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What exactly is a 5G LAN?

In today’s article, let’s talk about

If you know a little bit about communication technology, you will find that 5G LAN is actually a very interesting concept.

For 5G, you should be familiar with it, it is the evolution of 4G, and it is also the latest mobile communication technology we have.

And for LAN, you should be more familiar with it. Its full name is local area network, which means local area network. The network we have at home and the network we have in the office is basically LAN, and the one with wireless Wi-Fi is Wireless LAN (WLAN).

So, why do I say 5G LAN is interesting?

Because 5G is a wide coverage cellular communication network, while LAN is a small area data communication network. Two technologies don’t seem to be related.

In other words, 5G and LAN are two words that we all know separately. But together, they’re a little confusing. Isn’t it?

What exactly is 5G LAN?
In fact, 5G LAN, simply put, is the use of 5G technology, the terminal for “grouping”, “grouping”, to form a LAN network.

We all have 5G cell phones. When using 5G phones, have you noticed that even if you and your friends are close to each other (even face to face), your phone can’t search each other? The reason you can each other to communicate is that the data flow to the carrier or Internet service provider’s server, around the circle.

For the base station, all cell phone terminals are “isolated” from each other. This is based on security considerations, cell phones use their own channels, do not interfere with each other.

LAN, on the other hand, connects the terminals (cell phones, computers, etc.) in the area together into a “group”. This facilitates data transmission between each other and saves external network outlets.

In the LAN, terminals can address each other by MAC address and find each other (Layer 2 communication). For access to the external network, a router can be set up and routed in and out through IP addressing (Layer 3 communication).

We all know that “4G changes life, 5G changes society”. As the most mainstream mobile communication technology, 5G is tasked with the mission of “interconnecting everything and helping the digital transformation of hundreds of industries”, and needs to help users in vertical industries to open up connections.

Then, 5G cannot only connect each terminal to the cloud, but also realize the “proximity connection” between terminals and terminals.

Therefore, in the 3GPP R16 standard, a new feature, 5G LAN, has been introduced.

The principle and features of 5G LAN
In a 5G network, the administrator can modify the data in the user database (UDM network element) to contract services to specified terminal (UE) numbers, thus assigning them to the same or different VN Groups.

The user database provides the VN Group information of terminal numbers and access policies to the management network elements (SMF, AMF, PCF, etc.) of the 5G core network (5GC). Based on this information and policy rules, the management network element forms them into different LANs. this is the 5G LAN.

5G LANs support Layer 2 communication (same network segment, direct access to each other) and Layer 3 communication (cross-segment, with the help of routing). 5G LANs support unicast, as well as multicast and broadcast. In short, it is very flexible in the way they access each other and very simple in terms of networking.

In terms of scope, the 5G LAN supports mutual communication both under the same UPF (media-plane network element of the 5G core network) and under different UPFs. This is equivalent to breaking the physical distance limitation between terminals (even Beijing and Shanghai can communicate).

A particularly important point is that the network established by 5G LAN can be connected to the user’s existing data network, thus enabling plug-and-play and mutual access.

Application scenarios and advantages of 5G LANs
5G LAN enables grouping and connectivity between designated 5G terminals, greatly facilitating enterprises to build a more mobile LAN network. Many readers will surely ask, “Isn’t mobility already possible with the existing Wi-Fi technology? Why do we still need 5G LAN?

Don’t worry, let’s read on.

5G LAN enables local networking to help businesses, schools, government, home and other users to better interconnect terminals on a regional scale. It can be used for office networks, but its greater value lies in the transformation of the production environment in the campus, and the transformation of the grassroots network in industrial manufacturing, port terminals, energy mines, and other production-oriented enterprises.

Take industrial manufacturing as an example. In the past, for better automation and equipment control, “industrial bus” technology was used. There are many types of such technologies, which can be described as “various”.

Later, with the emergence of Ethernet and IP technology, the industrial community formed a consensus to evolve to Ethernet together, and the “Industrial Ethernet” was born. Now, no matter who’s industrial interconnection protocol is based on Ethernet, it is basically the same.

Later, industrial companies found that wired connectivity had too many limitations on mobility — there was always a “pigtail” behind the equipment that prevented free movement.

Moreover, wired connections were cumbersome, time-consuming and costly to deploy. Once the equipment or cable problems, replacement is also very delayed. Therefore, industry began to consider, the introduction of wireless communication technology.

Thus, technologies such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, have entered the industrial field.

So, back to the previous question, if there is Wi-Fi, why do we need 5G LAN?

The reasons are as follows.

First, the performance of Wi-Fi networks (especially Wi-Fi 4, Wi-Fi 5) is not as good as 5G.
In terms of transmission rate and time delay, 5G can better meet the needs of industrial robots (robotic arm control), intelligent quality inspection (high-speed image recognition), AGV (unmanned logistics cart) and other scenarios.

In terms of coverage, 5G has a larger coverage area than Wi-Fi and can better cover the park. 5G’s inter-cell switching capability is also stronger than Wi-Fi, which can bring users a better network experience.

Second, Wi-Fi network maintenance costs are high.
To build a Wi-Fi network in a campus, enterprises need to build their own wiring and buy their own equipment. The equipment is depreciated, damaged, updated, and maintained by dedicated personnel. A large number of Wi-Fi devices, configuration is also very troublesome.

5G is different. It is built and maintained by the operator, enterprises belong to rent (Wi-Fi vs. 5G, a bit like building your own server room vs. cloud computing).

In a comprehensive view, 5G will be more cost effective.

