What does the increasingly popular 5G public network mean?

In July last year, the 3GPP R16 version was frozen, officially opening the curtain of 5G vertical industry applications.

Now, more than a year has passed, and we are pleasantly surprised to find that the 5G toB application has achieved far more than expected achievements.

On the basis of the increasingly complete domestic 5G network coverage, we have successfully incubated thousands of 5G integration application innovations in key industries such as industry, energy, transportation, finance, medical care, education, agriculture, cultural tourism, etc. Thousands of 5G industry application landing projects.

At present, the number of “5G + Industrial Internet” projects under construction has exceeded 1,600.

These 5G toB vertical industry applications that have sprung up like mushrooms have realized the deep integration of digital technology and traditional industries, improved technological processes, and reconstructed business models. Their vigorous development means that digital transformation and the digital economy are advancing in an orderly manner.

The large-scale implementation of 5G toB applications is inseparable from the support of an important solution, that is, the 5G private network.

As we all know, the Internet connected to our ordinary users’ mobile phones and computers is called the public network, which is a “public place”. A private network, on the other hand, is a network dedicated to a specific industry or enterprise, and is a “private place”.

There are two main reasons for the existence of private networks. One is to prevent public network users from contacting sensitive data for the sake of security isolation. Second, because the industry or enterprise has higher requirements for QoS indicators such as network reliability and stability, the public network cannot meet them.

In the 2/3/4G era, the construction cost of private networks is extremely high, and only government departments or a small number of large enterprises have the ability to build and use them. For example, public safety private network, railway private network, electric power private network, etc.

In the 5G era, the main application scenarios of the network have become vertical industries, and the main service objects have become industry enterprises. As a result, the network construction ideas and business models of private networks have begun to undergo fundamental changes.

According to the definition of 3GPP standard, the deployment mode of 5G private network is divided into independent deployment mode (SNPN) and public network integration mode (PNI-NPN). In simple terms, it means “independent construction” and “shared public network”.

Let’s talk about the standalone deployment mode first.

The independent deployment mode of the 5G private network is not fundamentally different from the 4G private network. In short, companies pay to build a separate network, use dedicated spectrum issued by regulators, or use free spectrum (unlicensed spectrum).

The advantages of this model are complete isolation, complete independence, high reliability and privacy; and the disadvantages are also obvious.

First, the cost is extremely high. In addition to the one-time network construction cost (CAPEX), enterprises also have to bear the long-term and higher operation and maintenance cost (OPEX).

Secondly, the technical difficulty is very high, and the ability of the enterprise is very high. Under normal circumstances, it is necessary to hire a professional communication technology team for on-site support.

Third, the network construction period is very long, and the launch of new services is slow. If a fault occurs, the speed of resolution and recovery is also slow, affecting the normal operation and production of the enterprise.

Fourth, there is a lack of standard protocols and insufficient industrial chain support. Private networks serve thousands of industries, and different industries have different network requirements. 3GPP cannot formulate independently deployed standards for each industry, so it is easy to lead to confusion or loss of standards, resulting in product fragmentation and a sharp increase in workload. The industry chain is also unable to provide sufficient support.

Look at the public network only.

In view of the above main shortcomings of the “independent deployment model”, the “public network integration model” has begun to rise and has become the first choice for enterprises to build 5G private networks.

“Public network integration mode”, also known as “public network dedicated”. As the name implies, it is to share the operator’s 5G public network equipment and resources to realize dedicated services.

According to the degree of sharing with the public network, the “public network integration mode” is further divided into “partial sharing” and “end-to-end sharing”. As shown below:

Compared with deploying private networks independently, sharing public networks has obvious cost and technical advantages.

In the network construction stage, enterprises do not need to purchase a complete set of 5G communication equipment, which can save a lot of money.

During the maintenance phase, the enterprise can hand over the relevant work to the operator, and use the operator’s professional capabilities to standardize the network operation and maintenance. This method is more cost-effective, efficient and safer.

