Powering remote area businesses with Cloud Packet Core and Ethernet over FWA


Spotlight on FWA | TelecomDrive.com

Driven by 5G technology, fixed wireless access (FWA) is experiencing significant growth.

According to Deloitte, 5G FWA connections are projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 90% from 2020 to 2026. This projected growth should be particularly beneficial for households in remote and underserved areas, as they can access high-speed internet via 5G antennas to run activities that include gaming, TV streaming and other domestic uses.

The underlying FWA principle is very simple: a household, for example, installs a small antenna outside of their house; this antenna connects via cable to customer premises equipment (CPE) inside the house and to the 5G network via the radio base station. The CPE holds a SIM card that authenticates the 5G network, and, then, one has an internet connection that enables multiple services like voice calls, video calls and any internet based service.

Meeting the needs of the enterprise

Yet, while FWA is suitable to a household or small business, it may not fully meet the needs of a large company.

Enterprises, for example, need a reliable and secure connection to transmit sensitive data and mostly rely on virtual local area networks (VLANs) to connect their various offices. A wired system might not be available to connect offices in remote areas and that’s where Ethernet over 5G FWA comes into the scene, bringing gains beyond mere connectivity.

Consider an organization with a headquarters located in a big city, and a production facility, perhaps in the mining sector, located in a rural area. At the factory, the company is deploying three advanced systems:

1.Remote-controlled machinery: including conveyer belts with automatic controllers and weight scales with data transmitters.

  1. Autonomous-driven trucks: these vehicles generate significant volumes of sensitive data, sending analytics information for remote processing and real-time monitoring that requires immediate action in case of alarms.
  2. A specialized video inspection system: operating around the clock in a challenging environment. This system relies on drones for visual inspections of equipment to detect potential issues and restricted area surveillance to detect unauthorized access.

Addressing key challenges

Using a standard FWA system for this new implementation presents several challenges, and it’s important to highlight the most significant ones.

The primary concern pertains to security. Confidential data, such as daily production figures from weight scales, data related to truck usage and maintenance and surveillance information, would traverse the public internet when transmitted from the production facility to the city headquarters.

This exposes the data to potential threats, as it becomes vulnerable while in transit through the internet. While use of a VPN could potentially solve this, that will not address the next items.

Another critical challenge is related to bandwidth.

Modern systems, including drones equipped with UltraHD cameras, generate a substantial volume of data. Accommodating this data flow requires additional bandwidth capacity to ensure seamless transmission and processing. The public internet may not support the necessary bandwidth end to end.

The third challenge revolves around prioritization and latency. Data generated at remote facilities must be transmitted across the network with the priority and speed it demands. Delays caused by network congestion, overloads or latency issues could significantly impact decision-making processes reliant on surveillance or alarm systems.

Addressing these challenges is crucial to ensure the successful implementation of this new system.

Solving these problems

Ethernet over 5G FWA can address the challenges above by extending the virtual local area network (VLAN) from the city-based HQ to the remote facility. This ensures that data reaches its destination without traversing the public internet.

Ethernet over FWA works by making use of Ethernet protocol data units (PDUs) to traverse the 5G radio and packet core networks, a unique 5G mechanism that enables 5G networks to establish Ethernet connections between 5G endpoints.

This approach doesn’t need to assign IP addresses to these devices; they can use their own VLAN IP address range.

Having Ethernet connectivity across locations allows secure and seamless integration of those internal office systems that control the machinery and autonomous trucks and conduct surveillance and inspections.

Furthermore, because it is using 5G, it can leverage unique 5G advanced services such as ultra-reliable low-latency communications (uRLLC) and network slicing.

There are two additional benefits worth highlighting. First, your Cloud Packet Core doesn’t need to assign public IP addresses to each device because they can use the Enterprise’s  VLAN IP address space. The second is full office integration, which enables the complete integration of internal office systems, in order to foster seamless operations, including broadcasting and printing.

What’s in it for communication service providers

Similarly, communication service providers (CSPs) are well-positioned to benefit from Ethernet over 5G FWA, and there are two critical dimensions worth highlighting.

First, it’s evident that a primary catalyst for 5G implementation is the pursuit of monetization. CSPs face the imperative of sustaining their businesses by innovating new services and expanding revenue streams. Ethernet over 5G FWA directly addresses this imperative, offering a great solution to meet these demands.

Second, there’s return on investment (ROI). Crafting a sound business plan necessitates a thorough consideration of the risks inherent in deploying network infrastructure in remote areas.

While initially relying solely on a single enterprise facility may appear daunting, there’s a compelling social aspect to consider. Thriving enterprises in remote locales tend to grow local populations. This influx of people, in turn, triggers a demand surge for various amenities like small businesses, educational institutions and healthcare systems, all of which rely heavily on robust connectivity services.

Moreover, local municipalities often rally behind initiatives to foster regional growth and are open to partnerships. This additional demand serves to bolster the positive trajectory of the business plan, mitigating initial concerns about risk.

Ethernet over 5G FWA is an evolution of a well-established service and extends the VLAN from an enterprise headquarter to a remote facility using the same IP range and preventing traffic from flowing through a vulnerable internet connection.

It is a promising source of new revenues for CSP and opens the door for a wide range of new services.

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Mike Hawley is Head of Mobility Management Packet Core R&D at Nokia, and has over 30 years of experience in wireless networks, with leadership roles in product management, pre-sales, systems engineering, and his true love, R&D. Mike is a passionate and charismatic leader, and he holds degrees in Electrical Engineering from the University of Notre Dame (Bachelors) and the University of California, Berkeley (Masters). When he’s not enabling brilliant engineers to turn their ideas into products and features in the real world, you can find him designing and building wood furniture or taking pictures of our planet’s beauty.