Private Mobile Networks: Know Your Language 

This is the first article in a two-part series on private mobile networks. Part two is about security.

Increasingly, mobility has become the default technology platform for organizations as diverse as multinational corporations or small businesses. Whether you’re talking about computers, consumer-class devices or “intelligent things,” the days of the fixed endpoint tethered to a desk or some other stationary location are pretty much gone.

That means that connecting devices, applications and the people who use them now is based predominantly on private mobile networks. Of course, WiFi has enjoyed a long run as a successful wireless technology, but WiFi’s perceived limitations for reliable, secure and high-performance networking over wider distances have driven organizations to search for more options.

Regardless of what technology platforms, carrier partners or performance specification are being used, your organization’s data and other digital assets are likely architected as private mobile networks. 

And it’s a huge and rapidly expanding market: Research pegs the private mobile network market specifically built around private LTE and 5G technologies at nearly $5 billion by the end of 2020, growing to nearly $8 billion within three years.

But making those choices often requires C-suite executives to cut through an array of acronyms that often punctuate discussions led by technical executives, such as CTOs, CIOs and CISOs. Maybe you happen to be well versed, but don’t assume everyone is. Here’s a crash course on the technical terms put into a business context. Could come in handy in future board meetings.    

Private Mobile Networks: A private mobile network delivers connectivity over licensed, unlicensed or deregulated communications spectrum. It enables mobile devices — computers, tablets, smartphones, wearables or “connected things” — to interoperate as a private network over local, metropolitan or wide areas. Private mobile networks allow business executives and board members to conduct business on nearly any device, in just about any location at any time. These networks have become faster, more functional and more secure over the past 20 years.

4G: “Fourth generation” wireless networks have been the de facto standard for most of the past decade, and enjoy widespread acceptance and utility for wireless communications. As the name implies, it offers a wide range of improvements over its 2G and 3G predecessor networks, including substantially faster speed, improved connection reliability and smoother handoffs across different networks. It’s likely that many of your current connectivity infrastructure is built upon 4G technology, but that’s about to change.…

5G: Fifth-generation networks are raising the bar substantially for network performance, functionality and, importantly, security. Although 5G technology has yet to be widely rolled out by the major carriers in the U.S. and other parts of the world, it is seen as an exciting upgrade that is already opening up new applications that require carrier-class performance across networks built specifically for mobile devices. Of course, 5G’s increased speed and improved reliability (noted as “Quality of Service”) makes it very appealing to consumers, which explains why you’re seeing a lot of 5G-related advertising and marketing by telecom companies. And while that technology has great appeal to businesses as well, keep in mind two issues: 5G is still in its very early stages of national and global rollouts, and its use in business environments requires substantial attention to detail when it comes to cybersecurity. 

Long-Term Evolution (LTE): Private LTE networks are often thought to be synonymous with 4G networks, but they’re not exactly the same thing. LTE is a particular type of 4G technology, although its use in 4G environments is so ubiquitous that many people often use the terms interchangeably. 

Citizens Band Radio Service (CBRS): No, this isn’t for long-haul truckers. CBRS was established by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission in 2015 to allow government and private enterprises to share the 3.5-Gz band and to collaborate in building a true ecosystem for technology, service and support. A major goal of CBRS is to plug the gaps in the capabilities of WiFi technology, while helping to create ample runway for long-term technology development and deployment for faster, more reliable and more secure mobile networks that deliver more data and services.

Ultra-Reliable, Low-Latency Communications (URLLC): As the name implies, this is designed to deliver high-reliability communications using technologies that keep latency (the time required to respond to specific requests over the network) to the lowest possible level. URLLC is a key function of 5G networks, specifically for applications where near-instantaneous response is essential, such as many Internet of Things applications, factory automation, financial services and telemedicine.

As you think about modernizing your organization’s networking infrastructure for improved performance and functionality, make sure your business and technical executives are talking the same language. If your plan is to support the mandate for anywhere/anytime secure, reliable and high-performance mobile communications, you’ll need to keep these terms straight.

Mike Perkowski is an award-winning journalist who has covered the technology industry across a wide range of topics and trends. 

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