In telecommunications, 5G is the fifth generation technology standard for broadband cellular networks, which cellular phone companies began deploying worldwide in 2019, and is the planned successor to the 4G networks (Private) which provide connectivity to most current cellphones.
It’s so easy these days to set-up your own WiFi network. You order a router online, plug it into the electrical socket, define a password and you’re good to go. WiFi is fast, reliable and easy to use. But if you want to cover a wider area or connect hundreds of small devices it quickly becomes inefficient and expensive. Is the only way to go to your local mobile network operator and sign a contract? No! Thanks to open source technology, you can build your own LTE or 5G network.
Mobile technologies like LTE or 5G give your private network great capabilities. You can cover huge areas with a small amount of equipment. Also, choosing the right frequency, you can achieve great performance through walls or underground. Mobile networks are much more secure than WiFi. Not to mention, it enables you to now get all power and features only carriers had, like location tracking of user equipment (UE) with sub 1 meter accuracy or advanced signalling and telemetry.
You might be scared of high upfront costs required to start building an LTE or 5G network. Fortunately, it’s not that bad. The minimum starting toolkit would be LimeSDR mini and a Raspberry Pi 4. Total cost of this is below 300$ (assuming that you already have a mobile phone…)!
If you want to play with more advanced features like Carrier Aggregation, achieve top speed and connect hundreds of IoT devices, you would need to spend around 10k$ for Ettus x310 and some decent X86 server for compute. As a software stack I can recommend Ubuntu + srsRAN.
Many companies need secure, fast and automated networks for their data and voice use-cases, which are able to cover large areas, be reliable inside buildings or an underground tunnel. Private LTE and 5G networks meet this need, and if they are based on open technologies also provide great price performance. They are implemented across many industries:
- Campuses – university, hospital or a big office. All of them have huge numbers of people and devices requiring connectivity. Private mobile networks provide cost efficiency and great learning opportunities for universities.
- Oil & gas – these are harsh environments, full of industrial IoT, operating underground and requiring reliability and security provided by LTE and 5G.
- Public sector – smart cities, museums, stadiums or public transportation.
- Military – private 5G networks are key in modern, connected military operations. Situational awareness from sensors and drones is a force multiplier. However, it requires performance and security that only the latest mobile technology can deliver.
- Manufacturing – Mercedes Benz and Bosh already track production lines and optimize their manufacturing processes using private 5G networks and MEC. Decisions must be made fast, and on the spot. Sending data to the public cloud is too slow and local micro clouds show much better results in such use cases.