Third, the 5G LAN is more powerful.
The VN grouping of 5G LAN was mentioned earlier. In addition to isolating communications, a more important role of the grouping is to achieve QoS (class of service) differentiation of different networks.

For example, there are office networks, IT system networks, OT networks, etc. within an enterprise.

OT is Operational Technology. It is actually a network that connects industrial environments and equipment, such as lathes, robotic arms, sensors, instruments, AGVs, monitoring systems, MES, PLCs, etc.

Different networks have different performance requirements, some need low latency, some need high bandwidth, and some are not as demanding.

5G LAN can define different network performance for different VN groups on the basis of grouping. Some enterprises call this “microslicing”.

Fourth, 5G LAN is easier to manage and more secure.
We mentioned earlier that we can modify user sign-up data in the operator’s 5G UDM network elements to group users into VNs. So, do we have to go to the operator’s customer service every time we need to change the grouping information (join, delete, change) of a terminal?

Of course not.

The operator’s 5G network can open the modification authority to the enterprise network manager by developing an interface to enable self-service modification.

Of course, enterprises can also set their own private network policies according to their needs.

When establishing data connections, enterprises can also set up authorization and authentication mechanisms for strict management of VN subgroups. This security is much stronger and more convenient than Wi-Fi.

Case Study of 5G LAN
Next, let’s take a look at a specific networking case to see what the benefits of 5G LAN really are.

First, a manufacturing company with its own workshop, production line (or lathe) needs to connect PLCs and PLC consoles through the network.

Each assembly line has many devices that are also independent. It would be ideal to install 5G modules in each device of the assembly line. However, the cost seems to be a bit expensive at this stage.

Then, we introduce 5G industrial gateway, or 5G CPE, which can improve the cost performance. If it is suitable for wired, connect the wired port (Ethernet port, or PLC port). For wireless, connect to 5G or Wi-Fi.

If 5G does not support 5G LAN (before R16), it is possible to implement the connection between PLC and PLC controller. However, the entire 5G network is a Layer 3 protocol that relies on IP addressing, and the endpoint address is also an IP address, which does not support Layer 2 data forwarding. In order to achieve end-to-end communication, an AR (Access Router) must be added on each side to create a tunnel that encapsulates the industrial Layer 2 protocols and brings them to the opposite end.

This approach, not only increases the complexity, but also the cost (AR router purchase cost, AR router configuration labor and time cost). Imagine if there were thousands of assembly lines on the shop floor, then this cost would be staggering.

With the introduction of 5G LANs, 5G networks support direct transport of Layer 2 protocols, eliminating the need for AR routers. At the same time, the 5G network can provide routing for terminals without IP addresses, and the UPF can recognize the MAC addresses of terminals, turning the entire network into a minimalist single-layer network that communicates with each other on layer two.

The plug-and-play capability of 5G LAN can perfectly integrate itself with the customer’s existing network, reducing the impact on the customer’s existing network and eliminating the need for laborious renovation and upgrade, which can save a lot of cost.

From a macro perspective, 5G LAN is a collaboration of 5G and Ethernet technologies. In the future, TSN (Time Sensitive Network) technology, which is developed based on Ethernet technology, cannot be developed without the help of 5G LAN.

It is worth mentioning that 5G LAN can be used as a supplement to the traditional private line network of enterprises to connect off-site branch offices, in addition to facilitating the construction of campus internal networks.

Modules for 5G LAN
As you can see, 5G LAN is an important innovative technology for the implementation of 5G in vertical industries. It can build more robust 5G private network communications and help customers accelerate digital transformation and upgrade.

To better deploy 5G LAN, in addition to network-side upgrades, 5G modules are also needed to support it.

In the process of commercial implementation of 5G LAN technology, ZTE has launched the industry’s first 5G R16 Ready baseband chip platform – V516.

Based on this platform, Quectel, a leading module manufacturer in China, has successfully developed and commercialized several 5G modules supporting 5G LAN technology, including RG500U, RG200U, RM500U and other LGA, M.2 and Mini PCIe packaged modules.

These modules are highly reliable and can achieve ms-level airtime delay and 5G network timing with 1us accuracy, which can better meet the needs of industrial Internet applications such as high-precision machine collaboration in industrial manufacturing, multi-vehicle collaboration in warehousing and logistics, and differential protection in smart grid.

In Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, a well-known enterprise has established a 5G fully-connected factory with 5G LAN modules from MobileTech and completed the first 5G LAN commercial pilot in China.

As an automotive aluminum alloy precision die casting manufacturer, this company focuses on the field of auto parts manufacturing and is a typical discrete manufacturing enterprise.

The 5G LAN technology has helped these factories achieve more flexible connectivity, increasing the efficiency of factory line adjustment by 70% (7 days → 2 days), doubling the efficiency of MES network delivery (6 months → 3 months), and saving an average of about 750 man-days of tunnel configuration and maintenance work per year.

5G equipment installed in a well-known enterprise plant
Here, “5G + Industrial Internet” has truly enabled “flexible production”.

5G LAN has also been successfully implemented in a car brand, a university’s smart building, and an industrial enterprise’s flexible factory. In the future, 5G LAN will appear in our vision more often, enabling the digital transformation of hundreds of thousands of parks in China.

Industrial Internet is the cornerstone of the fourth industrial revolution, and 5G LAN technology innovation like 5G LAN is of great significance for the industrial sector to go digital, networked and intelligent across the board.

With the freezing of 5G R17 version, we are gradually ushering in the 5G-Advanced era. New excitement continues, and new technological innovations are emerging.

The innovations that accumulate over time will eventually lead humanity to the “smart connection of everything”. Let’s wait and see!


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