back to article Building your own private 5G is as easy as Wi-Fi

As we’re working towards finishing our Private 5G book, we’ve been completing the Hands-On Experience Appendix. That necessitated a bit more, er, hands-on work than we normally would do, which provided the impetus for this column. Our Private 5G book is informed by our experience designing and implementing an open source …

  1. Sgt_Oddball

    I've seen a mobile version of this in the flesh.

    Really good idea for managing devices over a wide area but not so large than regular networks would be preferable.

    A good example was for music festivals, hand all vendors their own sims so they can accept card payments on a dedicated network, run video/audio over dedicated networks. All on some that won't be completely borked because of abit of rain or having the APs saturated because different vendors are trying to use WiFi for other none transaction data.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: I've seen a mobile version of this in the flesh.

      Care to name festival/country.

      Suspect network was run by a contractor who had all the necessary frequency licences to support a reasonable throughput.

      1. Sgt_Oddball

        Re: I've seen a mobile version of this in the flesh.

        The contractor in question works in partnership with a rather large network in the UK... And spun the tech off their highly mobile, mobile cell towers (runs out the back of a L200 pickup so they can drive it up a mountain if need be).

        So licencing of the airwaves isn't a problem for them. I was disappointed though the the SDR kit was some off-the-shelf Dell rack mount servers. All solid-state drives though so less issues with vibration.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: I've seen a mobile version of this in the flesh.

          EE provided mobile services at Glastonbury since 2003, from this year (2023) the service will provided by Vodafone.

          [,from%20EE%20after%2020%20years. ]

          I think one of the big benefits of WiFi is the unlicensed frequencies, of which we clearly need more of ! :)

  2. xyz Silver badge

    Quick question...

    Don't you need licences for all this? Example... I'm stuck at 2.4ghz on my outdoor wifi because outdoor 5ghz is illegal (EU). As for IoT, 5G really chews through power and LoRa is much more power sensible and *Long Range*.

    Don't want to put a downer on stuff, but just because you can doesn't mean you're allowed to.

    Also, I thought the mobile big boys had a cunning plan to do this.

    1. Martin Summers Silver badge

      Re: Quick question...

      "Note that the approach I’m describing uses CBRS spectrum that is allocated in the US; other countries are in different stages of establishing similar allocations. You'll have to do your own research there. In the UK, you'll likely need to talk to Ofcom."

  3. Gerlad Dreisewerd

    What I need is a 3G network.

    Building a private 5G network is wonderful but I'd love the ability to build a private 3G cell so my CPAP can once again talk to the manufacturer.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: What I need is a 3G network.

      My final client before I retired had a femtocell (or possibly several) so that their mobile phoness would work inside the large metal shed that housed their factory. I never looked at the mechanisms or costs of this but I assume it must have been put together in association with their mobile operator.

      1. sten2012 Bronze badge

        Re: What I need is a 3G network.

        You can get femtocells for just houses with minimal hassle (not sure on 5g, mind).

        From what I understand they are essentially a VPN link into similar networks that roaming operators use, using your big standard WiFi. I've seen them cheap as chips. Few hundred quid but obviously your covering the bandwidth.

        Take this with a punch of salt, and apologies for anyone actually working in telcos cringing their arse off at this comment.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: What I need is a 3G network.

          You might be able to get femtocells, however they need the networks to support them. EE withdrew support for its (3G) Signal Box in June 2022, expecting customers to switch to WiFi Calling, which naturally requires a compatible device.

          NB. Need to double check specifications of device particularly if supplied by network operator…

          At the beginning of lockdown EE provided a client with a batch of Alcatel 3T8 tablets, according to Alcatel’s website they supported VoWiFi, however, this functionality wasn’t included in the EE variant…

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And here were are ..

    .. we're now building Stingrays as DIY projects. Gotta love progress.


  5. Flak

    I am not a Luddite, but...

    Ah, 5G...

    Interesting technology still trying to justify its existence in the private space for anything other than edge use cases, tinkerers and bleeding edge deployments.

    Good luck to anyone attempting a plug & play deployment as you would on WiFi and expecting a smooth ride.


