As enterprise private 5G networks take off around the world, vendors are starting to miniaturize private 5G network components. This approach enables organizations to activate private 5G networks within a single box.
Cloud and networking vendors, such as Amazon, Cisco, Google, HPE and Microsoft, as well as more traditional radio access network (RAN) providers, like Ericsson and Nokia, currently provide standard private 5G equipment and services. Some of these companies, in addition to private 5G-focused startups, are now introducing private 5G-in-a-box products to their portfolios.
Development of private 5G in a box is still in the early days. In fact, private 5G networking, overall, is in the initial phases. According to Dell'Oro Group, private 5G network revenues won't surpass 4G LTE private networking gains until 2026. But these projections haven't stopped ambitious vendors from moving into the private 5G-in-a-box space.
How does private 5G in a box work?
The hardware in a private 5G network in-a-box product comprises the following components:
- at least one 5G radio;
- core software; and
- a gNodeB small cell device.
The simplified in-a-box architecture enables customers to set up standalone 5G networks themselves. Antennas are normally bolted onto the side of the unit, although some units have the antenna installed inside the box. Some models may also incorporate 4G LTE radios and software or Wi-Fi.
Vendor outlook on private 5G in a box
Airspan Networks displayed its in-a-box 5G network, which uses mobile core software from Athonet, at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2022. Amazon demonstrated the Airspan system at MWC, which Airspan said shows how its 5G network in-a-box system can run on the AWS Cloud or network edge.
HPE introduced a 5G-in-a-box system in February 2022. HPE bases its in-a-box system on its EL8000 Converged Edge System and uses third-generation Intel Xeon processors. HPE said use cases for the system include oil and gas, shipping and military applications. The company added that it has already tested 5G radios with Airspan and JMA Wireless and plans to work with more RAN providers.
HTC debuted its Reign Core 5G product at MWC 2022. Reign Core is a portable Open RAN-based private 5G network that is small enough to deploy in a suitcase. Greenfield 5G operator Dish is working with HTC to develop private wireless products in the U.S.
Several other providers around the world are developing private 5G-in-a-box networks, from Casa Systems to Mavenir. U.K.-based chipmaker Arm also demonstrated its multi-access edge computing-supported 5G products, which included a 5G network in-a-box system, at MWC 2022.
Private 5G in a box is on the horizon
Private 5G still has its share of challenges, such as equipment delivery problems. After the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, private 5G rollouts continue to face semiconductor shortages. Private 5G network hardware is expensive, and new equipment, such as private network-in-a-box gear, won't drop in price any time soon.
Nevertheless, the dawn of private 5G-in-a-box technology is here. More vendors will undoubtedly enter the market with miniaturized versions of 5G RAN technology to serve dedicated tasks everywhere from branch offices to shipping depots.