Verizon launches private 5G for enterprise, public sector

Verizon Business announced the launch of On Site 5G, its first commercially available private 5G network solution for U.S. customers using millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum.

On Site 5G networks are custom-designed and managed by Verizon for large enterprises and the public sector. The service brings Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband capabilities to indoor or outdoor facilities – regardless of whether the premises is within a public 5G Ultra Wideband service area. The “Ultra Wideband” moniker is Verizon’s designator for mmWave-based services.

The private network offering uses a non-standalone (NSA) architecture that combines 5G mmWave small cells with the LTE packet core and LTE radios. In this case, it’s using small cells provided by Corning and the core provided by Ericsson, according to Sampath Sowmyanarayan, chief revenue officer of Verizon Business. 

According to Sowmyanarayan, On Site 5G opens the “commercial floodgates” for the promise of 5G Ultra Wideband, allowing large enterprises to custom tailor a 5G experience for any premises that demands it.

Some of Verizon’s clients include WeWork, where many people are getting back to the workplace in a hybrid fashion, combining work-from-home with on-site offices. Nowadays, people expect better quality networks pretty much everywhere – in their homes and in their offices.

Asked about how the 5G private networks might displace Wi-Fi, Sowmyanarayan said he believes both will remain side by side, with each serving different use cases. For example, Wi-Fi is good if you’re a visitor waiting in a hospital waiting room, but a hospital requires more than what Wi-Fi offers when they’re dealing with highly sensitive health information.

Verizon is among those behind the 5G-enabled system supporting the VA Palo Alto Healthcare system in California. Microsoft and Medivis are also part of that system that in February became the first 5G-enabled hospital in Veterans Affairs.

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In the future, the standalone (SA) version will come along. Right now, the device ecosystem for SA isn’t caught up, so Verizon is doubling down on NSA. “It’s the right thing to do right now,” he said. Otherwise, people would have to upgrade a bunch of new devices, and that’s not ideal. “People don’t have to upgrade everything to use this,” he said. “They can use a lot of the older devices,” as long as the device profiles are set up accordingly.

Verizon talks a lot about its Network as a Service (NaaS) as a framework around which it provides end-to-end solutions, and this can be considered a part of that. “This is not dissimilar,” he said, and part of the bigger NaaS story.

Private networking has been on a bit of a tear lately. Private networks burst on the scene in a big way with Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum, which is ideally suited for such deployments, with spectrum available direct to enterprises or through licensed service providers. That was a big driver for the CBRS ecosystem, with vendors like Nokia being one of the early advocates.

Of course, with its newly launched On Site 5G, Verizon will be more directly competing with its own vendors, including Nokia and Ericsson. But one thing the carrier has in its corner is access to all of that licensed spectrum under its control, and in this case, that’s mmWave.

A lot of flak has been directed at Verizon for selecting its mmWave strategy – both by Wall Street analysts and rivals like T-Mobile – but Verizon sees its work in mmWave as pioneering. In fact, this move to the private networking sector is the next logical step to bring mmWave to these types of environments, according to the carrier.

When you put that together with Verizon’s mobile edge compute (MEC), “it’s magical,” Sowmyanarayan said. “This is a very carefully orchestrated roadmap that we’ve been working on for the last two years,” using mmWave externally and now for private 5G networks. “You can see how we’ve been building this ecosystem up pretty consistently.”