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5G for Enterprise Networking

Enterprises are facing dynamic and complex requirements for connectivity and networking services, driven, among other things, by the digital transformation trends across industries. 5G communication networks enjoy the right set of features and capabilities to address these requirements. This enables communication service providers to create advanced 5G-centric enterprise networking services and thereby monetizing their mobile network infrastructure.


Enterprise networking refers to the set of physical and virtual equipment, resources, and services that are used to provide required connectivity services among users, information systems, applications, cloud, and the internet in a specific business or mission-oriented environment. Enterprise networks are used across various environments, including corporate offices, utilities, manufacturing, healthcare, retail, and public safety.

A typical example of enterprise networking in the context of a corporate environment is shown in Figure 1. The enterprise Local Area Network (LAN) segment provides connectivity within corporate locations, and the Wide Area Network (WAN) segment interconnects various corporate locations, data centers, Internet, remote workers, applications, and services together.

Figure 1: An example of Enterprise networking

Figure 1: An example of Enterprise networking

Enterprise networking is continuously reshaped through technological evolution and new demands. Efficient networking and security technologies like Secure Access Service Edge (SASE)1 drive technological evolution. SASE combines networking and security functions so that users, devices, and applications can securely connect to remote services relying on the integrated security functions. The demands come primarily from digital transformation, decentralized applications, mobile enterprise devices, working remotely, and advanced security threats/measures. In general, the digital transformation of enterprises is changing the overall enterprise networking landscape in several ways. For example:

  • blurring the border between enterprise LAN and WAN, turning the LAN into a dynamic network topology with mobile endpoints over the internet,
  • convergence of connectivity, cloud, and security,
  • public internet becoming the main technology for interconnecting enterprise endpoints,
  • wireless technologies becoming the main mode of connectivity in the enterprise domain,
  • 3GPP cellular network technologies gaining more relevance in the enterprise domain,
  • traditional enterprise security frameworks based on network perimeter losing their relevance

These developments have resulted in a new set of requirements, which are not precisely addressed by traditional enterprise networking solutions. With the introduction of 5G, mobile networking technology can effectively cater to the needs of enterprises. This includes both enterprise connectivity via services provided by Communications Service Provider(CSP) networks, and private cellular networks, also known as non-public networks (NPNs2), for the WAN and LAN components, respectively.

In this paper, we provide an overview of how 5G technology can be used to provide end-to- end connectivity solutions to enterprises, and we specifically investigate WAN enterprise networking. Our paper also sheds light on how CSPs can utilize their cellular network infrastructure to offer enterprise networking services fulfilling the evolving requirements of enterprises. In doing so, we elaborate on challenges related to integrating advanced enterprise networking solutions into the CSP networks and discuss viable solutions to those challenges.

Enterprise Networking Requirements

Before we get into the role of 5G in enterprise networking, let us look at the enterprise networking requirements. The enterprise networking domains include corporate offices, utilities, manufacturing, healthcare, retail, public safety, etc., where many generic as well as domain-specific applications are used. This results in a multi-dimensional set of networking requirements. Enterprise networking requirements can be broadly divided into two groups based on the corresponding applications in various enterprise domains.

Generic requirements

These requirements are common across all or a large group of enterprise domains. Examples of such needs include:

  • Advanced connectivity services fulfilling certain quality of service (QoS) and quality of experience (QoE),
  • Application and network security and privacy,
  • Need for private connectivity among geographically distributed locations of a given enterprise,
  • Advanced traffic routing functions,
  • End-points mobility

Depending on specific usage scenarios, an enterprise network should be able to efficiently support various combinations of these needs, where each of which could have a different quantity or intensity. To understand the importance and complexity of this group of requirements, it is worth highlighting that even deploying the same application within two different enterprise domains could result in two different sets of networking requirements. For instance, consider extensively used enterprise communication and collaboration tools. These tools are typically based on multi-session and multi-connection applications. Deploying these applications in fixed wireless access points in branch offices, hospitals, and retail locations results in a different set of requirements, in terms of connectivity pattern, QoS, security and privacy, and mobility supports compared to deploying the same application on a mobile gateway, for instance., on connected ambulances or police cars. The same holds for eXtended Reality (XR) applications deployed in enterprise scenarios3.

When it comes to the QoE of various enterprise applications, the requirement for enterprise networking goes beyond just supporting the application’s needs. QoE describes the perceived service quality by the consumer of a service, which in the context of this paper is an enterprise. Examples of QoE metrics include video resolution and frames per second for video applications. On the other hand, the QoE that an enterprise user perceives when running an application depends on the quality of the device connection’s service in the CSP network, which is a vital component of QoS. Therefore, an enterprise network provider (that is a CSP) should expose different connectivity services and their characteristics to the enterprise with the correct set of details. Additionally, a mechanism should exist to create a link between QoE at the enterprise edge and the QoS as provided by the network.

