas: Private LTE and 5G networks provide mining and energy extraction companies with reliable connectivity they require for IIoT applications that connect to drilling machines, rugged handhelds, and other equipment – even if this equipment is underground or in a remote location.
  • Manufacturing: Manufacturing facilities can use private LTE and 5G networks to connect their Information Technology (IT) systems to their manufacturing equipment, enabling them to deploy automated guided vehicles (AGV), remote machine and robotic control, manufacturing process monitoring, predictive maintenance, and other IIoT applications.
  • Warehouses: With a private LTE or 5G network, online retailers and warehouse operators can deploy robotic product picking, product tracking, and other IIoT warehouse applications without worrying about dead spots in their warehouse or spending a lot on network maintenance.
  • Airports, Stadiums, Hospitals, and other Large Campuses: Large public venues often need strong coverage both inside their facility and outdoors to support the connectivity needs of their employees, IoT devices and hundreds to thousands of employees or visitors – private LTE and 5G networks can securely deliver it.

Where can I learn more about private LTE and private 5G networks?

Explore the “ Beginner's Guide to Private Cellular Networks” whitepaper for a comprehensive understanding of private networks, including insights on how private networks work, what private CBRS networks are, who can build a private network, and how to upgrade from a private LTE to a private 5G network.

You can also Start with Sierra by contacting us directly to talk about how we can help you use private LTE and 5G networks to create value in today’s connected economy. 

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