Empowering Education and Beyond with 5G Mobility-Free Private Networks


    Aug 24, 2023

    A guest post by Dr. Chen Dan, 5G Industry Director of the Government and Enterprise Department for China Unicom, exploring how 5G private networks represent an innovation breakthrough in education.

    Education plays a vital role in enhancing the progress and growth of individuals and society, and is essential to achieving the continuous advancement of civilization. In the words of Robin Cook, “Education is more than a luxury; it is a responsibility that society owes to itself.”

    As education continues to develop and integrate with emerging tech, like 5G, AI, and AR/VR, people expect a more far-reaching, efficient, and beneficial teaching and learning experience. To achieve this, a solid digital base has become indispensable.

    Recognizing this, China Unicom and Huawei carried out a 5G Education Private Network project, aiming to break the barriers in efficiency and security to conventional education networks. A proven success, the project captured the attention of the industry and received an Asia Mobile Award (AMO) — 5G Industry Challenge Award — at this year’s MWC Shanghai.

     5G Education Private Network wins an AMO award

    The 5G Education Private Network: A Breakthrough Innovation

    GSMA‘s AMOs are the most prestigious awards for the connectivity industry in the Asia region, and the 5G Industry Challenge Award celebrates the organizations and partnerships leveraging connectivity technologies to fuel the digital transformation of industries.

    The 5G education private network jointly constructed by China Unicom and Huawei was the first of its kind in China. Built on the Guangdong Education and Research Network (GDERNET), it has redefined the campus network experience for teachers and students at 168 universities.

    Previously, users had to configure VPNs to access the university intranet from off campus. The configuration process was complex, and involved a series of manual steps that required jumping across different UIs and several rounds of authentication. Additionally, campuses relied on optical fiber and Wi-Fi for communications, which were not cost-effective and could not provide the reliability and high bandwidth required by emerging campus applications. Campus networks were also likely to be congested during peak hours, deteriorating user experience.

    5G, with its three key features — Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB), Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communication (URLLC), and Massive Machine-Type Communications (mMTC) — coupled with state-of-the-art technologies, such as Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) and network slicing, addresses these struggles and offers a brand-new experience for campus users. Users can:

    • smoothly switch between campus intranets and the Internet anytime, anywhere, without needing to complete complex VPN configurations as they had to on 4G networks.
    • enjoy speeds up to 20 times faster than on a 4G network when using campus network services.
    • enjoy new experiences with cutting-edge 5G campus applications, such as Holographic Classroom, Cloud VR Teaching, and Intelligent Teaching Affairs.

    China Unicom’s Free-Mobility Private Network

    China Unicom fully recognizes 5G’s commercial and social value. To unleash its potential in all industry sectors and strengthen social infrastructure, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) released the ‘Set Sail Action Plan for 5G Applications’. Under this plan, China Unicom integrated 5G with various vertical industries and promoted the development and innovation of 5G applications.

    For B2B services, China Unicom released the first version of the 5G Private Network PLUS product for industrial customers in 2020, encompassing three models of private networks: virtual private network, hybrid private network, and exclusive private network. To facilitate the O&M of these networks, we built an integrated operations platform featuring one-entry subscription, one-click provisioning, and one-stop services.

    In 2021, China Unicom launched 5G Private Network PLUS 2.0, which further improved network capabilities, industry convergence, and operation services. In 2022, the product was upgraded to version 3.0, with local-, wide-, and cross-domain 5G private network products introduced for ten industries, including mining, steel, equipment manufacturing, port, electric power, ocean, Internet of Vehicles (IoV), healthcare, e-Government, and education. The 3.0 version, with networks further synergized with computing power, is now empowering over 20,000 5G commercial applications in 4,818 enterprises.

    Education is a key field that China Unicom focuses on. At World Telecommunication and Information Society Day of 2022, China Unicom launched the 5G Free-Mobility Private Network for education, positioned as a flagship product of the 5G Private Network PLUS family.