Now let us look at the advanced traffic routing requirement, which among other things relates to the operation models of enterprise applications. There are primarily two operation models for enterprise applications: Software as a Service (SaaS) model and conventional non-SaaS. These two models have different requirements for the network. In the non-SaaS model, where applications are typically deployed in enterprise on-premises data centers, it is critical to route or break out the traffic near the location of the application server. This helps in reducing application latency, especially for time-sensitive applications in manufacturing or critical emergency services. On the other hand, in a SaaS environment, where the cloud point of presence (PoP) location for the corresponding SaaS application directly influences the latency of the application, the breakout can be configured in collaboration with the application service provider (ASP). This could significantly impact cloud-based applications such as productivity SaaS, security SaaS, and communication SaaS. Therefore, the enterprise network should provide a mechanism to route traffic based on the location of the device in the network.

Domain-specific requirements

In many enterprise domains such as industrial environments or healthcare, domain-specific applications are used for enterprise networks. For instance, in some IoT scenarios, end devices have low power and complexity, and therefore there is a need for the enterprise network to support these features adequately4.

Other examples of domain-specific requirements are application and network security and privacy in specific scenarios. For instance, hospitals are required to handle patients’ data as privacy-sensitive data and manufacturing companies handle their operational data with varying confidentiality levels. To fulfill these needs, the ability to transmit the data outside of the network by enterprise network users should be limited - so as not to expose the networks to external attacks or disclose sensitive data to leak outside of the enterprise. The network should also be protected from the ability to download malware that can overwhelm the network.

How can 5G technology address enterprise networking requirements?

5G networking technology offers a slew of features and capabilities that could be used by CSPs to create enterprise networking services fulfilling the requirements described above. Below we elaborate on a selected (non-exhaustive) set of the features and capabilities, which are of high relevance for supporting enterprise networking needs.

Flexible network deployment models and network slicing

5G offers flexible deployment models for various scenarios and network segments to serve both enterprise and consumer domains. Specifically, at the high level we can identify three 5G network segments based on market requirements: local dedicated networks, wide-area dedicated networks as well as general public networks. These network segments can be utilized to serve various deployment scenarios, like local area, confined wide area, and general wide area, across several industries, as depicted in Figure 2. Two out of the three identified 5G network segments are relevant for addressing enterprise networks, namely local dedicated networks and wide-area dedicated networks. Here, we only emphasize the latter that can be utilized to address the enterprise WAN segment and is also the main focus of this paper.

Depending on the use case scenario, wide area dedicated networks might be deployed having general (that is national) wide area coverage or confided wide-area converge in a predefined, limited geographical area. In both cases, the network can support a variety of enterprise networking scenarios, such as corporate networks, utilities, healthcare, public safety, mission-critical, railways, and so on.

The flexible network deployment models could be realized with network slicing, which enables network service providers to create logically separated and independent networks on top of a shared networking infrastructure5. This can be used to separate—both from a business and a technical perspective—different enterprise domains and/or use cases, ensuring that the specific requirements of enterprise use cases, in terms of QoE and security, are fulfilled.

In wide-area dedicated networks, other 5G capabilities can be leveraged to fulfill various enterprise-specific requirements. For example, distributed 5G core user plane functions, support critical enterprise applications, and temporary local hotspots can fulfill demanding use cases in extreme enterprise scenarios.

Figure 2: 5G offers flexible deployment models for various scenarios and network segments

Figure 2: 5G offers flexible deployment models for various scenarios and network segments

Traffic categories, QoS profiles and performance classes

CSPs use the 3GPP defined network infrastructure to provide differentiated connectivity services to consumers and enterprises. A differentiated connectivity service is a service defined by a set of distinct network characteristics. Ericsson refers to these sets as performance classes, where one performance class can support many traffic categories. The differentiated connectivity services give CSPs an opportunity to charge their customers with premium prices, based on value that the services provide.

5G supports traffic categories and QoS profiles, which can be utilized to fulfill the different connectivity service requirements of enterprise applications. Enterprise customers can order appropriate connectivity services by tagging CSPs' connectivity service offerings with traffic categories and QoS profiles. The assumption is that an enterprise need not have deep technical knowledge of the telecom network, therefore it is recommended to limit the number of traffic categories and QoS profiles.

Application description and connection capability are two types of traffic categories defined by 3GPP. These two categories can be used to specify the characteristics and types of services. Bandwidth and latency are examples of application descriptions, while MMS and critical communications are examples of connection capability. To avoid numerous connectivity service offerings from CSPs, using service characteristics is the best choice.

