What is a Private Cellular Network?

August 12, 2021 Cradlepoint

What is a Private Cellular Network?

Choosing to build a cellular-based private network gives enterprises and agencies the flexibility, control, and security necessary for wireless edge connectivity

For organizations with a large geographic footprint, setting up a Private Cellular Network can be a cost-effective and secure way to establish a wireless local-area network (LAN). Wi-Fi for LAN doesn’t upscale cost-effectively, and public LTE or 5G may not fit due to availability or data plans. That’s why Private LTE and Private 5G often make sense across places like school districts, distribution centers, Smart Cities, transportation hubs, and manufacturing sites.

A Private Cellular Network (PCN) leverages localized micro towers and small cells to provide coverage and connectivity, similar to a scaled-down version of a public cellular network. It’s a dedicated network that combines the control and fixed cost of a private network with the flexibility, security, and macro-network benefits of cellular.

Which spectrum is used for Private LTE or Private 5G networks?

There are three basic models for setting up a PCN, with the primary difference being how much or little they’re integrated with public cellular networks and cellular service providers.

One model is a PCN that uses spectrum that’s already been licensed. Network operators offer licensed spectrum directly to enterprises or third-party providers. They can also operate a PCN as a managed service with flat-rate pricing.

Another model is to use unlicensed spectrum.

Lastly, the model that’s perhaps most common is to employ shared spectrum, which is owned but seldom licensed or used. U.S.-based organizations typically utilize the CBRS spectrum (Citizen Broadband Radio Service), and other countries have also set aside spectrum for shared licensing.

What equipment do you need for Private LTE?

Organizations looking to deploy a Private Cellular Network will need these primary components:

Sensors, security cameras, machines, and computers — devices that aggregate to a router or other type of User Equipment are on the front line of a PCN. Alternatively, devices that accept a PCN SIM card can connect directly to a small cell.

The user equipment includes LTE- and 5G-capable routers, cell phones, and other PCN capable devices that accept user-provided SIMs, and that comply with local and national regulations.

Small cells are radio access points that can be deployed indoors or outdoors, and on licensed, shared, or unlicensed spectrum. Small cells allow user equipment like a router or a device like a cell phone with a PCN SIM to connect to the private cellular network.

The EPC is the “brains” of the private cellular network and can be located on-premises or in the cloud. EPC operations consist of different components which work together to help direct, authenticate, and prioritize network traffic.

The backhaul router separates the PCN or LAN from the outside world, and the firewall only lets in or out what the organization wants.

The small cell and SIM Manager controls the small cells and private SIMs for the deployment.

The Spectrum Access System (SAS) is applicable to CBRS networks and acts as a traffic cop for the aforementioned three types of spectrum models adopted by the FCC. If spectrum isn’t being used by one tier, the SAS securely facilitates access without harmful interference.

Organizations can put together this type of network themselves or through a managed service provider. Either way, a Private Cellular Network can provide a highly secure and high-performance LAN in large areas.

Learn more on our Private Cellular Networks for business webpage.

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