    The 5G Free-Mobility Private Network lays a solid foundation for the 5G education private network, perfectly addressing the three major challenges of conventional campus networks: unsatisfactory service experience, inadequate data security, and complex O&M. It allows for:

    • Superlative service experience: Leveraging the intelligent UL CL-based traffic steering technologies of Mobile VPN, the 5G Free-Mobility Private Network enables users to smoothly switch between intranets and the Internet anytime, anywhere, without needing to change SIM cards or phone numbers. With 5G coverage throughout the campus and empowered by super uplink, users can enjoy a much better campus service experience.
    • Solid data security: Laid upon China Unicom’s BEST Network, the 5G Free-Mobility Private Network ensures that all data is encrypted before it is transferred across the wireless network, transport network, core network, and campus network. Particularly for the core network, the public 5G data plane is directly connected to the campus network, and technologies like exclusive tunnels, secondary authentication, and network slicing ensure network security and reliability.
    • Easy O&M: To better utilize 5G for diverse industry requirements, China Unicom and Huawei reshaped the network into One Cloud to coordinate all network nodes, facilitate O&M, and deliver benefits beyond those defined in the standards. Thanks to One Cloud, the B2B and B2C services on each campus network can be coordinated, and the networks in different regions of each university can collaborate well with one another. In addition, a self-service platform is provided along with One Cloud, enabling self-maintenance, self-management, self-operation, and visualized monitoring of private campus networks.
    China Unicom’s One Cloud and various private networks (shared and on-premises)

    5G private networks: Fueling digital transformation of education and more

    5G Private Networks play an increasingly important role in building secure, convenient, efficient, green, and intelligent campuses, breaking time and space boundaries for exchanging knowledge and opening up more possibilities in Smart Education.

    However, this is just the beginning of the marathon towards the ultimate goal of 5G and even 6G, and education is just one sector testing and applying 5G private network solutions and technologies. We have been working with Huawei on numerous projects to utilize 5G to propel the digitalization of diverse industries forward, including mining, iron & steel, electric power, ports, public services, manufacturing, healthcare, and more. Many of these projects have resulted in benchmark practices globally.

    For example, at the 19th 5G World Summit in 2022, China Unicom and Huawei jointly won the Enterprise 5G Leadership Award for leading practices and outstanding performance in the standardization, innovation, and commercialization of private 5G networks. Projects like the 5G fully connected factories for Media Group’s Shunde Factory of Midea Kitchen and Water Heater Appliances Division, and 5G smart healthcare in Xinchang city, Zhejiang province, have been recognized by GSMA in its 5G Use Cases for Verticals in China. Our 5G Smart Healthcare Lights up Hainan Healthy Island project won a GLOMO Award — Best Mobile Innovation for the Connected Human Award — at MWC22 Barcelona, and our 5G Mobile Stroke Unit – Maintaining Brain Health project scooped the GSMA’s Best Mobile Innovation for Connected Health and Wellbeing at MWC23 Barcelona.

    As our 5G Private Network Plus grows, it is clear that people are increasingly reliant on private network services, not only on campuses, but also for public services, enterprise remote office, smart healthcare, and more. Therefore, China Unicom and Huawei have launched a plan to extend the 5G Mobile-Free Private network to 1,000 schools and 10,000 enterprises in 100 cities in China. We will continue to expand our landscape in 5G private networks outside China, further promoting the integration of 5G with industries, stimulating innovation, and advancing towards an intelligent, connected world.

    Further reading

    About the Author

    Dr. Chen Dan serves as the 5G Industry Director of the Government and Enterprise Dept at China Unicom. Her principal research interests encompass 5G network architecture, edge computing, and integrated LTE/5G solutions. On behalf of China Unicom, Dr. Chen spearheads the development and execution of the “Set Sail” Action Plan for 5G Applications (2022–2025) released by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) of China. She is also pivotal in the design and commercial rollout of China Unicom’s 5G private network product series, along with the operations of the 5G Application Innovation Alliance and 5G OpenLab. She has been at the forefront of numerous national projects focused on the innovative development of the industrial Internet. With over 20 SCI and EI publications in esteemed journals such as IEEE JSAC and IEEE TVT, and more than 20 patents to her credit, Dr. Chen has been recognized with prestigious awards, both domestically and internationally, including accolades from the Mobile World Congress (MWC) and the MIIT’s “Zhanfang Cup” application contest.

    Disclaimer: Any views and/or opinions expressed in this post by individual authors or contributors are their personal views and/or opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views and/or opinions of Huawei Technologies.


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