The emergence of the Citizens Radio Broad Service (CBRS)Citizens Radio Broad Service (CBRS) and available spectrum that’s come with it has made private LTE networks a reality for more commercial real estate owners and enterprises in recent years. Private LTE networks remove CRE owners from the difficult position of deciding between a less expensive, but also less powerful in-building network (Wi-Fi), or entering an expensive agreement with carriers to address their needs.
Having a private LTE network in place and maximizing its potential are however two different things. AMDOCS helps CRE owners and enterprises do the latter. The company uses a variety of cloud-native modular and open offerings and services to help building owners and enterprises enable their private wireless networks. This includes private LTE as well as emerging 5G networks. AMDOCS provides end-to-end solutions and services covering design, deployment, optimization and operations leveraging their open ecosystem of partners.
“Our approach is very customer and user centric, which means we focus on the enterprise’s needs,” AMDOCS Director—Emerging Technology Solutions Karpura, Suryadevara said. “At the end of the day, you know private LTE or 5G networks need to solve a business problem and help enterprises. Towards that end, we work really hard to get the most suitable solution.”
THE AMDOCS PROCESS
AMDOCS’ solutions and services are not tied one specific network equipment vendor, so its recommendations are always solely based on what’s best for the enterprise’s needs. The company also takes the total cost of ownership into consideration. After clients have completed their planning stages, AMDOCS helps procure the network products from its partner ecosystem and then deploy, configure, turn on the service and finish all the required systems integration work.
Once the enterprise’s network is in place, AMDOCS can provide optimization and service operations support in a variety of models, including a build-operate- transfer approach where AMDOCS manages the initial network service and operations until the enterprise teams are able to manage the network on their own.
SELECTING A CORE NETWORK SOLUTION FOR A PRIVATE LTE NETWORK
There are two key factors enterprises need to keep in mind when they choose a private LTE core solution, according to Suryadevara. The first factor is flexibility. A Private LTE network doesn’t only need a core network—it needs one that has flexible deployment options to support a mix of use cases. The core network must provide all and any standard functionality that the enterprise requires. It must recognize use cases the enterprise may want to use, whether that’s Internet of Things (IoT) devices, video or voice. In addition, the enterprise needs to ensure that the secure network it’s procuring can be deployed in multiple locations. For example, a main campus with satellite locations might have different needs in terms of bandwidth based on the location, so the solution must be “scalable.” It must be deployable in small coverage areas, but also expandable in case the enterprise wants to scale and add more sites.
Second, the solution should also be easy for the enterprise’s IT teams to manage. Finally, from a management perspective, the solution must provide simplified end user (enterprise) control. The goal is that the core network looks like a regular router so the current enterprise teams can configure IP routing , VPNs, security policies, device grouping and more.
“Enterprises are used to deploying plug and play Wi-Fi type nodes and then managing the user’s configurations, traffic and security flows,” Suryadevara said. “Making Private LTE easy for an enterprise means providing interfaces so the enterprise’s IT team can do what they do every day and not worry about delving into the deeper details of what 3GPP technology is. Solutions need to provide enough abstractions and easy to use features so that the enterprise can get things done quickly and easily.
“When you think about all these factors and what we are seeing in the market, the type of solution we’re presenting that is resonating strongly with customers is an all-in-one solution. Everything’s in one box—full core, configuration management, subscriber management as well as a lot of dashboards and service portals. This allows the solution to be deployed easily and provide operational convenience.”
MOVING FORWARD DEPLOYING A CORE NETWORK SOLUTION
Enterprises interested in a core network solution actually have two options. The first is for the enterprise to procure, deploy and manage the network on its own, with AMDOCS serving as the enabler.
Meanwhile, enterprises that don’t want to buy a core network can subscribe to a cloud-based private LTE core service. In this scenario, the enterprise would get this service from a private network operator or a mobile network operator that offers it.
“If an enterprise wanted to do a quick trial, it could deploy indoor small cells from a vendor like Amdocs who would source them from its partners”
“Ultimately, the decision to either procure it in-house or just pay for a service and the core network that is hosted somewhere else will depend on how much the enterprise wants to do it by themselves,” Suryadevara said. (Other considerations include) how much cost do they want to take on, do they want to have a CAPEX model in terms of procuring this—or are they comfortable with a monthly fee OPEX model in terms of running their private networks?”
The benefit of the core network as a service option is it’s easy to get started quickly. If an enterprise wanted to do a quick trial, it could deploy indoor small cells from a vendor like AMDOCS who would source them from its partners. The service would be turned on quickly and enterprises could run some pilots and trials. Afterwards, the customer can determine what its eventual deployment architecture should be, and if it needs to deploy the core network in-house instead.
Security is another key factor when deciding on whether to deploy a core network solution on-premise or off-premise. Cloud-based solutions are typically secure, but the data that runs through them is still leaving the enterprise. The idea of sensitive data going elsewhere might not sit well with some enterprises and they might opt to deploy the core network on-premises instead.
Purpose made Private LTE core solutions vs. mobile operator / commercial carrier grade focused cores
Private LTE core solutions and mobile operator carrier grade cores are compared and contrasted, but basically have the same functionality, according to Suryadevara. The major difference between the two is that there is more of a focus on procuring solutions to provide full 3GPP feature sets for public mobile networks.
“There are tens of millions of mobile subscribers in this case for the carriers and big mobile network operators, and so they need a full 3GPP feature set,” Suryadevara said. “The solution has to be highly scalable, highly stable and highly redundant. Their needs are different.”
On the other hand, there are the private enterprise LTE /5G cores which take more of a “core network in a box” approach. These platforms would support multiple technologies with the focus on delivering all the required core elements for an enterprise, including subscriber management and network management in small form factors. This is ideal for distributed deployments with the subscriber scale limited to the enterprise users.
“From a private LTE/5G point of view, it’s just one single platform. It starts with LTE and will evolve to 5G so that the enterprise does not have to go through the headache of major upgrades or ripping and replacing as the technology evolves.” Suryadevara said.
AMDOCS IS A ONE-STOP SHOP FOR NETWORK DEPLOYMENTS—AND MORE
Onboarding a core network solution for private LTE comes with a lot of decisions. AMDOCS however brings a lot of experience to every project to help enterprises pick the option that best fits their needs. The company has a lot of experience in deploying cellular networks, including the systems integration work. What sets the company apart from others in its field is its ability to deploy multi-vendor network components.
“This is our differentiator,” Suryadevara said. “The multi-vendor aspects, our systems integration expertise and providing an end-to-end solution. We also have extensive experience in network and service operations, so we know how to actually operate networks, troubleshoot and provide support. Those are the factors that set us apart.”