What is NPN in 5G?

  • My friend: Hi Ibrahim, I have a question for you.

    • Me: Please, go ahead.
  • My friend: I was wondering what is meant by NPN in 5G?

    • Me: NPN (Non-Public Network) is the naming used in 3GPP Rel.16 to represent the private networks, so NPN means simply a private network that is NOT used for a public use and is designed only for enterprises such as manufacturing, energy utilities, logistics, and transportation to support their services. So, private network services include many things such as automated robots at manufacturing lines, real-time monitoring for pipelines at utilities, and asset tracking for logistics.
  • My friend: But how can we build a private network for any enterprise?

    • Me: Actually, it can be deployed in mainly two categories which are SNPN (Standalone Non-Public Network) and PNI-NPN (Public Network Integrated Non-Public Network). So, SNPN means a network that is completely isolated from public networks and so the gNB, 5G core control plane (CP) and user plane (UP) are implemented within the premises of the enterprise. Even the spectrum used can be dedicated for enterprise same as done in some countries like Germany where the band 3.7-3.8 GHz is allocated for private networks or the enterprise can use the same spectrum used by the MNO. While PNI-NPN can have different flavors.
  • My friend: Really, so how PNI-NPN can be deployed for enterprises?

    • Me: PNI-NPN can deployed using RAN sharing, so the private network shares part of the RAN, especially gNB, with the public network, while other network functions are deployed on the enterprise premises and remain separated from the public network. Data traffic of the private network is delivered to the private 5G core UP in the enterprise, while data traffic of the public network is delivered to the 5G core UP in the mobile operator’s public network. Also, NPI-NPN can be deployed using RAN and control sharing, so in this scenario, the private network and the public network share the same RAN, while the control of the private network is handled by the 5G CP of the mobile operator’s network, along with the control of the public network subscribers. And lastly, PNI-NPN can be deployed, so that the whole private network is hosted on the public network. In this scenario, only the gNB is deployed on the enterprise premises and all other network functions are shared with the public network, so the traffic of each network, private and public, can be logically independent of one another, due to the separation using end-to-end network slicing.
  • My friend: Thank you very much. You made it very clear.

    • Me: You are most welcome.

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