Private Networks vs WIFI: Which Is the Best Network for Your Enterprise?


In the world of the digital era, network connectivity is essential for day-to-day operations. From surfing the internet to managing an enterprise’s wireless network, having network connectivity allow businesses to communicate and share information more easily and rapidly with their customers. 

With this understanding, the task that befalls an enterprise when building a new wireless network is to navigate through a plethora of options, each with its unique architecture and set of advantages. Two such options often considered are Private LTE and Wi-Fi networks. This article aims to provide a comparative analysis of these two networks and offer insights to enterprises seeking to leverage them.

The deployment of 5G around the world introduces another layer to this decision-making process. A Private 5G network brings to the table additional features and capabilities, positioning itself as a potential upgrade from Private LTE and Wi-Fi networks, tailored to fit specific enterprise applications.

Private LTE vs Wi-Fi networks

When evaluating network options for an enterprise, the distinct attributes of Private LTE and Wi-Fi networks play a crucial role in shaping the decision-making process. Each network type exhibits unique strengths and potential limitations.

•    Architecture: The architectural complexity of these networks is the initial point of divergence. Wi-Fi networks are characterized by a straightforward setup procedure, involving the deployment of access points and routers to establish connectivity. This simplicity makes Wi-Fi a convenient choice for environments that require basic wireless access. On the other hand, Private LTE networks exhibit a more intricate architecture. They comprise small cells, which form part of the Radio Access Network (RAN). This structure allows for superior coverage and performance, albeit at the cost of increased complexity in terms of installation and management.
•    Bandwidth: There's a marked difference in bandwidth capacity between these two network types. Private LTE networks typically support a bandwidth ranging from 100Mbps to 1Gbps. This is a considerable range, sufficient for many applications. In contrast, Wi-Fi 6, the most common Wi-Fi technology, can theoretically support a bandwidth up to 10Gbps. 
•    Coverage: Even though the bandwidth Private LTE provides is slower compared to Wi-Fi, it provides better coverage, with its radio covering 4x more than a typical indoor Wi-Fi AP, which makes it a better solution in terms of coverage.
•    Interference: Since Wi-Fi utilizes an open, shared, unlicensed spectrum, this could increase the likelihood of congestion and signal interference. Private LTE networks adopted centralized management of the spectrum between different networks to prevent interference. 
•    Latency: The latency Private LTE offers is 20 to 40 milliseconds round-trip. The Wi-Fi 6, for example, can be as low as 20ms, which is almost the same as Private LTE. 
•    Security: In terms of network security, Private LTE networks offer a higher level of protection. They necessitate an authorized SIM card to allow network access, creating a barrier against unauthorized access. Wi-Fi networks, however, can be set up without demanding stringent authentication or encryption, making them potentially more vulnerable to security breaches.
•    Spectrum: Finally, the nature of spectrum utilization differs significantly between these network types. Private LTE networks operate on a licensed spectrum, which guarantees exclusive access to a specific frequency band but incurs a cost. Conversely, Wi-Fi leverages a free, unlicensed spectrum, making it a cost-effective solution, albeit with a risk of potential interference due to shared access.

Private Network with Spectrum Sharing

The Role of Spectrum Sharing in Private Networks

Accessing the spectrum is a significant challenge for businesses intending to establish a wireless broadband network. They can either buy a spectrum, which is an expensive option or use an unlicensed spectrum that provides limited protection and is prone to interference.

This is where spectrum sharing comes into play, a strategy employed by numerous countries to provide more opportunities for enterprises to build private networks. The U.S. Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum is a prominent example of this strategy, offering an avenue for businesses to access a private network without purchasing expensive spectrum licenses.

Spectrum Sharing Success and International Adoption

The success of spectrum sharing in the U.S. has encouraged other countries like the United Kingdom, Germany, and France to follow suit. They have released spectrums for private network deployment by companies, expediting the adoption of private networks at little to no cost.

Applications of Private LTE and Wi-Fi Networks

Both Private LTE and Wi-Fi find broad applications in enterprise networks. Wi-Fi, with its easy implementation and lower costs, is suitable for enterprises that need indoor networks for offices or general-purpose environments.

However, in environments requiring industrial automation, dedicated workforce networks, and critical applications like warehouses, factories, retail stores, and airports, Private LTE is a better choice due to its wider coverage, lesser interference, and dedicated spectrum.

The Rise of Private 5G Networks

With the global proliferation of 5G, enterprises might consider upgrading to a Private 5G network for applications with more stringent requirements. By offering higher bandwidth, superior connectivity, and lower latency than both Private LTE and Wi-Fi, Private 5G paves the way for advanced applications such as VR and AR. Moreover, it can support a high density of devices within a given area, which could significantly benefit sectors like manufacturing.

Private 5G also provides lower latency than ever before, which could be useful in healthcare and automation sectors such as monitoring using critical healthcare applications and self-driving cars. 

In conclusion, the choice between Private LTE, Wi-Fi, or the increasingly relevant Private 5G networks is dependent on an enterprise's individual requirements, both present and anticipated. Each network type brings distinct characteristics to the table, and understanding these differences is vital for making a strategic decision.

This guide serves as a comparative primer, shedding light on these options and their implications in various business scenarios. As technology continues to evolve, so too should our understanding of its potential to enhance and streamline business operations.

Armed with this knowledge, enterprises are better positioned to select a network that ensures optimal functionality and future viability, ultimately contributing to their sustained growth and competitiveness in the digital era.

To learn more, explore our Use Cases that Drive Private 5G Monetization here.

In this Article: Cell Site DCSG Private 5G