Adopting the “public network integration model”, the enterprise private network can directly apply the achievements of the 3GPP protocol standard and the mature industrial chain, which avoids fragmentation and reduces costs.

For the data security and business security issues that enterprise users are most concerned about, how should the “public network only” be dealt with?

Here, we will mention the unique kite solution of Huawei’s core network.

The kite solution is dedicated to the public network of the operator’s 5G network. It includes three specifications of S/M/L (small/medium/large), and has two deployment modes: resident and shared, which are used to meet the reliability requirements of different users and ensure the high availability of enterprise production systems.

Taking the requirement of data privacy as an example, many enterprises now hope to achieve “data not leaving the factory”, that is to say, sensitive data is kept in the campus and does not enter the public network bearer network.

The M/L mode of the kite solution generally adopts on-premises deployment, placing the MEC/5GC private network inside the park to ensure that user data does not leave the park.

One of the great advantages of MEC is to realize the sinking of computing and storage capabilities, which can meet the communication requirements with extremely high latency requirements, such as AI quality inspection, AGV navigation, etc.

Nowadays, many enterprises use private networks in production, which requires extremely high network stability and reliability, and cannot tolerate business interruptions.

However, in extreme cases, the transmission between the public network and the campus private network may still fail (for example, illegal construction and cutting of optical cables). In this case, it is necessary to ensure that the services of the private network are not affected and can continue to work smoothly.

Huawei’s kite solution is handled like this:

In the M mode of the kite solution, in addition to UPFs (user plane elements of the core network), emergency CPs (control planes of the core network) are also deployed in the campus to synchronize real-time data with the public network.

When the transmission between the private network and the public network is unexpectedly interrupted, the emergency CP immediately performs an emergency seamless takeover to ensure the inertial operation of steady-state services, normal access of new services, and normal processing of handover services. That is to say, it ensures “continuous network interruption”.

After the campus private network and the public network are restored, the service management function will be seamlessly migrated back to the central network, returning to the normal working state.

This emergency takeover mode has been verified in actual combat.

In May 2021, a 5G toB on-premises private network commercial project in a park experienced a signaling transmission failure, causing the campus private network and the central network to be interrupted for 3.5 hours. Because of the deployment of Huawei Kite solution on site, according to the actual business measurement results, users who operate in a steady state in the park can maintain the inertial operation of the business. Moreover, new user access and handover services are also handled normally. After the interruption is restored, the network also achieves a normal switchback.

In addition to safety and reliability, the advantages of the kite solution in deployment and operation and maintenance are also very obvious.

The solution adopts an edge-integrated delivery model, plug-and-play, one-click deployment, and can be opened within 2 hours, greatly improving delivery efficiency.

The central network adopts centralized operation and maintenance, and provides enterprise self-service portals. By accessing the portal, customers can deploy applications flexibly on the platform, such as integrated upgrade of edge sites, deployment in hours, and replication in minutes. These can well meet the needs of enterprise users to reduce costs and increase efficiency.

At present, the kite solution has been applied in many scenarios such as coal mines and smart factories, and has been trusted and favored by more and more enterprise users.

█ Conclusion

The success or failure of 5G depends on toB, and the success or failure of toB depends on the private network.

The 5G public network dedicated solution represented by Huawei Kite has proved its value through a large number of actual deployment cases.

It is flexible and open, allowing industry customers to deploy networks more flexibly and freely. Its shared utilization of public network resources greatly reduces the investment cost of industry customers. The cloud-edge collaboration mechanism introduced by it also provides users with a lightweight edge cloud platform that can tap more business applications.

For operators, the use of dedicated public networks can better serve government and enterprise customers, which not only greatly improves the utilization of their own network resources, but also grasps the initiative of cloud-network integration and achieves long-term gains.

Looking to the future, the dedicated public network will help more enterprises embrace 5G and realize digital transformation. The golden age of 5G private network has arrived!