Private 5G vs. Wi-Fi: The New Wave of Wide-Area LAN

September 30, 2021 Matt Addicks

Private 5G vs. Wi-Fi: The New Wave of Wide-Area LAN

Examining the benefits and applications of Private Cellular Networks for enterprise businesses

Enterprises that have experienced coverage obstacles, capacity limitations, or security vulnerabilities when trying to use Wi-Fi as LAN in large spaces understand how debilitating each of those issues can be to the success of their business. Unreliable and insufficient networks pose threats to supply chain, workforce safety, resource access, and more.  

Distribution centers, transportation hubs, manufacturing facilities, smart cities, and school districts can address these inefficiencies through Private Cellular Networks (PCN). A PCN, also referred to as Private LTE or Private 5G, is a LAN created through the deployment of localized radio access networking (RAN) equipment like base stations and small cells. It’s a scalable dedicated network that provides control, security, coverage, and a fixed cost to the end user.

To continue exploring the benefits of Private LTE and 5G for business, visit our Private Cellular Networks for Business webpage.

How Private Cellular Networks address Wi-Fi limitations

Enterprise businesses predominantly use Private LTE and 5G to address one or more of four common network challenges: coverage, capacity, mobility, and control. As additional 5G access points and spectrum are made available, Private 5G will be particularly equipped to take on these challenges thanks to its improved performance and reduced latency. 

Coverage

When organizations need to run critical applications over a large coverage area, they often struggle to do so via Wi-Fi. By installing a PCN, organizations can control coverage across those locations and facilities that may otherwise be restricted due to limited wireless infrastructure.  

In January 2021, the Murray School District launched a Private Cellular Network to address coverage issues as students were restricted to their homes without adequate broadband access during COVID-19. The PCN was made up of more than 40 small cells and 425 CBRS-compatible wireless edge routers capable of providing broadband coverage to the apartments and houses of 6,000 students throughout the district.  

Capacity

Most wireless users have experienced the limitations of Wi-Fi and public cellular capacities firsthand. Whether in a busy coffee shop as patrons stream music and attend Zoom meetings on their laptops, or at a packed sporting event with every fan attempting to upload a video of the winning goal, public networks are known for their congestion during critical times.  

Enabling a Private 5G network resolves those capacity issues. Without contention with other network users, enterprises can make full and exclusive use of available PCN capacity. They can also configure uplink and downlink and set usage policies.  

The ability to engineer capacity demands through a PCN provides reliable, high-performance connections across a wide-area LAN. 

Control

Because Wi-Fi is an open spectrum, it can be susceptible to eavesdroppers looking for vulnerabilities. . Through a Private Cellular Network, operators can determine which users connect, how resources are utilized, and how traffic is prioritized. Additionally, companies that enable a PCN can optimize reliability and latency in challenging physical environments. Most importantly, since only authorized users have access to the network, these companies can control their own security, ensuring sensitive information stays isolated.  

Additional use cases for Private 5G

Private 5G is run specifically for the benefit of an organization to solve the problems posed by Wi-Fi and, to a lesser extent, public cellular. Especially in the case of high-band 5G (mmWave), Private 5G is an optimal solution for high density environments that require very low latency. Additional examples include:  

  • Stadiums for business-critical applications such as ticket/access systems, retail tracking, high-definition security cameras, Point-of-Sale systems, digital displays, and secure internal communications 
  • Manufacturing environments requiring surveillance, entry gate control, equipment tracking, office connectivity, inventory automation, temperature monitoring, and vehicle automation 
  • Mining or oil and gas facilities in remote or rugged locations requiring access control and security, equipment monitoring, safety scanning, and sensor monitoring 
  • Transportation facilities such as ports, warehouses, and rail yards with large area obstructions requiring loading dock monitoring, supplier kiosks, real-time workload tracking, telemetry of cranes, video surveillance, and remotely controlled devices 
  • Smart cities utilizing technologies that improve public safety, waste management, parking, traffic, air quality, lighting, and energy efficiency 
  • Campuses and large public venues including sports arenas, or meeting places requiring classroom connectivity, internet for student housing, video surveillance, digital signage, and event streaming 

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