    Frequencies and licensing (tread carefully to comply with regulations)

    Hardware availability (still thin on the ground other than mobile handsets)

    SIMs (you will need them)

    Roaming from private to public networks (if required - finding a mobile operator willing to play and support this - )

    Operating the network (it is a specialism)

    Please prove me wrong - I want to believe!

    1. Telet

      Re: I am not a Luddite, but...

      All spot on - in order to construct a practicable and fully functioning 4G cell, you need all of these.

      Building a 5G system is even more challenging.

      The good news is that there are a number of organisations that can help you with sourcing the missing parts - including my team - TELET.

      We are great supporters of Open Source software and are in the process of putting together a number of MOSES (Mobile Open Source Event & Showcase) - showing off the best ways of putting the jigsaw together.

      We are also a full operator member of the GSMA.

      A little gratuitous use of the Google search engine will give you a lot more info!

    2. sten2012 Bronze badge

      Re: I am not a Luddite, but...

      Better that the currently closed, absolutely no option older alternatives though! Ok it's not yet practical or useful for most scenarios but it's a huge step in the right direction and further opening the closedness of it all will only increase applications.

      Licensing is an issue, absolutely. In the UK I'm referring to at least. But ofcom will only respond to the market and needs in that regards, they were never going to lead it.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "This means defining the Mobile Country Code (MCC) ..."

    ... and then we're back to that place where such definitions are either redundant or create confusion. There's no progress in this field.

  7. Frozit

    User friendly device.....

    Holy. Read the user guide for the Sercomm.

    I haven't read such a hardcore networking guide in many years. Nothing user friendly there. Made me feel warm and fuzzy, remembering mid 80s networking.

  8. IncreasinglyDisaffected

    Or just play on Easy Mode

    You can install srsLTE, set the frequencies and bandwidths (in Hertz! Not MHz or GHz!) and plug in a National Instruments B205 SDR ($800 or so). You'll be running in a day the first time and 20 minutes each time after you do it once. I'm using the Ubuntu "low Latency" kernel, but I don't know if it's really necessary. I'll tell you srsLTE does NOT work well in VM with USB passthrough, too much jitter. Definitely run on bare metal. I have an amateur radio license so I use 1260 MHz for my uplink and 915 MHz for my downlink in a 5 MHz bandwidth. I don't do this for money, just to learn and experiment, so the amateur license is legal. There is license-free spectrum in the US at 902-915 and 2.4-2.45 GHz, regulated at 47CFR15. It still has other requirements to be met for type approval. For commercial use, an experimental license via 47CFR5 is the way to go. UK license-free is probably in the 868MHz neighborhood (and 2.4 GHz) but I have no clue what other restrictions Ofcom would place on it.

    1. Telet

      Re: Or just play on Easy Mode

      I am a radio amateur too - and have discussed applications of 3GPP based mobile technologies within the Ham Bands for a number of years - most notably at the TAPR Convention in Chicago a couple of years ago.

      The stay on the right side of the authorities, you have to be a bit careful about encryption - remember that this is built into modern mobile systems and use of encrypted communications is generally forbidden for radio amateurs. The easiest way of getting around this is to use publicly known keys.

      My preferred band for experimenting is Band 40 (2300 MHz) - the bottom half of which is the Amateur 23cms band. Most modern mobile devices support this band - and as it uses a TDD waveform, spectrum issues are a little simpler than when using FDD waveforms.

      If you would like a chat about what we have been doing - please do drop me a line.

      James - G6FPC

  9. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "ivory tower architects"

    Whilst a finely carved base station tower would be an improvement on the normal run of things you, quite rightly, can't get the ivory these days.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      can't get the ivory these days.

      Well, perhaps here "Ivory" was being used in the "quite like Ivor" sense... :-)

      For example, do the towers in question look a bit like a tall and thin version of Sheffield's Park Hill estate?

    2. Korev Silver badge

      "ivory tower architects"

      Whilst a finely carved base station tower would be an improvement on the normal run of things you, quite rightly, can't get the ivory these days.

      Well, that's the elephant in the room...

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Well played, sir.

        1. Korev Silver badge

          Thank you

          As we're almost over hump day -->

  10. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    I wanted to check out your links. It's a shame that is in a DigitalOcean network blocked locally for persistent brute-force attacks.

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