ONUG Launches Private 5G Working Group

Working groups serve as ONUG’s vehicle for generating industry change, with members of the ONUG Community – IT professionals, vendors, service providers and solutions integrators – joining together to address the business and technical challenges that enterprises must overcome on their digital transformation journey. Working groups engage in a collaborative process to develop recommended solutions for the top-priority use cases for typical deployment scenarios in complex enterprise networking environments.

Based on the strong interest in private 5G networks at the recent ONUG Spring 2023 event held in Dallas, ONUG will be launching a Private 5G Working Group within the ONUG Collaborative.

Interested members of the ONUG Community are encouraged to participate and ONUG is reaching out to enterprise IT leaders outside the Community across the leading industry verticals where enterprises are adopting private cellular networks, including agriculture, energy, healthcare, industrial and manufacturing, transportation and warehousing. ONUG is also seeking vendors, service providers and solutions integrators who are active in private wireless (WiFi, LTE or 5G networks).

The actual agenda for the P5G Working Group will be defined by its IT executive co-chairs, based on member input, so here I’ll just set the stage by outlining some of the P5G adoption issues and challenges that the working group is likely to address over time.

Private wireless strategies, whether WiFi, private 5G or private LTE, should be developed in the context of an overarching enterprise 5G strategy. Over the next several years, mobile operators will be rolling out 5G “Standalone” networks based on a new, cloud-native 5G Core, which will power a new generation of enterprise-grade services that the 3GPP groups into three broad categories:

  • Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB)
  • Ultra Reliable and Low Latency Communications (URLLC)
  • Massive Machine-Type Communications (mMTC)

These advanced 5G services will play a key role in enabling enterprises to realize their digital transformation objectives, whether they are delivered via public network operators or P5G networks. Examples include 5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) operating in mmWave spectrum for gigabit-speed connectivity to sites that can’t be served by fiber or cable connections, and high-speed AR/VR services for field service personnel servicing complex industrial machinery.

Turning to P5G, enterprise adopters will first need to understand the technical drivers and business justification for deploying a private cellular network using 5G. This starts by analyzing each potential use case and understanding why 5G is the preferred connectivity approach compared to the alternatives. The working group can help by bringing together a cross-section of IT executives, vendors, service providers and solutions integrators with experience in this type of analysis. One possible outcome is for the working group to publish a catalog of compelling, canonical P5G use cases that IT decision-makers can reference as a starting point on their P5G journey.

Deploying P5G is not as straightforward as WiFi. There are multiple models, ranging from in-building solutions that resemble the WiFi model, to virtual P5G solutions based entirely on services delivered via public network infrastructure. Various deployment models are already well-documented, but the working group can help by defining the criteria for enterprises to select the right model based on use case technical requirements and relevant business considerations such as hiring qualified technical staff and existing partnerships with preferred industry solutions providers, system integrators and network service providers.

5G network technology continues to develop at a rapid pace. Standards development organizations continue to specify new network capabilities. Gaining access to 5G spectrum is not a straightforward process. RF propagation characteristics differ dramatically in low- vs. mid- vs. high-band spectrum. In addition, device manufacturers are still working to integrate 5G connectivity, which is not nearly as widespread as WiFi or even LTE connectivity options.

The P5G working group can play a vital role in educating enterprises about capabilities that are technically feasible today using current products and services, and which capabilities can’t be realized until standards progress further, devices with the latest chips become available or regulators free up additional 5G spectrum, etc.

As the voice of the large enterprise, ONUG has excelled at identifying potential obstacles to the adoption of new networking technologies. I expect the working group to zero in on the key technical enablers for P5G while calling out key blocking issues for specific deployment models and use cases.

Any large enterprise that adopts a new networking technology is faced with a host of issues for fully operationalizing that technology in the context of the company’s best practices and internal compliance requirements for network and security operations teams. It will be no different for large enterprises adopting P5G, so I envision the P5G working group addressing issues such as:

  • Coexistence and convergence of P5G and WiFi networks
  • Uniform methods for application QoS and security policies
  • APIs for programmatic control
  • Network observability methods

P5G networks also bring the near-cloud edge into play, with edge computing applications processing telemetry data and exercising real-time control over connected devices and machines. Enterprises will need explicit data governance policies that define which data must remain strictly on-site vs. data that can flow over public networks or be stored in public cloud services.

Look for the P5G working group to develop and publish one or more enterprise P5G playbooks documenting guidelines and best practices in one or more of the following areas:

  • Use case analysis, including technical requirements and business ROI
  • Possible deployment models and their suitability for specific use cases
  • P5G service profiles for specific types of applications and connected devices
  • Accessing P5G spectrum; selecting P5G radios; RF planning and network design
  • P5G network installation, testing methodologies and ongoing service assurance

P5G promises to be an enterprise game-changer, so enterprise IT leaders, vendors, service providers and solutions integrators interested in joining the working group, please get involved today.


Author's Bio

Stephen Collins

Service Provider CTO