C-Band for 5G private wireless takes a test run in Germany

Consultant and integrator umlaut, set to be acquired by Accenture, is building a private 5G network to test use cases for potential customers.

Network operators and enterprises that want to use C-Band spectrum for 5G private wireless can learn the ropes in Germany, where consultant and integrator umlaut is creating a 5G campus network at its headquarters in Aachen. umlaut, which is set to become part of Accenture, was awarded 100 MHz of C-Band spectrum by the German government and is using it to create a 5G private network that will serve as a testbed for other companies. 

The campus network will be designed to support studies and tests in industries including logistics, manufacturing, healthcare and energy, as companies around the world explore C-Band spectrum for private wireless. According to the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA), 23 countries had already auctioned or allocated C-Band spectrum by the beginning of 2020. 

In the U.S., FCC Acting Chair Jessica Rosenworcel said this week that her agency will soon start assigning the C-Band licenses won earlier this year in history's biggest spectrum auction. Verizon and AT&T, the two biggest winners, are expected to deploy their spectrum not only for mobile broadband but also in support of private wireless. Indeed, Verizon has said it plans to use C-Band spectrum to support its OnSite 5G private wireless service.

According to umlaut, companies and carriers that already have spectrum licenses can use its network and its expertise for help with designing, deploying, optimizing and learning to operate a network. Those that don't have spectrum can use the facility to kick the tires and find out what they might be able to do in partnership with a license holder.

Airpsan and Druid Software

Airspan and Druid Software are umlaut's two partners in this project. Airspan is providing radio equipment and Druid Software is supplying the network core. umlaut said it chose two different vendors in order to "mix the best from MNO- and enterprise-grade network solutions" and avoid "vendor lock-ins."

umlaut is using Airspan's 5G O-RAN Alliance-compliant sub-6 GHz indoor and outdoor radio units. It will deploy the Air5G outdoor radio unit with 32 antennas for massive MIMO, and the AirVelocity 2700 indoor radio unit. umlaut is also using Airspan's distributed unit (DU), centralized unit (CU) and control platform. 

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For core network software, umlaut is using Druid Raemis 5G NGC. "umlaut is ideally positioned with the enterprise slicing capabilities of the Druid Raemis 5G NGC and Airspan’s ORAN solution to address the business-critical needs of industry," said Liam Kenny, CEO of Druid Software, in a statement.

More use cases

In addition to testing and trialing network design, configuration and management, umlaut foresees several other use cases for its private 5G network.

As a certification body for smartphone makers and an integrator of IoT modules, umlaut is well-positioned to test devices on its 5G network. The company said it is now expanding to other device classes including industrial connectivity modules, routers, hotspots and AR/VR glasses.

The company said private wireless is ideal for testing broadcasting over 5G, since broadcasting applications require a special channel coding (feMBMS) that is not compatible with other applications.

Finally, umlaut said its outdoor site will be ideal for testing autonomous vehicles. The company said it has already developed a smart urban vehicle test environment to test advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) and other applications.