To elaborate on the traffic types, let us look at the Latency as the main characteristic for the classification. Latency can be subdivided into the following: Background traffic, internet (best effort), and prioritize latency (real-time interactive traffic and critical communications). For the first two types, the bandwidth is the main QoS feature, while latency is important for the last one. The latency itself could be classified in several ways. For example, “normal” and “extreme” or “low latency” and “very low latency.” This can be summarized as:

  • Latency
    • Background traffic
    • Best effort
    • Low latency
    • Very low latency
  • Bandwidth per latency type

CSPs can then define connectivity service offerings that combine these traffic categories to address enterprise needs. Below are some examples of CSP service offerings.

  • Connectivity service offering X
    • Background traffic with different levels of bandwidth
    • Best effort with different levels of bandwidth
  • Connectivity service offering Y
    • Best effort with different levels of bandwidth
    • Low latency with different levels of bandwidth
  • Connectivity service offering Z
    • Background traffic with different levels of bandwidth
    • Best effort with different levels of bandwidth
    • Low latency with different levels of bandwidth
    • Very low latency with different levels of bandwidth

The traffic categories describe the requirements of the applications used by multiple enterprises. The traffic categories are supported in a network by performance classes. Ericsson proposes the following four discrete performance levels: fixed immediate, fixed buffered, adaptive immediate and adaptive buffered. The finite performance levels will become the industry best-practice.

Both traffic categories and the performance classes create bases for CSPs to apply new business models. With performance-based business models, CSPs can find a sweet spot for delivering the right level of performance at the right cost and price, meeting the various and dynamic needs of consumers and enterprises.

The network offers exposable assets that CSPs can make money on. The network assets are accessible through open APIs, where application developers make applications to call the network APIs. Enterprises buy the applications and consume the network assets.

Network APIs and Service Exposure

By exposing 5G system features and capabilities through network APIs, the mobile network is turned into a digital innovation platform6. This enables application developers and service providers to leverage 5G network capabilities and programmability to offer innovative networked services and applications targeting various enterprises. 5G service exposure and network APIs are specified in various standardization and de-facto standardization forums like 3GPP, TMForum, and GSMA OPG. 5G core network exposure function (NEF), common API framework (CAPIF) and service enabler architecture layer (SEAL) are a few examples of the capabilities standardized in 3GPP.

To simplify the use of these telecom-internal network APIs for application developers, an abstraction layer is further specified on top of them by the industry alliance CAMARA7 , which results in offering open-source and easy-to-use service APIs. Quality on Demand, Verify Location, Silent Authentication, and Device Reporting are just a few examples of features and capabilities exposed through the APIs.

There are at least two ways to monetize the network infrastructure and the services, namely through subscriptions with premium price, and through charging for APIs’ calls. These provide two separate, simultaneously active money streams. The differentiated connectivity services are monetizable through subscriptions.

5G-centric enterprise networking

Now let us look at what 5G-centric enterprise networking looks like. Figure 3 depicts the end-to-end enterprise connectivity system architecture, which leverages the features and capabilities of the 5G network to address the enterprise requirements. There are multiple stakeholders involved here namely CSP, enterprise customers, application developers, ASPs, and aggregators.

In the application developer ecosystem, developers create applications for different enterprise domains, where the applications have well-defined characteristics that lead to specific QoS requirements on the connectivity service. These applications are then offered to enterprises through ASPs. The application policies are also communicated by ASPs to the network. Since ASPs forge relationships with multiple CSPs, aggregators often facilitate those relationships and scenarios that span across multiple CSPs.

Figure 3: 5G-Centric E2E enterprise connectivity system architecture (bold colorful lines represent network slices. The dotted lines represent control/management interfaces)

Figure 3: 5G-Centric E2E enterprise connectivity system architecture (bold colorful lines represent network slices. The dotted lines represent control/management interfaces)

Now let us zoom into the system architecture of Figure 3. A key aspect of the architecture is the integration between the enterprise network and the enterprise connectivity services of the CSP. The integration should enable the enterprise to efficiently use the connectivity services provided by the CSP in line with the enterprise requirements and policy, while also allowing the CSP to maintain control over their networking resources and continuously optimize the offered connectivity services. This requires an orchestration functionality to create a convergence between enterprise connectivity policies and the network policies of the cellular network service provider. The realization of this orchestration function, which we term enterprise connectivity controller (ECC), is a crucial building block of the 5G-centric enterprise networks.

The ECC is a centralized management-plane function that takes two major sets of inputs. The first set is provided by the enterprise IT admin and includes enterprise connectivity requirements and policies. The second input set comes from the 5G network and includes information about the wireless WAN connectivity services and their characteristics such as network slices and supported QoS levels, which are available to the enterprise user. To get the latter, the ECC uses a loose integration with the 5G network and relies on 5G network service exposure APIs. Another alternative would involve using UE Route Selection Policy (URSP)8 to control the setup of the Packet Data Unit (PDU) sessions. However, this approach would be limited to a 5G standalone solution only and would create a stronger dependency between the device vendor and the CSP, since it requires a specific ruleset to control the PDU sessions.

