SASE and Edge

Private Mobile Networks – Driving Edge Digital Transformation

Edge is emerging as a new area of innovation as enterprises strive to build intelligent and immersive digital experiences for their customers. This digital transformation at the edge is driving the development of modern edge-native workloads that have low-latency and high throughput requirements to process real-time data for immediate business outcomes. 

Industries such as retail, manufacturing, healthcare, and so on want to deliver these modern workloads to enable intelligent digital business with immersive digital experiences for their employees and customers close to the locations where data is produced and consumed.  

To ensure a seamless experience at the edge, it is imperative to have reliable connectivity between edge devices and the enterprise edge. This has traditionally been achieved by a wired ethernet connection to provide high speed, low latency, and stable connectivity to devices.  However, wired connectivity may not be a viable option for edge devices due to mobility restrictions (e.g. devices in a hospital, fork lifts in a warehouse, etc). In addition, connecting dozens of devices with cable also may result in an expensive, cabled mess. 

For these use cases, many enterprises are looking to wireless technologies like Wi-Fi and private mobile networks to enable their edge requirements. Wi-Fi has become immensely popular and continues to prove a useful technology with the introduction of Wi-Fi 6.  Private mobile networks represent a new approach to providing wireless connectivity that’s different from Wi-Fi.  Let’s take a closer look at the technologies offering enterprise wireless connectivity. 

Wireless Technologies 

Wireless technologies use radio waves to allow people to communicate or transfer data from one point to another without using cables/wires. As the two primary wireless technologies Wi-Fi and private mobile networks complement each other by providing different types of wireless communication for different needs and can be used together to create a comprehensive wireless communication solution. 

First, let’s look at the solution that provides dedicated and secure cellular communication for more demanding and critical applications – Private 5G. This solution is appropriate for industrial and enterprise use cases, where low latency, mobility, security, stronger coverage, and high reliability are among the requirements. Private 5G will likely be a widely adopted solution in the next few years as service providers and enterprises alike are investing heavily on their edge strategies and business models.   

5G, brings incredible advancements to existing 4G/LTE technology:  

  • 50x improvements to speed  
  • 10x less latency  
  • 1000x more capacity 

Private 5G takes these new capabilities to connect more devices and transmit more data than ever before, faster than ever before. All you need is a 5G capable device.(Source: 

Now, let’s review the second option. Wi-Fi 6 provides high-speed wireless connectivity for local networks, such as homes or small businesses. Best suited for applications that do not require low latency or secured communication, Wi-Fi technology is also undergoing an evolution. Providing low latency, enhanced gigabit speeds, low battery consumption, Wi-Fi 6 will better serve large number of devices and users. 

An IEEE 802.11ax standard, Wi-Fi 6 is delivering 4x higher capacity than Wi-Fi 5 and it is offering nearly triple the speed of its predecessor. (Source: ScienceDirect). All you need is Wi-Fi 6 compliant access point to get the full speed, latency, and capacity improvements. Most enterprises have started upgrading to Wi-Fi 6. 

What does this mean? 

  • Wi-Fi costs lower in terms of deployment, scalability, and maintenance, so it is a dominant technology for standard-operation business environments and home. It is also a good solution for the personal devices like Tablets, PCs, TVs, home appliances etc., which all need to be connected to the network.  
  • Private 5G is better suited for applications demanding robust, low-latency connectivity driving business critical outcomes in manufacturing, retail industries and smart cities. 

Together, these two solutions work together to provide a comprehensive wireless communication solution that meets different communication needs in various environments. For example, a factory can use Private 5G for real-time machine-to-machine communication and control, while using Wi-Fi 6 for connecting devices such as laptops or smartphones for non-critical purposes. 

Technological Differences Between  

Factors Private 5G Wi-Fi 6/6E 
Standard 3GPP Rel. 15 and beyond IEEE 802.11ax  
Spectrum Licensed and Unlicensed Unlicensed 
Operating Frequency Sub 1 GHz, 1 to 6 GHz, Greater than 6 GHz in millimeter wave range at 28 GHz and 40 GHz 2.4 GHz, Private 5GHz (Wifi 6E also supports 6 GHz band) 
Mobility Typically supports smooth and fast handovers, as the technology is designed to provide high-speed and low-latency communication. Wi-Fi is not designed to be a mobility standard. Fast roaming can improve the mobility but may still result in some interruptions in the connection. 
Backward Compatibility Yes Yes (Wi-Fi 6E is not backward compatible in case of 6GHz band) 
Modulation 256 QAM 1024 QAM 
Security Auth: EAP-AKA or 5G-AKA Offers network-level security through the deployment of dedicated infrastructure and control by a single network operator Auth: WPA2/WPA3 (for Wifi6), WPA 3 mandatory (for Wi-Fi 6E) Does not offer a dedicated network-level security solution but can be improved by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or other security solutions. 
Maturity It is in emerging stage Matured technology with massive deployments across homes, offices, enterprises etc. 
IT Expertise on-site Mostly it will be managed by SPs/MSPs/DC-Ops Yes, as it will be installed and managed locally. 
Infrastructure Cellular Access Points/UE’s/Centralized Controllers Wi-Fi Access Points/UE’s/Centralized Controllers 
Coverage Wide-Range (Suitable for both indoor and outdoor) Short-Range (Mainly for indoors) 

As shown in the figure below, VMware Edge Compute stack at enterprise edge connects with the edge devices using wired and wireless technologies such as private mobile networks and Wi-Fi. 

Private 5G and Wi-Fi 6: Coexistence and Interoperability  

Enterprises are investigating how to best leverage this suite of technologies. Some common queries include: 

  • What could be the potential use cases for allowing the subscribers/devices to roam between these technologies?  
  • Can Wi-Fi sub-networks and 5G slicing come together in such deployments?  
  • What are the policy controls one should foresee needing to facilitate interoperability between the two technologies?  
  • As per the Wi-Fi Broadband Alliance, it is a business requirement to setup an interface between cellular operators and Wi-Fi vendors to enable certain level of network manageability and policy control? Can this interface provide bandwidth and Quality of Service (QoS) negotiation between Wi-Fi and 5G traffic along with authentication and compatibility of the devices to access the required networks? 

When these two technologies coexist, they can empower the realization of network innovations such as edge computing and IOT growth capabilities. Just like Wi-Fi and LTE started working together to enable Wi-Fi offloading for phone calls, a similar relationship will exist for this next generation of technologies.  , In fact, this relationship has ignited additional work. Wi-Fi alliance is working on Passpoint and Hotspot 2.0 for seamless offloading from cellular network onto Wi-Fi. Also, 3GPP standards are working towards steering, switching, and splitting the traffic between the 5G and Wi-Fi. 

For edge use cases this technology pairing will provide interoperability to enable seamless user experiences. The 5G standards which is on the road to wider adoption offers a modern way to support interoperability to simplify management and reduce complexity.  

Enterprise edge will require reliable, secured, robust and highly available connectivity solutions which can co-exist and interoperate to provide seamless user experience. Collaborations among mobile, Wi-Fi, and enterprise edge technology will facilitate the emergence of new, highly demanding use cases that will provide efficiency improvements, and propel business growth for enterprises. 

Learn more about VMware Private Mobile Network


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