Augmenting Mobile Network Operator (MNO) Coverage with Private Wireless

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As enterprise customers look to address their operational needs centered around IoT, IIoT, and other edge use cases, they are also seeing the need to augment and fill gaps in their Mobile Network Operator (MNO) coverage.

This is especially true when it comes to MNO connectivity in areas where it is weak or non-existent, such as underground parking lots or other areas where employees and visitors need to have MNO connectivity. This need for connectivity is not just for MNO subscribers to make phone calls or send text messages, but it also enables them to leverage MNO services such as 911 emergency calling.

While MNOs allow their subscribers to roam on to each other’s networks via Internet Protocol (IP) Packet eXchange (IPX) Networks leveraging roaming agreements, today this classic roaming paradigm is not available for MNO subscriber devices with MNO SIM cards to roam onto private networks.

Another legacy solution for extending MNO connectivity indoors within enterprises is a Distributed Antenna System (DAS).

This solution brings in multiple MNO signals into a building and distributes the MNO signals over a DAS across the building. However, this solution is expensive because the signal source part of the solution must be replicated for each MNO that has to be supported. It is also quite complex, and enterprise customers are faced with high maintenance and refresh costs with DAS.

A more elegant and cost-effective solution that is gaining fast traction is the use of a private network as a neutral host. In this solution, the private network serves as a common access network that seamlessly connects to many operator networks. This solution leverages Multi-Operator Core Network (MOCN) technology, often implemented as a MOCN gateway that connects on one side to the CBRS-based private wireless radios and on the other side to multiple operator core networks in a secure manner.

When an MNO device comes into the coverage range of a CBRS private network that the enterprise has deployed, the device recognizes this private network as an extension of its MNO network. It can connect through the private network via the neutral host MOCN gateway to the MNO core, where it is authenticated and served by its own MNO. In this manner, the customer gets a private network for private data connectivity for its IoT and enterprise applications, while at the same time allowing bring-your-own-device (BYOD) MNO devices belonging to visitors and employees to connect to the MNO networks through the same network to avail of MNO services. Note that this cost-effective option to extend MNO coverage via a private network serving as a neutral host is applicable to both indoor and outdoor areas of poor or non-existent MNO coverage.

Federated Wireless is bringing this capability to some of its customers today with a private network plus a certified neutral host gateway solution. We ensure that the neutral host gateway solution that is right-sized to meet the customers’ needs in terms of the number of devices that need to be supported for MNO connectivity.

In conclusion, enterprise customers are seeing the need to augment and fill gaps in their MNO coverage, especially in areas where it is weak or non-existent. The use of a private network as a neutral host is an elegant and cost-effective solution that provides connectivity to MNO subscribers in a secure manner, while at the same time allowing employees and authorized devices to connect to the private network for data access. This solution is emerging as a cheaper, less complex option than DAS while providing greater ROI with private connectivity.

Ready to learn more about neutral host? Check out our recent webinar, Private 5G Innovation: The Future of Neutral Host Networks.

Private Wireless Starter Networks: Start Small and Fast, Scale Smarter

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Private wireless networks are increasingly being adopted by enterprises in need of reliable and secure connectivity solutions tailored to their specific needs.

While some deployments are straightforward, many enterprises have more complex use cases that require thoughtful implementations. Often, these enterprises prefer to begin their journey with private wireless with a starter deployment or innovation network to test use cases and optimize the network before investing in a full-scale deployment.

In this article, we discuss the key learnings from a starter deployment that can help enterprise customers make informed decisions about how to leverage private wireless.

One of the main benefits of a starter deployment is that customers can truly see the performance of the network for their applications of interest with a relatively small investment.

During this time, the network can be optimized in terms of device and application configurations to ensure the targeted use cases are successful. For example, adjustments can be made to data rates or downlink-uplink bandwidth splits to optimize performance for download- or upload-heavy operations. In some cases, end-to-end latencies across the private network can be optimized to improve application performance for real-time operations, such as warehouse automation that uses state-of-the-art robotics.

Another important area of learning is IT integration. Enterprise customers often have clearly do’s and don’ts related to Virtual Local Area Network (VLAN) isolation, routing, virtual private network (VPN) access, and other security-related requirements. Private network providers work closely with customers to deploy a network that is fully aligned with their security guidelines to mitigate any potential disruption.

IT integration for a private network also includes edge computing and storage, which is becoming increasingly important as more applications, such as on-premises video analysis, run on edge computing appliances. Private networks offer a secure solution for transporting data between end-user or client devices and enterprise edge computing and storage without data having to leave the enterprise network. A starter network provides an opportunity to optimize such integration.

Integrating with customers’ workflows for managing and operating the network is yet another critical area of learning from a starter deployment. This includes the enterprise IT owner understanding the support provided for the network, establishing secure access for troubleshooting and maintenance, and familiarization with any “hooks and knobs” needed for operational technology (OT) needs. As private networks become more widely adopted across industries, the learnings described above can be shared as best practices and reference templates to benefit similar deployments at scale.

Ubiquitous coverage with good capacity performance is another key benefit of private wireless networks. While initial RF and network planning go a long way toward achieving this goal, a starter network allows for on-the-ground optimization to fine-tune coverage for unique RF propagation characteristics that are hard to address through statistical planning tools. This coverage fine-tuning also applies to mobility, which is an inherent strength of private wireless networks based on cellular technologies.

Private networks offer enterprise customers the flexibility to deploy 4G or 5G connectivity to meet their requirements. While 5G has garnered a lot of interest, a mature 4G network, and device ecosystem can deliver many of the same benefits. A starter network allows customers to understand what 5G capabilities they truly need today and what they can adequately achieve with a 4G network.

In many enterprise deployments, private networks complement existing investments in Wi-Fi connectivity or mobile network operator (MNO) contracts. A starter network allows customers to partition workloads across these investments in a thoughtful manner, where they may use a private network to support new workloads and, in some cases, replace existing connectivity solutions that are not working well with the more cost-effective high-performance private network option.

In conclusion, a starter deployment or innovation network can provide enterprise customers with valuable insights and learnings that enable them to make informed decisions when deploying private wireless networks. By starting small, starting fast, and scaling smart, customers can optimize the network for their specific needs and achieve reliable and secure connectivity that meets their requirements.

Learn more about how a Federated Wireless innovation network became the on-ramp to 5G at Cal Poly University.