The ECC then uses the received information sets to manage the functionality of enterprise edge routers also known as customer premises equipment (CPE). This specifies how traffic flows from various applications are mapped to the available network resources/slices, and how to continuously optimize this mapping across various applications and CPEs while considering the actual network performance characteristics.

Having extensive information of the enterprise CPEs and their actual received WAN connectivity service levels, the ECC might combine this data and then provide the aggregated information to the CSP, who can use this information to continuously optimize the offered enterprise connectivity services in a data-driven manner.

We have recently shown a proof-of-concept of the 5G-centric enterprise networking, demonstrating application-based traffic steering into two carrier-defined network slices on its fixed wireless and in-vehicle 5G enterprise networking solutions9. The demonstration showed how carriers can create different network slices, each with its own performance characteristics and security rules, to uniquely support the different types of applications businesses rely on.


A crucial component of 5G-centric enterprise networking is the integration between the enterprise network and the enterprise connectivity services offered by CSPs. A smart integration framework will benefit both parties: The enterprises will utilize 5G network features and capabilities to optimally fulfill their complex and multi-dimensional applications’ requirements. And the CSPs will be able to efficiently address the evolving needs of enterprises in a resource-optimized way and monetize their investments in the 5G networks. In achieving this, CSPs provide differentiated connectivity services based on a limited set of performance levels and/or traffic classes. The differentiated connectivity services are monetizable through subscriptions. Additionally, the CSPs could monetize the network services through charging for APIs’ calls.

A fundamental part of the integration between the enterprise network and the enterprise connectivity services is the creation of well-designed, enterprise-friendly, and standardized service exposure APIs to the 5G network. The APIs should on one hand support the realization of enterprise networking services that are common across enterprises, and on the other hand, they should support the creation of advanced, customized services to address the specific needs of individual enterprises. The 5G networking community should prioritize the identification and development of these APIs based on the needs of various enterprises.


3GPP 3rd Generation Partnership Project

ASP Application Service Provider

CAPIF Common API Framework

CPE Customer Premise Equipment

CSP Communication Service Provider

LAN Local Area Network

NEF Network Exposure Function

NPN Non-Public Network

PoP Point of Presence

QoE Quality of Experience

QoS Quality of Service

SaaS Software as a Service

SEAL Service Enabler Architecture Layer

URSP UE Route Selection Policy

XR eXtended Reality

WAN Wide Area Network

1. Gartner Research: The Future of Network Security is in the Cloud, 2019

2. 3GPP TS 23.501: System architecture for the 5G System (5GS)

3. Ericsson Technology Review: Future network requirements for extended reality applications

4. Ericsson White Paper: RedCap - expanding the 5G device ecosystem for consumers and industries

5. Network Slicing

6. 5G Network Exposure

7. CAMARA: The Telco Global API Alliance

8. 3GPP TS 24.526: User Equipment (UE) policies for 5G system (5GS)

9. Network Slicing Implementation for Enterprise Demonstration


Ahmad Rostami

Ahmad Rostami works at Ericsson’s CTO office, where he drives ecosystem expansion and standardization strategy for the enterprise networking. Before joining Ericsson, Ahmad worked for Robert Bosch GmbH, leading various projects in industrial IoT and industrial networking. He holds a PhD in electrical engineering from the Technical University of Berlin, Germany.

Deepak Nair

Deepak Nair is an Enterprise network product expert with deep knowledge of software- defined wide area networks and 5G. He joined Cradlepoint after the acquisition by Ericsson in 2020 and has developed the SD-WAN story for Cradlepoint. Deepak is based out of Silicon Valley and has worked in various capacities at HP, Google, and Cisco deriving broad knowledge across the spectrum including databases, analytics, machine learning, AI, business processes, storage area networks, software-defined wide area networks, massive parallel data processing, and enterprise networking. He holds an M.Sc in Statistics from MS University in Vadodara, India.

Malgorzata Svensson

Malgorzata Svensson is an expert in Operations Support Systems (OSS). She joined Ericsson in 1996 and has worked in various areas within research and development. Svensson has broad experience in business process, function, and information modeling, information and cloud technologies, analytics, DevOps processes, and toolchains. She holds an M.Sc. in technology from the Silesian University of Technology in Gliwice, Poland.

Jan Backman

Jan Backman is an Expert in Packet Core Mobility Architecture with more than 25 years of experience of Packet Core. He is responsible for QoS and Edge Computing architecture/ technology at BCSS and therefore deeply involved in network wide characteristics and architecture for these areas.