Having discussed the advantages of the fifth generation of mobile communications in a previous blog article and having looked at which companies they are most suitable for, this time we’ll be covering the prerequisites for a 5G campus network and its implementation.
A little more than a year after initiating the application procedure for local 5G mobile applications, the German Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur) has already received 114 applications for the assignment of a suitable frequency. According to information from Focus, 111 of these applications have already been approved. At the end of November last year it was only 93 applications and 88 approvals. Jochen Homann, President of the German Federal Network Agency, expects the steady stream of applications to continue. The frequencies for local 5G networks – which lie between 3,700 and 3,800 MHz – create “space for innovation”. According to Homann, they are particularly suitable for industry 4.0, as well as agriculture and forestry work.
Applications can be made digitally. According to the agency, they will be processed in a “simple, unbureaucratic process”. The agency also says that the frequencies can be used soon after being assigned. According to Focus, the costs depend on the contract period and operating area, and are a one-off fee “between EUR 1,500 and a sum in the millions”.
Tips for selecting an appropriate operating model
First of all, companies interested in setting up a 5G campus network must be clear about which operating model is most suited to their needs. In its “Guidelines for 5G Campus Networks – Orientation for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses”(PDF), the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) describes two fundamental models:
- With a completely separate 5G campus network there is no integration with the public mobile communications network. The setting up and operation of this type of network is the sole responsibility of the operator. This work can also be undertaken with the help of a service provider such as HCD Consulting. Separate hardware and software is required here, as well as “stand-alone” frequency bands.
- A virtual slice is when the planned 5G campus network is to be set up within the public 5G network of a mobile communications operator. However, sufficient coverage is an important prerequisite here. With the exception of end-user devices, no further investment in proprietary hardware needs to be made. Here, the customer does not only receive an agreed quality of service (QoS), but a guaranteed transmission quality too, for example, for high-performance IoT (Internet of Things) applications.
Naturally, a mixture of these two basic models is also possible, ranging from “completely independent” to “completely virtual”. So, for example, it would be possible to set up additional base stations in the 5G campus network which are only available to the local user.
Other prerequisites for a private 5G campus network
The requirements for setting up and operating a 5G campus network depend on the selected operating model. So, for example, users of a virtual slice generally do not need their own mobile communications license. A hybrid model may be an exception. Furthermore, there are contractual prerequisites, for example, which must be adhered to if a service provider is to be used.
When planning the network, in addition to the mobile communications network, attention must be paid to the required infrastructure and the desired service architecture. When cooperating with a mobile communications operator, the best way of incorporating the local systems should be considered carefully. Service Level Agreements (SLAs) must not be forgotten either. This applies equally to the necessary integration of the existing corporate IT system. Service and rights management must not be neglected here. In addition, for self-operated 5G campus networks, special care must be taken with IT security.
Fibre-optic connection with the right hardware
Installing a fibre-optic connection makes sense if the 5G campus network’s cable-supported connection goes to a long-distance traffic network. These structures are, as it were, the basis of 5G networks. They usually end where the mobile communications area begins. Cisco Systems is a very active network equipment provider in this sector.
For example, last year saw the market launch of the company’s line cards for its 9000 series Aggregation Services Router (ASR). Thanks to extremely dense 400 GbE interfaces, these are able to more than triple their previous performance. There is also the new Network Convergence System (NCS) 5700 Router, which now has 400 GbE interfaces too. Furthermore, the new Cisco NCS 540 5G Fronthaul Router enables seamless, packet-based transport of CPRI (Common Public Radio Interface) streams. This is important, for example, for Open RAN (Radio Access Networks) which are designed to be manufacturer-neutral, and provide a flexible and dynamic architecture.
Setting up your own 5G campus network: step-by-step
Installing and commissioning a 5G network in several stages is recommended. For example, in its guidelines, the BMWi advises advance testing and acceptance inspections as, up until now, there is very little experience with 5G networks. Only in the next step should the planned system be installed and commissioned. Here it is generally possible to draw on the comprehensive experience of a service provider. Subsequently, the required services can be introduced. Here, consideration should be given to any process-related changes and sufficient time must be allocated for testing. Then integration with the existing company IT system and the actual operation of the 5G campus network can start.