What is a private wireless network?

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A private wireless network provides wireless broadband connectivity, similar to a public wireless network. But as the name suggests, a private wireless network is owned and controlled by the organization that built it or purchased it.

A private wireless network needs all the similar elements as a public network.

It needs spectrum. It can either use spectrum that is leased from a carrier or from another spectrum owner. It can use unlicensed spectrum such as the general authorized access (GAA) tier of the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band. Or it can run on spectrum that is owned by the entity that is building the private wireless network. In the United States, numerous organizations purchased CBRS priority access licenses (PALs) in an FCC auction in 2020. And many of these entities plan to use their CBRS spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band to create private wireless networks.

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Private wireless networks have been popular in Europe for a while because organizations were able to obtain spectrum. These networks are set to take off in the United States now that CBRS licensed spectrum has become available.

A private wireless network also needs a core. This can be proprietary equipment from a vendor or disaggregated hardware and software from one or more different vendors, or it can even be commodity hardware that runs open source software. The core software includes a database of subscribers and subscriber identity module (SIM) card management. SIM cards are another requirement for a private wireless network. Only SIM cards that are activated to the private network will connect, helping to ensure complete control over how and which users connect.

The core also provides other functions such as traffic shaping, quality of service rules, billing and data plan rules, and parameters related to monitoring the network itself.

One of the benefits of a private wireless network is that the network traffic does not have to be sent back and forth to a core network in a distant location. All the traffic can stay on-premises, which improves speed, latency, security and privacy.

A private wireless network also needs radios and antennas. In the U.S. the CBRS Alliance has a list of equipment certified to work on CBRS spectrum. This equipment is called Citizens Broadband Radio Devices (CBSDs).

Organization that want a private wireless network can either build and run it themselves; outsource it to a systems integrator; or outsource it to a mobile network operator.

There are a number of industry verticals that make excellent candidates for the use of private wireless networks including energy and utilities; retail; healthcare; factories; transportation, manufacturing and education, to name a few. 

Energy and utilities
CBRS will bring change to energy and utility industries

Retail
Retail explores use of CBRS private wireless networks for backhaul, security

Healthcare
Hospitals to use CBRS private wireless networks to enhance care

Factories
Private CBRS networks seen as a good fit for factories

Transportation
Transportation hubs likely to deploy private wireless networks using CBRS

Education
CBRS enables private wireless networks for education

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