The interest in private LTE and private 5G has never been higher. Almost every technology professional I talk to has an interest in private wireless. I recently moderated a workshop with about 30 CIOs and asked for a show of hands as to which ones had an interest in P5G, and 28 put up their hands. So many IT pros are looking at private wireless as it promises to bring better reliability and predictability to businesses when compared with Wi-Fi.
However, as is the case with all things in life, there are some “gotchas” concerning private cellular. One of the problems is scaling networks, particularly in lightly licensed bands, such as CBRS and regional networks. Also, the performance of private wireless can drag as some environments are nothing more than a private network plugged into a public LTE network, so the problems of a public network can impact performance of the private. This can be thought of as simply extending public LTE, so this doesn’t bring anything “new” to businesses.
RF awareness is one of the important technologies to bring to private wireless to fulfill its promise. This adds intelligence to the environment and provides feedback to the RAN enabling it to adapt to deliver the necessary levels of latency and reliability to ensure a great user experience.
Recently, Digital Global Systems (DGS) announced that its Clearsite product provides a persistent and autonomous approach to RF awareness by providing private RANs with the enhanced data it collects.
The DGS platform provides the following features:
- Resource allocation – The system provides critical RF information that can be shared with the private RAN for optimizing resources. This is enables private cellular to deliver low latency requirements and meet aggressive SLAs.
- Capacity and coverage – Spectrum utilization is enhanced directly with a multi-dimensional perspective of signal activity, improving capacity and coverage.
- Anomalous events – Alerts are generated for atypical activity that could indicate harmful or criminal activity.
- Alerts and alarms – The Clearsite dashboard shows customer-defined alerts and alarms targeting wireless events, including outages, quality issues, capacity triggers and interference events.
Clearsite aims to improve spectrum allocation performance by providing server-based spectrum management solutions (e.g., SAS) with real-time visibility of spectrum utilization, allowing grants to be made based on actual activity instead of propagation models. DGS uses machine learning to analyze the data and provide insights that offer the following:
- Informed allocation – As mentioned above, spectrum grants can be assigned based on current RF signal activity detected across the entire frequency band and not just based on registrations, which is not a true reflection of activity.
- Faster registration – During the initial registration process, the citizens broadband radio service device (CBSD) will automatically provide the registration information, obviating the requirement of a certified installer.
- Better performance – Because Clearsite provides a clear picture of active signals, the number of users able to share the spectrum increases, offering improved performance.
- Deployment flexibility – Customers can integrate Clearsite directly into their cellular infrastructure or deploy it as a separate sensor network.
Private cellular is undoubtedly the way forward and will eventually complement and sometimes replace Wi-Fi in businesses across all industries. Historically, it has been difficult to deploy, but the vendor community has worked to simplify the rollout of private LTE and 5G, removing that as an obstacle. Clearsite is an excellent complementary technology. It, or a product like it, should be considered a core requirement of private cellular as that is the network that will connect mission-critical systems.
Enterprise network engineers are already taxed and do not have the capacity or the skill to manage the environment manually. The autonomous RF management capabilities enable companies to deploy private wireless while reducing the risk of it not working and lowering the overall operation cost.
While private wireless networks may face some near-term challenges, innovation in the wireless industry is making encouraging progress.
Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. He provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long-term strategic advice. Kerravala provides research and advice to end-user IT and network managers, vendors of IT hardware, software and services and the financial community looking to invest in the companies that he covers. He can be reached at [email protected], and follow him @zkerravala and on YouTube.
Industry Voices are opinion columns written by outside contributors—often industry experts or analysts—who are invited to the conversation by Fierce staff. They do not necessarily represent the opinions of Fierce.